The past few years have seen familiar animated faces as well as franchise reboots and original concepts raking in the box office bucks, and the toon features landscape for the next few years shows no sign of slowing down. In honor of summer blockbuster season, we present our annual guide to the 2D, CG and stop-motion titles you should save your change for in the coming years.
Postman Pat: The Movie
RGH Pictures, DreamWorks Classics | May 23 (U.K.)
Director: Mike Disa
Writers: Nicole Dubuc, Annika Bluhm, Kim Fuller
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Grint, Ronan Keating, David Tennant
Story: When Greendale’s contented mail carrier Postman Pat makes it onto a televised talent show, various Patbot 3000 robots are deployed to take his place. But this turns out to be an insidious plot to take over the world, and Postman Pat must return to town to save the day.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
DreamWorks Animation | June 13
Director: Dean DeBlois
Writer: Dean DeBlois, based on the books by Cressida Cowell
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou
Story: Five years on since Hiccup and Toothless have united the Vikings of Berk with their dragon companions, the inseparable duo take to the skies to chart unmapped territories while the rest of the gang are busy challenging each other to dragon races. When one of their adventures leads them to discover a secret ice cave home to hundreds of new dragon species and the mysterious Dragon Rider, Hiccup and Toothless find themselves in the middle of a battle to protect the peace and change the future of men and dragons.
Planes: Fire & Rescue
DisneyToon Studios | July 18
Director: Bobs Gannaway
Cast: Dane Cook, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, Ed Harris, Wes Studi, Dale Dye
Synopsis: When world famous air racer Dusty Crophopper learns his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he shifts gears and launches into the world of wildfire air attack. Joining forces with veteran rescue copter Blade Ranger and his team — super scooper Li’l Dipper, heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, ex-military transport Cabbie and brave little ATVs known as The Smokejumpers — Dusty helps them battle a massive wildfire and learns what it takes to be a true hero.
When Marnie Was There
Studio Ghibli | July 19 (Japan)
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Writers: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Keiko Niwa, Masashi Ando
Story: Set on the Norfolk, England, seaside, this ethereal tale centers on friendless Anna, whose life changes when she meets a mysterious girl named Marnie among the sand dunes. When Marnie vanishes and a new family moves into her house, Anna learns that her friend was not all that she seemed.
LAIKA, Focus Features | Sept. 26
Directors: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Writer: Irena Brignull, based on Here Be Monsters, by Alan Snow
Cast: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Jared Harris, Toni Collette
Story: Set in a Victorian-inspired world where social status and wealth revolve around the stinkiest of cheeses, a young orphaned boy is raised by underground trash collectors known as Boxtrolls who are feared by the citizens of the upper world. When a social-climbing villain sets out to exterminate the monsters, the boy risks everything to save his misunderstood friends.
The Book of Life
Reel FX, Fox | Oct. 17
Director: Jorge Gutierrez
Writer: Jorge Gutierrez
Cast: Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate
Story: Manolo, a young man torn between his family’s expectations and his heart’s desires, embarks on an incredible journey through three fantastical worlds to face his greatest fears before deciding on his life’s path. Additional voices provided by Ice Cube, Ron Perlman, Cheech Marin, Placido Domingo, Danny Trejo and more.
Big Hero 6
Disney, Marvel | Nov. 7
Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Writers: Don Hall, Jordan Roberts; based on the Marvel comic book by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle
Cast: T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung
Story: When brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada finds himself caught up in a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the high-tech city of San Fransokyo, he must rely on his robot best friend Baymax and a team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.
The Penguins of Madagascar
DreamWorks Animation | Nov. 26
Directors: Simon J. Smith, Eric Darnell
Writers: Michael Colton, John Aboud
Cast: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, John DiMaggio, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich
Story: This spinoff from the hit Madagascar film franchise will follow undercover penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private on their own thrilling spy adventure. Cumberbatch is set to voice a high-ranking animal CIA agent while Malkovich plays the film’s charming villain in a story written by the creators of Modern Humorist.
