Welcome to 2019, a year all set to bombard us animation fans with many sequels, franchise revivals, and a few originals into the mix. We have plenty to get through, so get your calendar ready for this year’s big screen animated adventures!
These North American release dates, as obtained from the 2019 schedule on Box Office Mojo, apply to the time of writing. Please note that the list is not final as title, crew, and/or date changes are possible in the near-future. You can view our Animation Calendar for our up-to-date release schedule on theatrical animated features.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
- Director(s): Mike Mitchell
- Writer(s): Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
- Studio(s): Warner Animation Group, The Lego Group, Animal Logic
- Distributor(s): Warner Bros. Pictures
- US release: February 8, 2019
Our first 2019 feature brings us back to the Lego Universe with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, this time in ruins thanks to the Duplo from outer space. Determined to save Bricksburg from total destruction, Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and their fellow Master Builders team up to stop the invading Dunlop by traversing intergalactic worlds (including one where everything is a musical), and meeting bizarre new characters along the way.
Considering how awe-inspiring the first Lego Movie was, expectations have been very high for the sequel. The limitless possibilities of Lego could give us more creative worlds and hilarious cameos, and despite director Mike Mitchell’s mixed-bag filmography, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s continued involvement as writers do make it better reassuring. All we can do for now is hope the construction of The Second Part is equally as strong.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
- Director(s): Dean DeBlois
- Writer(s): Dean DeBlois
- Studio(s): DreamWorks Animation
- Distributor(s): Universal Pictures
- US release: February 22, 2019
DreamWorks’ most-acclaimed franchise is coming to close in the highly-anticipated final instalment (and DreamWorks’ first Universal release); How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The defining chapter will see Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless’ friendship pushed to the limit, with the discovery of a hidden world, a female Light Fury, and a dangerous threat. One that forces Berk to be evacuated, and all dragons and riders teaming up to protect everything they love.
As a big fan of the franchise, The Hidden World is something I greatly anticipate. Not only as a strong conclusion, but one that I think is guaranteed to be a major tearjerker if the script which made Steven Spielberg cry is any indication. One important thing to note though is that most counties will get the film before North America does, and it’s already released in Australia and New Zealand! So for those wanting to avoid spoilers, please be cautionary on social media.
- Director(s): To be determined
- Writer(s): Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
- Studio(s): Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon Movies, Ilion Animation Studios
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures
- US release: March 15, 2019
Paramount Animation and the Spanish studio behind Planet 51 team up to give us the most-magical amusement park to be put on screen! Wonder Park tells the story of June (Brianna Denski), an imaginative girl who spent her childhood building a miniature amusement park called Wonderland. Now grown up, her sense of wonder is gone until she discovers a real Wonderland, where she must team up with the populated talking animals to stop an invasion of Chimpanzombies.
Despite being a promising release, Wonder Park was set back by a rather rocky production. The original director was fired last year for inappropriate conduct, and to this day, it remains unknown who (if anyone at all) will be credited as director in the finished film. Don’t let that impact your viewing experience though, as this imaginative creation looks to pack in dazzling visuals and a lot of heart, plus provide a much-needed hit for Paramount’s young animation division.
- Director(s): Chris Butler
- Writer(s): Chris Butler
- Studio(s): Laika
- Distributor(s): Annapurna Pictures (US), Lionsgate (UK)
- US release: April 12, 2019
Meet Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) a giant hairy creature in the Pacific Northwest who’s much kinder than what his physical appearance might suggest. In Laika’s new road-trip comedy Missing Link, the kind-hearted Link teams up with fearless discoverer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) who accompanies him on a globe-trotting adventure to find the Shangri-La valley, the home of his long-lost relatives.
Missing Link marks an interesting new direction for Laika, moving from their typical dark works in favour of something more lighthearted and upbeat. It has all the right ingredients to make something highly enjoyable, with their high-quality stop-motion, an original story, likeable cast, and ParaNorman director/writer Chris Butler at the helm. If that piques your interest, then, by all means, get on board the hype train!
- Director(s): Kelly Asbury
- Writer(s): Blaise Hemingway, Erica Rivinoja, Justin Spitzer
- Studio(s): Reel FX Animation Studios
- Distributor(s): STX Entertainment
- US release: May 3, 2019
Producer Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) invites you to the strange plush world of UglyDolls, where weirdness is celebrated and strange is special. In this musical adaptation on the long-running plush toys, Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) decides to break out of her comfort and encourages her friends to join her in curiosity to find out what lies beyond the mountains that tower Uglyville. What they find is Perfection, a town where regular dolls receive training to find an owner in the “real” world.
