When any movie is a hit you can almost hear the studio execs clamouring for the next one in the series to be greenlit. Sometimes it’s a great idea and turns out even better than the first movie like The Godfather Part 2, at other times it doesn’t (looking at you Jaws II – not to mention the various other sharkfests that came in its wake).

So now we’re starting to get more information about the next in the Jumanji series, Jumanji: The Next Level, we’re waiting with huge anticipation to see if it can repeat the success of 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Just to refresh your memory, this was the movie that became the surprise hit of the year, making almost $1 billion for Sony Studios and becoming the fifth highest grossing film of 2018. Considering that it was only released in December 2017, to have its sequel due to premiere just two years later is an indication of how keen Sony must be to see if it can recapture the box-office magic of the first.

Incidentally, we’re following popular opinion her that, although this is the third film in the series since the 1995 Robin Williams original, it’s effectively the second film since the Sony reboot.

So, what do we know about Jumanji: The Next Level so far?

Let’s start with the cast. The central four game characters of Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart are reprising their roles of Professor Shelly Oberon, Smolder Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse and Franklin Finbar. But the twist comes in the “real world” characters they are representing when they enter the game of Jumanji. Nick Jonas will also be back as Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough.

In the “real” world new cast members include Danny De Vito and Danny Glover so we can expect some body-swap humour when they enter the world of Jumanji. Another new cast member is the Crazy Rich Asians star Akwafina who is said to play a “very significant role” in the jungle.

We also know that director Jake Kasdan has been retained and he also co-wrote the script with Welcome To The Jungle’s Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg.

The movie is due to be released simultaneously in the UK and America on December 13th 2019, just in time to catch the Christmas holiday audiences. It’s also coming out mere days before the next in the Star Wars franchise, The Rise of Skywalker. But considering that the previous film did the same, in that case coming up against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and more than held its own suggests it shouldn’t be an issue.

As for what the plot is going to entail, stars have been sworn to secrecy so all we really have to go on at the moment is the teaser trailer released in July 2019. What we can tell is that the game was not really destroyed, as it appeared to be at the end of WTTJ. Kasdan has also revealed that there will be plenty of references not just to the previous movie but to the original one as well. Other clues in the trailer show the usual spectacular animal scenes and shocks, plus a visit to the snowy mountainous wastes. Filming took place in Atlanta, Calgary and Hawaii and was wrapped in May 2019. Quite how those locations play a part we’ll just have to wait and see.

As with any major movie franchise, we can rest assured that there will be a flood of merchandise to accompany it. The previous movie generated mugs, t shirts and the obligatory action figures.

There was even a very popular online slot that perfectly captured the excitement of the very first in the series with jungle characters on the reels, a pounding soundtrack and many win features. It’s always been one of the most popular online slots by NetEnt and the arrival of the new movie is sure to win it a whole new army of fans.

It’s also been announced that November 2019 will see the launch of a brand new Jumanji video game  that will give players the chance to act out their fantasies, whether that’s being Smolder Bravestone or Ruby Roundhouse.

The timing has obviously been carefully planned to be a month in advance of the big screen release in time to attract a new generation of fans. There’s also certain to be a building PR campaign leading up to December so we can expect to see plenty of the cast on chat shows and on movie sites.

As to whether it’s going to recreate the incredible success of WTTJ, we’ll just have to wait and see. But as the biggest non-superhero movie from the Sony stable, they’re certain to put everything they can behind it to try to ensure that it is.