Animex, Olmos Prod. | 2014 (Mexico)
Directors: Ricardo Arnaiz, Mike Kunkel
Writers: Ricardo Arnaiz, Richard Pursel, Phil Roman
Cast: Rico Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos, Argelia Atilano, Cheech Marin, Kate del Castillo, Paul Rodriguez, K.C. Porter, Erik Estrada, Adal Ramones, Gabrial Iglesias, Don Cheto, Hector Suarez, Liza Kudrow, Pierre Angelo
Story: Produced for the Spanish and English-language markets (thanks to distribution partner Phil Roman Entertainment) the film will follow a carefree pre-teen parrot named Cuco who ventures to Hollywood to enlist the help of his favorite hero in order to help his father and protect his circus family from an insidious enemy.
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
EuropaCorp, France 3, Ile de France, Canal+, CineCinema, Walking the Dog, Ufilm | 2014
Directors: Mathias Malzieu, Stephane Berla
Writer: Mathias Malzieu, based on the graphic novel and album by Dionysus
Cast: Orlando Seale, Stephane Cornicard, Sophia Ellis, Samantha Barks
Story: Jack’s story begins when he is born in Scotland in 1874, on the coldest day of the year. When his young heart stops beating, a clever midwife replaces it with a mechanical one allowing him to live. However, Jack must avoid strong emotion, which might disrupt his heart’s delicate machinery.
The Snow Queen 2: The Snow King
Wizart Animation | 2014 (Russia)
Story: Produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) with Zambezia‘s Ned Lott serving as casting and voice director, this Russki CG sequel will follow the further adventures of Orm the troll, whose victory over the Snow Queen has given his fellows a taste for freedom.
Song of the Sea
Cartoon Saloon | 2014 (Ireland)
Director: Tomm Moore
Writer: Will Collins
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle
Story: Inspired by Irish folk legend, the film centers on the last of the Seal-Children, Saoirse and her brother Ben who embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. GKIDS has acquired U.S. release rights.
SpongeBob SquarePants 2
Paramount | Feb. 13
Director: Paul Tibbitt
Writers: Stephen Hillenburg, Paul Tibbitt
Cast: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Antonio Banderas, Slash
Story: The globally popular sea critters of Hillenburg’s top ranking animated series return to the big screen for a new adventure, with regular TV show cast reprising their familiar roles and Antonio Banderas playing a pirate. The film will combine animation with live-action scenes (directed by Mike Mitchell) shot in Savannah and Tybee Island.
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Aardman Animations | March 20 (U.K.)
Directors: Richard Starzak, Mark Burton
DreamWorks Animation | March 27
Director: Tim Johnson
Writers: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember; based on The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Cast: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin
Story: An overly optimistic, yet inept, alien race called the Boov — led by fearless Captain Smek — have invaded Earth to hide from their space dwelling enemy and make it their new home. Thinking they’re doing everyone a favor, the Boov move to relocate mankind, but one resourceful girl named Tip evades capture and goes on the run with a banished Boov named Oh.
Paramount | May 29
Director: Chris Wedge
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Cast: Jane Levy, Lucas Till, Frank Whaley, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Holt McCallany
Story: The planned live-action/animation hybrid film is said to be a Transformers-like take on the world of monster trucks. Aibel and Berger previously scripted Kung Fu Panda for DreamWorks, and Ice Age helmer Chris Wedge is reportedly in negotiations to direct.
B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations
DreamWorks Animation | June 5
Director: Tony Leondis
Writer: Tom Wheeler
Cast: Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy, Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Matt Bomer, Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Coolidge, Benjamin Stockham
Story: Based on an original story created by Leondis, the film centers on the B.O.O., a top-secret government agency which employs ghosts to protect humans from evil hauntings. When new agents Jackson Moss and Watts uncover a plot by the agency’s Most Wanted Haunter to destroy the Bureau, they must use their skills to defeat his ghoulish army and save the world.
Disney-Pixar | June 19
Director: Pete Docter; co-director, Ronnie Del Carmen
Writer: Michael Arndt
Cast: Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith
Story: When happy-go-lucky preteen Riley is uprooted from her pleasant life in Minnesota to be thrust into a new, unwelcome one in San Francisco, her internal emotions take over — unhappily for her baffled parents. Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy spar, collaborate and miscommunicate with one another while trying to keep Riley functional and help her find new friends.
