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What to Expect in 2016: Animation Calendar – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

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Two thousand fifteen was kind of a disappointing year for animation. There were a few amazing animated releases, but overall the year kind of felt mediocre to me. However, it looks like 2016 will be much better. Now that we’re halfway through January of 2016 and our first big animated release is coming to theaters today, it’s time to take a look at some of the highlights animation has to offer in this new year. Can it get any worse or better than what animation had to offer last year? This animation calendar takes a look at every animated film that currently has a release date in the US this year. International films and films that don’t have an official release date yet will be covered on the site when more information becomes available, so they have not been included in the calendar.

Kung Fu Panda 3

kungfupanda3-banner

Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Release date: January 29, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 is the first animated film we will get this year, but it’s also one of the biggest animated releases of the year. The film, originally set to release last December, was pushed back to prevent competition with The Force Awakens, which probably was the best thing DreamWorks could have done for this property. Kung Fu Panda is one of DreamWorks’ biggest and most successful franchises at the moment and, after that Kung Fu Panda 2 cliffhanger, we’re eager to see what new adventures Po and the Furious Five have in store for us. This film will include an awesome new villain, Po’s long lost family, and lots and lots of awesomeness; Bring it on!

Kung Fu Panda 3 is co-directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni, and produced by Melissa Cobb from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. The franchise’s original voice talents, including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, James Hong, and Randall Duk Kim will all return in the franchise’s third installment. Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, and J.K.Simmons have all joined the cast in new roles.

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Official synopsis: 

After years of wondering if he was an orphan, Po is reunited with his panda Father as they travel to a top-secret Panda refuge where all the world’s pandas are hiding. However, a new supervillain Kai emerges with the goal of defeating all the kung fu masters in China, including Po. Po takes it upon himself to do what has only been done once before: to teach pandas kung fu. With his skills, he’ll attempt to turn the village of clumsy pandas into a legendary kung fu fighting squad!

Official trailer:

Zootopia

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Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Release date: March 4

Zootopia is one of those films that most of us weren’t too sure about at first, but once we saw some trailers for it we all got really psyched. When Disney first announced this film it was pretty much overshadowed by other film announcements like Big Hero 6 and Moana. But, after that amazing trailer that was recently released, who isn’t excited for Zootopia? The film has some amazing visuals, the world building seems on point, it has an exciting original story, and it simply looks like classic Disney with a modern touch.

Zootopia is co-directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush and produced by Clark Spencer from a screenplay by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston. The film features the voice talents of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, and Shakira.

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Official synopsis: 

The city of Zootopia is like none other: it’s a modern habitat where animals from every environment live, work and coexist together. It also provides endless possibilities from the tallest giraffe to the smallest squirrel. When rookie officer, Judy Hopps the rabbit, comes to town, she realizes that being the police squad’s first ever bunny is harder than she thought it would be, considering it’s filled with big, strong animals. But she’s determined to prove herself, so she partners with a shady fox named Nick Wilde to solve the mystery of an extra tough case.

Official trailer:

The Little Prince

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Studio: On Animation Studios
Release date: March 18

I have already seen this film as it already released in several countries around the world. The Little Prince a fun little film with a great story. I loved that they found a way to combine CG animation with stop-motion animation. The stop-motion scenes are visually stunning and very unique from anything we’ve seen before. While it wasn’t my favorite film from last year, it’s definitely one that I enjoyed very much and I’m sure many more people will enjoy as well when it releases in more countries this year.

The Little Prince is directed by Mark Osborne from a screenplay by Irena Brignull, and Bob Persichetti. The film features the voice talents of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, and Benicio Del Toro.

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Official synopsis: 

A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to make sure she’s prepared for it. Her neighbor, The Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of The Little Prince.

Official trailer:

Ratchet & Clank

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Studio: Rainmaker Entertainment
Release date: April 29

Two thousand sixteen is the year of video game to film adaptions. We’re not only getting the live-action World of Warcraft and Assassins Creed movies, but also the animated Angry Birds Movie and, first of all, Ratchet & Clank. I’m not a big gamer, or at least I’ve never played the Ratchet & Clank games, so I’m not too excited about this one. The film certainly looks interesting, so if filmmakers make sure this film is accessible for both gamers and non-gamers, I’ll be sure to check it out and hopefully enjoy it as much as the people who are big fans of the video games.

Ratchet & Clank is co-directed by Jericca Cleland and Kevin Munroe. The film features the voice talents of James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Sylvester Stallone, Bella Thorne, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, and John Goodman.

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Official synopsis: 

Ratchet and Clank are an unlikely duo that teams up to stop the destruction of all the planets in the Solana Galaxy by an evil alien named Chairman Drek. When the pair run across weapon that can entire entire planets with a single blast, they join a group of heroes called The Galactic Rangers.