It’s clear that UglyDolls wants to capitalize on the success of DreamWorks’ Trolls; based on a toy brand, having colourful animation by Reel FX, and being a musical. Though this one has the upper hand of having original songs rather than Trolls‘ jukebox approach. Even with the creativity in its worldbuilding and cute dolls (far from ugly in my opinion), UglyDolls has to do a lot to prove it’s more than just copying someone else’s success.
The Secret Life of Pets 2
- Director(s): Chris Renaud
- Writer(s): Brian Lynch
- Studio(s): Illumination Entertainment, Illumination Mac Guff
- Distributor(s): Universal Pictures
- US release: June 7, 2019
Max the dog (Patton Oswalt) and his loveable furry friends are back in The Secret Life of Pets 2, the sequel to Illumination’s 2016 smash hit. Concrete plot details are currently limited, but we do know that director Chris Renaud and writer Brian Lynch will return to showcase more of the New York pets’ lifestyle while their owners are at work. The sequel will also expand the cast with Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, Pete Holmes, and Harrison Ford on board.
As for the original cast, almost all them will reprise their roles for the sequel. The notable exception to this, however, is regarding Max’s voice, where Patton Oswalt takes over after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct, which I think was a bold moral decision of Illumination. While the first movie was only fine for me, I’d be open to see Max and friends again, as long as the story is less derivative this time around.
Toy Story 4
- Director(s): Josh Cooley
- Writer(s): Stephany Folsom
- Studio(s): Pixar Animation Studios
- Distributor(s): Walt Disney Pictures
- US release: June 21, 2019
Just when you thought Pixar ended their trilogy on a strong note, it turns out they’re not packing away the toybox just yet. In Toy Story 4, everything is smooth sailing for Woody (Tom Hanks) and his friends under their new owner Bonnie, until she brings in a new addition called Forky (Tony Hale). A road trip adventure then ensures, showing Woody just how big the world actually is for a toy.
Of all the follow-ups Pixar released this decade, Toy Story 4 appears to be among the most contested. Especially with Toy Story 3 bringing the perfect closure, how on earth could they top that with another entry? One reassuring aspect though is the fact that both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were emotionally destroyed when recording the ending. Plus I personally wasn’t too big on the third movie anyway, so I guess a new adventure with Woody and Buzz wouldn’t hurt. Let’s hope the cinemas are well-stocked with tissues for this one.
The Lion King (2019)
- Director(s): Jon Favreau
- Writer(s): Jeff Nathanson
- Studio(s): Walt Disney Studios, Moving Picture Company
- Distributor(s): Walt Disney Pictures
- US release: July 19, 2019
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! Disney’s remake obsession continues in 2019 with Dumbo, Aladdin, and the king of all these, The Lion King, releasing 25 years after the epic masterpiece. Jungle Book director Jon Favreau pushes photoreal animation to the next level in this retelling of Prince Simba’s (JD McCrary and Donald Glover) exile, who fell victim to Uncle Scar’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) malicious plan to dethrone King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and his subsequent redemption to continue the Circle of Life.
Aside from looking like a visually stunning, yet redundant remake of a beloved classic, the huge debate is whether or not this would count as an animated feature. Is it live-action as Disney refers it as because of the realism? Is it animated because no live-action components exist in the film? Your opinion may vary on this, but if Disney considers their similarly-made Dinosaur to be part of their animated canon, then I believe this Lion King remake qualifies for our 2019 Animation Calendar. Add in the perfect release date to fuel up everyone’s nostalgia, and you’re guaranteed to witness a monster hit with this one!
The Angry Birds Movie 2
- Director(s): Thurop Van Orman
- Writer(s): Peter Ackerman
- Studio(s): Rovio Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks
- Distributor(s): Columbia Pictures
- US release: August 16, 2019
Those slingshot birds sure are angry, so angry that the success of one of the better video game movies will be getting a sequel with The Angry Birds Movie 2. The sequel’s plot is currently unknown, although the original’s cast will return along with a new female villain voiced by Leslie Jones. The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack creator Thurop Van Orman directs this entry, with a script written by Ice Age scribe Peter Ackerman.
Believe it or not, the Angry Birds franchise has been around for nearly an entire decade (I feel old for thinking of that), making this release a good fit for this anniversary. But as someone who considers the first movie a mixed bag, is there enough material to make a worthy follow-up? Of course, there is room for improvement over the first movie’s problems, but very little is available at this time to judge the sequel on. Let’s wait for the trailer first.
