10: “Minions: The Rise of Gru”
Release Date: July 2nd, 2021 [U.S.]
It feels like only yesterday that we were talking about “Minions: The Rise of Gru” on our list for the Most Anticipated Animated Movies of 2020. Originally scheduled to come out in July that year, Illumination was still putting the finishing touches on the “Minions” sequel when the pandemic hit in March. Where movies like “Trolls World Tour” and “Scoob!” experimented with VOD release strategies in response, Universal chose to delay “The Rise of Gru” a whole year. Whether or not Universal sticks to the planned theatrical engagement, we’re just looking forward to seeing more of the Minions, little Gru, and how their partnership started out. We can also expect a slew of new despicable characters with the introduction of the Vicious 6.
9: “Sing 2”
Release Date: December 22nd, 2021 [U.S.]
When “The Rise of Gru” got pushed back, it assumed the release date of another Illumination film. “Sing 2” was thus pushed back to December 2021, almost exactly five years after the original film hit theaters. Despite never hitting #1 at the North American box office, the 2016 musical comedy managed to make over $600 million worldwide. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and most of the other principal players are booked for a second act, as is director Garth Jennings. “Sing 2” will also introduce some new voices, including Gina Linetti herself, Chelsea Peretti. Here’s hoping that she sings the theme from “Fame.” With “The Addams Family 2” and “The Boss Baby: Family Business” in the works, 2021 should have no shortage of animated sequels.
8: “Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans”
Release Date: First Quarter 2021 [U.S.]
Back in 2017, Netflix, DreamWorks, and Guillermo del Toro practically swept the Daytime Emmys with “Trollhunters.” While that epic series wrapped up after three seasons, there were still more adventures to be had in the town of Arcadia Oaks. We’d go from trolls to aliens in “3Below.” The third installment, “Wizards,” would return to the franchise’s fantasy roots, rounding out an ambitious trilogy of shows unlike any other. “Rise of the Titans” serves as a culmination of this story, uniting the heroes of Arcadia for the final battle against the Arcane Order. Arcadia does the Avengers certainly has a nice ring to it. On Twitter, del Toro described this climactic project as “a big, bold, spectacular feature film that ties every part of the myths!”
7: “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie”
Release Date: April 9th, 2021 [U.S.]
“Tales of Arcadia” isn’t the only television franchise getting the feature-length treatment in this year. “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie” was due for delivery in 2020, but the Belcher family had to go into quarantine. In response to the pandemic, the “Bob’s Burgers” team released a short the same day that the movie was supposed to come out. Aside from capturing the boredom of being stuck inside, the short was a nice way to hold fans over. Meanwhile, the cast and crew continued working remotely on the movie, which will be a musical comedy. While little is still known about the plot, Louise’s night light Kuchi Kopi will play a role. With creator Loren Bouchard making his feature directorial debut, we can’t wait to taste the meat.
Release Date: TBA 2021 [U.S.]
We’re all familiar with Disney’s animated adaptation of “Pinocchio.” While it’s undeniably one of Disney’s scariest films, readers know that the source material is even more twisted. Who better to bring a darker version to the screen than Guillermo del Toro? The Oscar-winning filmmaker has been trying to get this stop-motion animated feature off the ground for years. Due to a lack of finances, the project sat on the shelf like a motionless wooden boy. Netflix eventually emerged as del Toro’s Blue Fairy, however. Along with del Toro, “Pinocchio” is being co-directed by Mark Gustafson, who’s no stranger to creepy stop-motion projects. The designs were inspired by Gris Grimly’s illustrations for the 2002 edition of Carlo Collodi novel, meaning we can expect something truly demented.
Release Date: June 18th, 2021 [U.S.]
Before moving to the U.S. to study animation, Enrico Casarosa was born in Genoa, Italy. Casarosa embraced his heritage with the Pixar short “La Luna,” which he wrote and directed. Earning Casarosa an Oscar nomination, “La Luna” drew inspiration from Italian cartoonist Osvaldo Cavandoli and Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki. “Luca,” which marks Casarosa’s feature directorial debut, sounds a bit like Miyazaki’s “Ponyo” with an Italian twist. Taking place on the Italian Riviera, the film follows a young boy who befriends a sea monster disguised as a human. Other than that synopsis and some concept art, little remains known about “Luca.” The fact that it’s Pixar, however, is reason enough to expect greatness. The film could do for Italy what “Coco” did for Mexico.
4: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Release Date: July 16th, 2021 [U.S.]
Before enlisting LeBron James, Jackie Chan, Tony Hawk, and Tiger Woods were all seen as potential candidates to star in “Space Jam 2,” which has been in and out of development for over a decade and a half. James has frequently been described as his generation’s Michael Jordan. He even starred in a remake of a McDonald’s commercial made iconic by Jordan and Larry Bird. So, it only makes sense that James would inherit Jordan’s mantle for the long-awaited follow-up. James has already proven that he can act in movies like “Trainwreck,” but it’s the Looney Tunes that we’re most excited to see back in action. Given Warner Bros.’ large library of properties, could a few other famous characters cross paths with the Tune Squad?
Release Date: November 24th, 2021 [U.S.]
Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll as of late and their 60th feature seems like another winner based on the talent involved. “Encanto” is being co-directed by Byron Howard, who won an Oscar for “Zootopia,” Charise Castro Smith, who’s making her film directorial debut, and Jared Bush, who helmed the screenplay for “Moana.” Speaking of “Moana,” “Encanto” reteams Disney with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will be writing songs for this new musical. Taking place in Colombia, the story centers on a girl from a magical family who has yet to demonstrate any powers of her own. Think “The Incredibles” minus the superhero angle. The title “Encanto” translates to “Charm,” which this movie is sure to be full of.
Release Date: June 4th, 2021 [U.S.]
In addition to “Encanto,” Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing several songs for this animated musical. Miranda initially brought the project to DreamWorks Animation in 2010, although the studio backed out five years later. It found a second life, however, at Sony Animation with Kirk DeMicco of “The Croods” directing. Although it took a few years for Sony Animation to truly find their footing, they’ve recently produced back-to-back Oscar winners with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and the short “Hair Love.” With Miranda involved, “Vivo” seemingly has the makings of another instant classic. If that’s not reason enough to get you ecstatic, this is also the first Sony feature to be produced by Rich Moore, whose work includes “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Zootopia,” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“My Father’s Dragon”
Release Date: TBA 2021 [U.S.]
“Tom and Jerry”
Release Date: March 5th, 2021 [U.S.]
“Hotel Transylvania 4”
Release Date: August 6th, 2021 [U.S.]
Release Date: May 14th, 2021 [U.S.]
Release Date: TBA 2021 [U.S.]
1: “Raya and the Last Dragon”
Release Date: March 12th, 2021 [U.S.]
One year after “Raya and the Last Dragon” topped our list of 2020’s Most Anticipated Animated Movies, we find ourselves experiencing some serious déjà vu. Yet another release that was delayed as a result of the pandemic, “Raya” has us even more excited than we were a year ago. Part of that’s because we’ve finally gotten a trailer, which has warranted comparison to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra.” The titular Raya was originally going to be voiced by Cassie Steele, although the role later went to Kelly Marie Tran. The titular Last Dragon, meanwhile, is still being voiced by Awkwafina. If Disney’s track record with strong female heroines and dragons is any indication, “Raya” should rank right up there with “Mulan.”