Official trailer:

The Angry Birds Movie

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Studio: Sony Pictures Imageworks and Rovio Entertainment
Release date: May 20

Less than a month after the Ratchet & Clank adaptation hits theaters we will get our second animated video game adaption of 2016, and this time based on the immensely popular – or at least it was a few years ago – Angry Birds app. I know that animated films take a long time to make, but this film is kind of too late. At this point is there anyone who still plays Angry Birds? Or anyone who loves this world and these characters so much that they would want to see a film about them? I have to say that I’m certainly interested in the team behind the film and the film itself definitely looks visually intriguing, but I’m not sure if this is something I would want to see in theaters.

The Angry Birds Movie is co-directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly from a screenplay by Jon Vitti. The film features the voice talents of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Peter Dinklage, and Bill Hader.

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Official synopsis: 

The Angry Birds all live in a small paradise of flightless birds. However, when they learn of the impending arrival of the Bad Piggies (Ross, Earl, Foreman, Chef Pig, Minion Pigs, and Corporal), led by Leonard, the King Pig, the Angry Birds must team up to investigate the Bad Piggies and find out their evil plans.

Official trailer:

Finding Dory

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Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
Release date: June 17

Finding Dory is the long awaited sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo, which was released 13 years ago. Whether you like or dislike Pixar’s sequels, Finding Dory certainly looks interesting. We will follow Dory as she goes on a journey to find her long-lost family and on the way she’ll meet an entire new cast of characters that could turn out to new fan-favorites. It will be interesting to see how this sequel turns out, as the creative team behind the original film will return. Could this be as good as the Toy Story sequels?

Finding Dory is co-directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus Maclane from a screenplay by Andrew Stanton. The franchise’s original voice talents, including Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, will all return in the franchise’s second installment. Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O’Neill, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Eugene Levi, and Diane Keaton have all joined the cast in new roles.

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Official synopsis: 

Everyone’s favorite forgetful blue-tang Dory is reunited with her friends in ‘Finding Dory.’ Dory encounters her mom, dad, and other lost friends in this heartwarming journey across the sea.

Official trailer:

The Secret Life of Pets
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Studio: Illumination Entertainment
Release date: July 8

Illumination Entertainment is finally back with another original film! After the success of the Despicable Me franchise and of course the Minions spin-off movie, which became the highest grossing animated movie of last year, I’m excited to see some new original projects from the studio this year (The Secret Life of Pets being the first one). I don’t know what it is with Illumination Entertainment, but for some reason everyone seems to love them (with the exception of the animation fandom?), I’ve heard many people who normally wouldn’t discuss animated films talk about the trailer for this film and how much they want to see it. So, does the studio have another hit on its hands or will it be overshadowed by Dory and the Ice Age gang?

The Secret Life of Pets is co-directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. The film features the voice talents of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, and Albert Brooks.

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Official synopsis: 

What do you do when you are no longer a single pet? Max learns that lesson when his master brings home a new pet, a messy dog named Duke with whom he must learn to get along with in their Manhattan apartment. The two must team up to stop a white rabbit named Snowball from creating a super army of ownerless pets in order to get revenge on all the pets and owners currently living in happy homes.

Official trailer:

Ice Age 5: Collisional Course

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Studio: Blue Sky Studios
Release date: July 15

Come on! Another one? At this point most people, myself included, probably no longer care about this franchise. It started out fine, but with each entry it became worse and worse and people, besides small children, simply no longer care. Blue Sky Studios just came out of a creative home run with The Peanuts Movie. This film introduced us to a completely new way to use computer animation and told a simple yet classic story that people of all ages could enjoy, so it’s sad to see the studio return to the Ice Age franchise with a film that looks even worse than anything it has made before.

Ice Age Collisional Course is co-directed by Mark Thurmeier and Galen T. Chu. The film features the voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary,  Simon Pegg, Max Greenfield, and Jessie J.

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Official synopsis: 

Scrat’s epic pursuit of his elusive acorn catapults him outside of Earth, where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the planet. To save themselves from peril, Manny, Sid, Diego, and the rest of the herd leave their home and embark on a quest full of thrills and spills, high and lows, laughter and adventure while traveling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colorful new characters as well as a new enemy who is a brother to one of their old foes.

Official trailer:

Sausage Party

sausge party

Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Release date: August 12

Sausage Party is one of those films we haven’t heard about in a long time, so I’m not sure if we’ll actually get it this year. I will keep my hopes up, however, because some films that hit theaters last year didn’t have much information out by January either. Sausage Party is one of those films to look out for since it’s not your typical animated film. In western culture animation is usually interpreted as children’s entertainment, but this R-Rated animated comedy, co-written by Seth Rogen, is most certainly not meant for kids. I’m definitely excited to see what will become of this feature and if it will be able to change western culture’s perception of animation.

Sausage Party is co-directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, from a screenplay by Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Seth Rogen. The film features the voice talents of Seth Rogen, Micheal Cera, Danny McBride, Johah Hill, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, and James Franco.

Official synopsis: 

A raunchy animated comedy about one sausage’s quest to return back to store shelves. When he falls out of a shopping cart one day, the sausage must make new friends in order to travel back through the grocery story to get back on the shelf in time for the 4th of July sale.

Official trailer:

Not available at this point.

