It's been more than a decade since National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the National Treasure sequel that continued the adventures of Benjamin Franklin Gates and his crew as they uncovered more of the secret history of the United States through treasure hunting, and we still don't have a third film to enjoy. It's not like there hasn't been interested. Various parties have been talking about National Treasure 3 for years, and earlier this year producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave us the best indication yet that we shouldn't give up hope on one more adventure.
But why didn't it happen in the first place? After Book of Secrets earned more than $400 million worldwide, why didn't Disney want to try for one more? Production executive Jason Reed believes he has the answer.
Reed, who worked on Book of Secrets and other Disney hits of that era, including Alice in Wonderland, before moving on to producing duties on more recent efforts like Mulan, recently sat down with Collider for a chat about the new Disney live-action effort. The conversation eventually turned to National Treasure, and though Reed noted he "tried [his] damnedest" to get a third film off the ground back in the day, Disney just never seemed to see the potential for the series' future as clearly as he did.
“What I felt happened is even though the movies were extremely successful and had a really strong fanbase, it’s a movie that gets brought up all the time, the company was never able to capitalize on it as a franchise," Reed said. "It was more of a movie with a sequel and National Treasure 3 would have been another sequel.”
This may seem like a weird distinction to make on the surface, but look more closely at Disney's blockbuster model over the last decade and a half, and Reed has a point. He went on to note that Disney "never figured out a way to integrate" the National Treasure franchise into their theme parks in the way that franchises like Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean (a pre-existing park attraction that has spawned five films and remained popular throughout), and of course Star Wars have since been integrated. Then of course there's the issue of Disney's expansion and ongoing focus on pre-existing intellectual property in the years immediately following the release of Book of Secrets. By 2009 they had Marvel Entertainment under the wing, Star Wars followed just a few years later, and of course the company has continued to pour a lot of money into live-action remakes of its classic animated films. By contrast, National Treasure was an original story that spawned one sequel and never became Disney-fied in the same way other properties are in terms of total commercial synergy.
“It never caught on, even though there were a lot of consumer products, it never caught on as an independent franchise," Reed continued. "That makes the numbers look different. It makes it harder to make a company like Disney focus resources on something when they can go make Toy Story or buy a cruise ship. And if the company itself had been really excited about moving forward with it and thought they could blow it out, we would have found a way to make the deal.”
Still, now more than ever there is hope for a revival of National Treasure. Bruckheimer noted earlier this year that both a third film featuring the original cast and a Disney+ series featuring a younger cast are in the works, and those simultaneous developments would suggest that Disney may finally see the franchise potential. Reed also sounded optimistic about the new developments, provided Disney understands the marketability.
“I think that nowadays with the technology, there’s a way to take that fun and move it into the digital space, whether it’s location-based game play or things like Pokemon Go or whatever, that you could have done to make it have a bigger cultural impact,” Reed said. “But I know Jerry keeps working on stuff and I know there’s a lot of interest in a series and another feature and I think it’s ripe to reinvent.”
So, don't give up the search just yet, National Treasure fans. A third film is still hidden out there somewhere, just waiting to be unearthed.