Sequel and legal issues
Disney had hoped Dick Tracy would launch a successful franchise, like the Indiana Jones series, but a disappointing box office performance halted Disney's plans. In addition, executive producers Art Linson and Floyd Mutrux sued Beatty shortly after the release of the film, alleging that they were owed profit participation from the film.
Beatty purchased the Dick Tracy film and television rights in 1985 from Tribune Media Services. He then took the property to the Walt Disney Studios, who optioned the rights in 1988. According to Beatty, in 2002, Tribune attempted to reclaim the rights and notified Disney--but not through the process outlined in the 1985 agreement. Beatty, who commented he had "a very good idea" for a sequel, believed Tribune violated various notification procedures that "clouded the title" to the rights and made it "commercially impossible" for him to produce a sequel. He approached Tribune in 2004 to settle the situation, but the company said they had met the conditions to get back the rights.
Disney, which had no intention of producing a sequel, rejected Tribune's claim and gave Beatty back most of the rights in May 2005. That same month, Beatty filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles, California Superior Court seeking $30 million in damages against the Tribune and a declaration over the rights. Bertram Fields, Beatty's lawyer, said the original 1985 agreement with the Tribune was negotiated specifically to allow Beatty a chance to make another Dick Tracy film. "It was very carefully done and they just ignored it," he stated. "The Tribune is a big, powerful company and they think they can just run roughshod over people. They picked the wrong guy."
The Tribune believed the situation would be settled quickly and was confident enough to begin developing a Dick Tracy live action television series with Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Robert Newmyer and Outlaw Productions. The TV show was to have a contemporary setting, comparable to Smallville, and Di Bonaventura commented that if the TV show was successful, a feature film would likely follow. However, an August 2005 ruling by federal judge Dean D. Pregerson cleared the way for Beatty to sue the Tribune. The April 2006 hearing ended without a ruling, but in July 2006, a Los Angeles judge ruled that the case can go to trial; Tribune's request to end the suit in their favor was rejected. The legal battle between Beatty and the Tribune continued to ensue.
In 2008, Beatty convinced cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and film critic Leonard Maltin to make The Dick Tracy TV Special for Turner Classic Movies, which featured Beatty as Tracy having a retrospective interview with Maltin. Maltin explicitly asks the fictional Tracy if Warren Beatty is planning on making a sequel to the 1990 film and he responds that he's heard about that but Maltin needs to ask Beatty himself. By March 2009, Tribune was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and lawyers for the company began to declare their ownership of television and film rights to Dick Tracy. "Mr. Beatty's conduct and wrongful claims have effectively locked away certain motion picture and television rights to the Dick Tracy property," lawyers for Tribune wrote in a filing. Fields responded that it was "a nuisance lawsuit by a bankrupt company and they should be ashamed of themselves."
On March 25, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson granted Beatty's request for a summary judgment and ruled in the actor's favor. Judge Pregerson wrote in his order that "Beatty's commencement of principal photography of his television special on November 8, 2008 was sufficient for him to retain the Dick Tracy rights."
In June 2011, Beatty confirmed his intention to make a sequel to Dick Tracy, but he refused to discuss details. He said: "I'm gonna make another one [but] I think it's dumb talking about movies before you make them. I just don't do it. It gives you the perfect excuse to avoid making them." When asked when the sequel would get made, he replied: "I take so long to get around to making a movie that I don't know when it starts."
The lawsuit was resolved in Beatty's favor, with a US District judge ruling that Beatty did everything contractually required of him to keep the rights to the character.
While there have not been any sequels in either television or motion picture form, there have been sequels in novel form. Shortly after the release of the 1990 film, Max Allan Collins wrote Dick Tracy Goes To War. The story is set after the opening of World War II and involves Dick Tracy's enlistment into the U.S. Navy, working for their Military Intelligence Division (as he did in the comic strip). In the story, Nazi saboteurs Black Pearl and Mrs. Pruneface (Pruneface's widow) set up a sabotage/espionage operation out of Caprice's old headquarters in Club Ritz. For their activities, they recruit B.B. Eyes, The Mole and Shaky. Their reign of terror, culminating in an attempt to bomb a weapons plant, is averted by Tracy. A year after War was released, Collins wrote a third novel entitled Dick Tracy Meets His Match, in which Dick Tracy finally follows through in his marriage proposal to Tess Trueheart.
In April 2016, Beatty again mentioned the possibility of doing a sequel when he attended CinemaCon.