Kubo and the Two Strings

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Studio: LAIKA
Release date: August 19

After skipping last year, LAIKA is back this year with Kubo and the Two Strings. The film has everything a LAIKA film should have and, from the looks of it, it’s once again going to be something very unique and special. The film features an all-star cast who are mostly highly regarded actors and LAIKA President, animator, and CEO, Travis Knight, has taken on a new role as director. It will be interesting to see what he does with this film and hopefully it will be one of this year’s standout animated releases. From the looks of the trailer it definitely will be.

Kubo and the Two Strings is directed by Travis Knight, from a screenplay by Marc Haimes. The film features the voice talents of Art Parkinson, Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, and George Takei.

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Official synopsis: 

An old spirit with a vendetta disrupts Kubo’s quite life in a small seaside town, wreaking havoc by bringing forth gods and monsters to destroy Kubo. To survive, Kubo dons a magical suit of armor, which has only been worn once before by a legendary Samurai warrior, who happens to be Kubo’s deceased father.

Official trailer:

Storks

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Studio: Warner Animation Group
Release date: September 23

Storks is one of those films that might surprise us when it hits theaters, but right now I can’t say I’m too excited for it. It’s from the studio behind The Lego Movie, which is the only reason why I have at least a little faith in this project. The trailer we got was great, but – since we don’t know about the story – it’s hard to judge right now. We’ll have to see some more trailers to see if it will able to live up to The Lego Movie.

Storks is co-directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, from a screenplay by Nicholas Stoller. The film features the voice talents of Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key, and Kelsey Grammer.

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Official synopsis: 

Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for global internet giant Cornerstore.com. Junior, the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable and wholly unauthorized baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.

Official trailer:

Trolls

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Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Release date: November 4

I was very excited about Trolls up until the point we discovered that Justin Timberlake will produce the music for the film and that the voice cast mostly consists of musicians and YouTubers with no acting experience at all. Don’t get me wrong, these people might turn out to surprise us and I think this film will be a visual treat from what we’ve seen at this point. However, I was simply hoping for a classic Broadway-style musical and not yet another pop music-filled movie from DreamWorks with a voice cast only filled with celebrities for the sake of having celebrities and not so much for their talent (Not including Anna Kendrick). The teaser trailer was very disappointing (twerking trolls, seriously?), but again, it looks visually so stunning that I want it to be good.

Trolls is co-directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. The film features the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, James Corden, Ronald Funches, and Gwen Stefani.

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Official synopsis: 

DreamWorks Animation’s TROLLS is an irreverent comedy extravaganza with incredible music! From the genius creators of SHREK, TROLLS stars Anna Kendrick as Poppy, the optimistic leader of the Trolls, and her polar opposite, Branch, played by Justin Timberlake. Together, this unlikely pair of Trolls must embark on an adventure that takes them far beyond the only world they’ve ever known.

Official trailer:

Moana

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Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Release date: November 23

After Zootopia in March, Walt Disney Animation Studios has another feature planned for the holiday season: Moana! Moana is probably most people’s most anticipated animated release of this year. The film was originally rumored to come out in 2018 but was pushed forward a few years back. The film is directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker who also directed classics we all grew up with like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin and, after taking a few years break Disney, they will return to the animated musical with songs written by Opetaia Foaʻi (Te Vaka), Mark Mancina (The Lion King), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton). This has gotta be good!

Moana is co-directed by legendary Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker, from a screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, and Taika Waititi. The film features the voice talents of Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson.

moana poster

Official synopsis: 

Moana is the only daughter of a Polynesian chief and whose family has a long heritage of sailing. Determined to prove herself a master of the seas, she teams up with a demi-god named Maui in order to fulfill her ancestor’s unfinished quest. Together, Moana and Maui have an incredible journey facing huge waves, fiery creatures and impossible odds.

Official trailer
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Sing

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Studio: Illumination Entertainment
Release date: December 21

Sing is the final animated film to release this year and is also Illumination Entertainment’s second. The film is, similarly to Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda 3, a film about a world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals who basically live like humans. Sing is supposed to feature more than 85 already existing hit songs, performed by the A-list voice cast. We have to see some footage to really judge the film, but personally I’m not a big fan of the look of the characters. When you compare this film to Zootopia it simply doesn’t look very appealing and, even when you don’t compare it to anything at all, Illumination Entertainment has done some much more interesting things with its character designs. Hopefully the first trailers will prove me wrong.

Sing is written and directed by Garth Jennings. The film features the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, and Seth MacFarlane.

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Official synopsis: 

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, ‘Sing’ stars Buster Moon (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), a dapper Koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal optimist—okay, maybe a bit of a scoundrel—who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now facing the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

Official trailer:

Not available at this point.

So there you have it – the 2016 animation calendar. When more news about these films pops up, you can be sure that we’ll report it on the site and keep you up to date on everything. The entire Rotoscopers team wishes you a Happy New Year (a little late) and we hope 2016 will be a great year for animation!

What is your personal most and least anticipated release of 2016? Let us know in the comments!

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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