Universal/Illumination | July 10
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Writer: Brian Lynch
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm
Story: This spin-off of Illumination’s hit Despicable Me flicks tells the history of the little yellow henchmen known as the Minions, who have existed since the beginning of time with the sole purpose of serving history’s most ambitious villains. After their ineptitude ruins all their masters (including a T. Rex and Dracula) they flee to Antarctica to live in isolation. But in the 1960s, boredom drives some of them out into the world to find a new master, leading them to the stylish Scarlet Overkill who is bent on world-domination.
Hotel Transylvania 2
Sony Pictures Animation | Sept. 25
Cast: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg
Blue Sky, Fox | Nov. 6
Director: Steve Martino
Writers: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano; based on the classic comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.
The Good Dinosaur
Disney-Pixar | Nov. 25
Director: Bob Peterson
Writers: Enrico Casarosa, Bob Peterson
Cast: Lucas Neff, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, Bill Hader
Story: What if the cataclysmic asteroid collision that changed life on Earth forever never happened, and dinosaurs never became extinct? This is the key premise of The Good Dinosaur, which centers on a teenage Apatosaurus named Arlo who sets out on a quest to restore peace after a traumatic event rattles his tranquil community. Along the way, he meets an unlikely travel companion: a young human boy named Spot. Peterson was removed from the production in 2013, and the Pixar Brain Trust has since taken on different parts of the film to be completed.
Kung Fu Panda 3
DreamWorks Animation, Oriental DreamWorks | Dec. 23
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Mads Mikkelsen, Rebel Wilson
Synopsis: Continuing his legendary adventures of awesomeness, Po must face two distinct foes: one supernatural, and one closer to home. This will be the first feature collaboration with Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai — though with Guillermo del Toro serving as exec producer, fans should expect plenty of kung fu action and magical peril.
The Canterville Ghost
Arc Productions | 2015 (U.K.)
Director: Kim Burdon
Writers: Keiron Self, Giles New, based on the story by Oscar Wilde
Cast: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Imelda Staunton, Freddie Highmore, Miranda Hart, Toby Jones
Story: Sir Simon de Canterville has been haunting his ancestral home in England, Canterville Chase, for over three centuries. The cantankerous specter has scared off every potential tenant with ease. That is, until the Otis family from America moves in.
Studio Khara | 2015 (Japan)
Director: Hideaki Anno
Writer: Hideaki Anno
Story: The ultimate entry in the four-part “rebuilding” film series will wrap up the struggles of the NERV pilots in their powerful Evangelion robots against the destructive Angels that threaten the world.
Legend of the NeverBeast
DisneyToon Studios | 2015
Director: Steve Loter
Story: The latest story from Pixie Hollow stars fun and talented animal fairy Fawn, who believes you can’t judge a book by its cover and thus befriends a huge mysterious creature known as the NeverBeast. When the Scout Fairies set out to capture the creature, Fawn must convince Tinker Bell and her friends of its gentle nature in order to save her new pal.
Production I.G | 2015 (Japan)
Director: Keiichi Hara
Writer: Miho Maruo, based on the manga by Hinako Sugiura
Story: Set in 1814, this historical tale brings to life the legendary larger-than-life personality of the great artist Tetsuzo (a.k.a. Katsushika Hokusai) who inspired Europe’s Impressionist masters, and the woman who helped him in his work and life: his daughter O-Ei, whose story is often lost to time.
Sony Pictures Animation | 2015
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writers: David Ronn, Jay Scherick
Story: Director Tartakovsky has said he hopes to make the film based on the popular E.C. Segar characters “as artful and unrealistic as possible.”
Ratchet & Clank
Rainmaker Ent., Sony | 2015
Director: Tony Baxter
Writer: T.J. Fixman
Cast: James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward
Story: Based on the popular games from Insomniac, this origin story will show how the dynamic duo met as they struggled to save the Solana Galaxy from Chairman Drek and the Blarg. It will also incorporate characters from later in the series, like Doctor Nefarious and the Galactic Rangers.
