Disney’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets debuted back in 2007. The sequel to 2004’s National Treasure, it reunited director Jon Turtletaub with stars Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger and Harvey Keitel. And more importantly, it was a hit, making more than $450 million worldwide (and by August 2009 had made at least another $100 million on home video). And while Turtletaub and producer Jerry Bruckheimer would periodically tease another installment, beginning as early as 2008, one never materialized. And now we might know why we never got a third National Treasure adventure.
Collider’s own editor-in-chief Steve Weintraub got to chat with Mulan producer Jason Reed, who was the Production Executive at Disney for the National Treasure movies. And he got Reed to open up about what happened to the third movie in a way that nobody has before.
“I tried my damnedest to get National Treasure 3 up. I love those movies. I worked on those from inception,” Reed said. At the time he worked closely with Bruckheimer on projects like Pearl Harbor, King Arthur, Déjà vu, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and, of course, the National Treasure films. (This was back when Bruckheimer had a lucrative deal with Disney following the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The relationship soured after a string of big budgeted underperformers and was completely killed by the costly bomb The Lone Ranger.)
Reed then offered his analysis of why a subsequent film never went forward: “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. It was more of a movie with a sequel and National Treasure 3 would have been another sequel.” So, unlike, say, the Pirates of the Caribbean, which is very clearly a capital-F franchise or something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars, National Treasure was a run-of-the-mill, humdrum movie with its own run-of-the-mill, humdrum sequel. The kind of movie Disney used to make pretty regularly (hello, Another Stakeout and Three Men and a Little Lady!) but not so much anymore.
“They never figured out a way to intergrade it into the parks,” Reed continued. (This is particularly baffling given the emphasis on American history in the Liberty Square area of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom or in the American pavilion at EPCOT’s World Showcase.) “It never caught on, even though there were a lot of consumer products, it never caught on as an independent franchise. 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.” Clearly nobody at the company was excited by the possibility of Nicolas Cage stealing another national monument, which is inexcusable and exhibits a clear lack of vision.
Still, Reed says that the time is now for a sequel (supposedly in the works with Bad Boys for Life screenwriter Chris Bremner) or spin-off (with a series for Disney+) or both. “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.” Please. Nothing will heal this divided country like a new National Treasure opus.