Back in the 1990s, Disney was unmatched when it came to delivering hit animated films, but circumstances are quite different nowadays, as nearly every studio has big-budget, star-studded animated projects on the horizon. As a result, animation has become even bigger business than it ever was, with Disney experiencing its own second Renaissance in recent years. While there are many hotly anticipated animated releases coming out this year, here are the five most promising ones we’re looking forward to.
1. Zootopia (scheduled for release on March 4)
Recent releases like Frozen and Big Hero 6 prove that Walt Disney Animation Studios is in the midst of a hot streak, and this comedy/adventure — featuring the voices of Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin — is unlikely to break that. Set in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, the film follows a young cop (Goodwin) who is forced to team with a con artist (Bateman) to solve her latest case. Between the comedic chops of its cast to the film’s promise for sharp satire, Zootopia could be another winner for that Mouse House. Plus, that sloth above is adorable, right?
2. Finding Dory (scheduled for release on June 17)
In the past, Pixar has been accused of needlessly sequelizing films like Cars and Monsters Inc. However, those same critics probably won’t object to this follow-up to the beloved 2003 release Finding Nemo, which shifts its focus to the unforgettable title character. As voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory was the breakout star of the first film, and the new film explores the amnesiac fish reuniting with her family. At this point, it remains to be seen if Finding Dory can recapture the magic of its predecessor, but we’re betting that the film will be more Toy Story 2 than Cars 2.
3. The Secret Life of Pets (scheduled for release on July 8)
Regardless of how one may feel about Minions, Illumination Entertainment delivered one of last year’s biggest hits with that Despicable Me spinoff. This film aims to duplicate that success with its Toy Story approach centering on what household pets are up to when their owners aren’t around. An impressive voice cast led by Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, and Ellie Kemper is the main selling point for this one, and if its charmingly quirky teaser trailer offers any hints as to what the finished film might be like, The Secret Life of Pets could be something special.
4. Sausage Party (scheduled for release on August 12)
As its suggestive title indicates, this animated comedy is one not intended for family audiences. In fact, the film — which boasts a voice cast that includes Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and James Franco — probably has far more in common with its actors’ R-rated comedies than any kid-friendly Disney films. Sausage Party follows one sausage on a journey of self-discovery, as he and his friends rush to make it back to their grocery store aisles in time for a new sale. It sounds ridiculous, but if nothing else, the film should offer an alternative to those squeaky-clean animated comedies.
5. Moana (scheduled for release on November 23)
The latest animated musical from Disney, Moana tells the story of its titular hero (Auli’i Cravalho) as she makes her way through the South Pacific in search of a fabled island. Dwayne Johnson also lends his voice to Maui, the demi-god who aids Moana on her journey. Directed by Disney mainstays Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), the film has a ton of talent involved behind the scenes, and its script — co-written by Clements, Musker, and Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) — could help the film become one of the fall’s biggest hits.
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