Nitrogen Studios Canada, Annapurna Pictures, Sony Ent. | 2015
Directors: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Writers: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, Josh Rosenberger, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll
Story: A group of sausages long to be purchased, but get lost and must return to their aisle before the Fourth of July.
Sheep ‘n’ Wolves
Wizart Animation | 2015 (Russia)
Writer: Neil Landau
Story: Wizart’s first original film centers on a young wolf named Grey who’s afraid of responsibility and doesn’t want to become the new leader of his pack, but finds his world tunred upside down when he wakes up in the body of a sheep.
The Nut Job 2
ToonBox Ent., Redrover, Open Road | January 15, 2016
“The Untitled Pets Project”
Universal/Illumination | February 12, 2016
Directors: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Cast: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart
Story: In one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the bipeds leave for work and school. That’s when pets of all descriptions begin their own daily routine, hanging out, trading stories about their owners or practicing their adorable looks to get better treats.Pampered top dog Max’s world is turned upside down when his owner brings home messy mongrel Duke. But when the odd doggie duo find themselves on the mean streets of New York, they must band together to unite against a cunning bunny named Snowball who is amassing an army of abandoned pets with the aim of turning the tables on humanity.
Disney | March 4, 2016
Director: Byron Howard
Writer: Jared Bush
Story: In the animal-designed city of Zootopia, critters of all kinds live in neighborhoods like Tundratown, Sahara Square, Little Rodenta and Burrowborough. One resident, a fast-talking fox named Nick Wilde, is forced to go on the run when he’s framed for a crime, with self-righteous rabbit cop Lt. Judy Hops hot on his tail. But when they both are targeted by a vicious conspiracy, they must team up and discover that even natural born enemies can become best friends.
Bollywood Superstar Monkey
DreamWorks Animation | March 18, 2016
Director: Kevin Lima
Synopsis: A Bollywood-style musical adventure inspired by the Indian epic Ramayana, told from the point of view of the story’s monkeys. Formerly titled Mumbai Musical, the film is being scored by composer A.R. Rahman and lyricist Stephen Schwartz.
Disney-Pixar | June 17, 2016
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writer: Victoria Strouse
Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Willem Dafoe, Vicki Lewis, Kaitlin Olson
Story: Set one year after the events of Finding Nemo, off the coast of California, the new adventure will focus on amnesiac fish (Pacific regal blue tang, to be exact) Dory and explore the idea of her reuniting with her family. Nemo and the rest of the “Tank Gang” from the first outing will apparently return, along with many other original characters from Nemo.
How to Train Your Dragon 3
DreamWorks | June 17, 2016
Writer: Based on the books by Cressida Cowell
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig
Story: While DWA’s hit film franchise has departed from the source material as of the second film, author Cressida Cowell has hinted that the film series will stay true to the books’ wrap-up. Bonnie Arnold is producing while Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders have been named exec producers.
Rovio Ent., Sony | July 1, 2016
Directors: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Writer: Jon Vitti, based on the game application from Rovio Entertainment.
Ice Age 5
Blue Sky, Fox | July 15, 2016
“The Untitled Smurfs Movie”
Sony Pictures Animation | August 5, 2016
Director: Kelly Asbury
Writers: Karey Kirkpatrick, Chris Poche
Story: The new, all-animated take on Peyo’s popular characters will reboot the franchise with a humorous origin story adventure.
DreamWorks Animation | November 4, 2016
Director: Mike Mitchell
Writer: Erica Rivinoja, based on the toy line by Thomas Dam
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Chloe Grace Moretz
Story: The musical comedy will reportedly explain the origins of the Trolls’ iconic, colorful hair-dos.
Rainmaker Ent., Blockade Ent. | 2016
Director: Kevin Munroe
Writer: Kevin Munroe
Cast: Ian James Corlett, Matt Olsen, Chris Murphy
Story: Sly Cooper, the suave raccoon thief, teams up for his first feature adventure with Bentley the brainy turtle and Murray the muscly hippo for a new heist. The sultry Inspector Carmelita Fox and rival crook Clockwerk the mechanical owl will also feature in this CG adaptation.