Spies in Disguise
- Director(s): Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
- Writer(s): Brad Copeland
- Studio(s): 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios
- Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox
- US release: September 13, 2019
Will Smith stars as Lance Sterling, the world’s most awesome spy in Blue Sky’s octane-fueled action flick Spies in Disguise. Based on Lucas Martell’s animated short Pigeon Impossible, Agent Sterling must learn to work together with his socially-inept gadget inventer Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) following some unexpected events, or else the entire world is in grave danger.
Spies in Disguise looks to be a slick addition Blue Sky’s new non-sequel direction and could provide some exciting spy action with its stylised visuals and creative gadgets. However, one major obstacle this movie has is 20th Century Fox’s merger with Disney, which could potentially affect its release. Hopefully, this and Blue Sky’s future projects don’t get impacted by these circumstances so they all have their chance to shine.
- Director(s): Jill Culton, Todd Wilderman
- Writer(s): William Davies
- Studio(s): DreamWorks Animation, Pearl Studio
- Distributor(s): Universal Pictures, Pearl Studio (China)
- US release: September 27, 2019
You think those mythical Yeti creatures only exist in Smallfoot? Well, DreamWorks is here to prove those aren’t the only ones to roam the snowy mountains! An American-Chinese co-production with Pearl Studio (formally Oriental DreamWorks), Abominable follows the 3,000-mile journey from Shanghai to the Himalayas that Yi (Chloe Bennet) and her misfit friends embark on to return a lost young Yeti to his family.
There isn’t much to comment about Abominable at this point, but in the current period of DreamWorks sequelitis, this original feature feels like a breath of fresh air for the studio. Plus the combined efforts of DreamWorks and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio (who both worked together on Kung Fu Panda 3) could provide an interesting storytelling perspective on the eastern world. At this point, we just gotta wait for the trailer to get a better understanding of what we’re getting.
The Addams Family
- Director(s): Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
- Writer(s): Matt Lieberman
- Studio(s): Nitrogen Studios, Cinesite Studios
- Distributor(s): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
- US release: October 18, 2019
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. The directing duo of Sausage Party team up once again to bring their modern animated take on The Addams Family, and don’t worry, they’ll be making this family-friendly. In this interpretation, the ghoulish family led by father Gomez Addams (Oscar Issac) must fend off a stalky and greedy reality TV host (Margaux Needler) while also preparing for the arrival of their extended family for a big celebration.
Aside from the short-lived 2009 musical, The Addams Family has been lacking relevance since the 90s. So an animated feature like this would be a perfect opportunity to introduce the family to a new generation, along with faithfully unique character designs by the talented Craig Kellman. As long as the animators are treated properly unlike in Sausage Party‘s production, I’ll gladly anticipate the Addams’ return to the spotlight.
- Director(s): Aaron Woodley
- Writer(s): Bob Barlen, Cal Brunker, Aaron Woodley
- Studio(s): AIC Studios, Assemblage Entertainment
- Distributor(s): Entertainment Studios
- US release: November 1, 2019
The writing duo behind Son of Bigfoot and the director of Spark: A Space Tale collaborate to create one big snow blast with Arctic Dogs (previously known as Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad). Aspiring to be the Top Dog of the Arctic Blast Delivery Service, Swifty the arctic fox (Jeremy Renner) secretly delivers an unknown package to a mysterious address. Turns out that recipient was the evil Doc Walrus (John Cleese), who wants to reign supreme by melting the polar ice caps and flood the world.
While Arctic Dogs is a cute idea with nice concept art, having Assemblage create the CG animation is a rather worrying signal. Keep in mind that’s the same studio that animated Norm of the North. Distributor Entertainment Studios, however, poses a bigger problem for the film, who are notoriously holding off the US release of Animal Crackers for no given reason. Regardless of how Arctic Dogs turns out though, I do hope for the best it doesn’t receive that same release mistreatment from Entertainment’s executives.
- Director(s): Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
- Writer(s): Jennifer Lee, Allison Schroeder
- Studio(s): Walt Disney Animation Studios
- Distributor(s): Walt Disney Pictures
- US release: November 22, 2019
Don’t let the cold bother you this winter, because Disney is preparing to invade us once again with Frozen Fever! As the sequel to what is currently the highest-grossing animated feature, Frozen 2 reunites princess duo Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) as they embark on an adventure which will unravel an ancient mystery surrounding the Kingdom of Arendelle.
While it’s questionable how a Frozen sequel could continue its nicely-concluded predecessor, the franchise’s cultural significance probably made Disney impossible to resist a follow-up. Their recent success with Ralph Breaks the Internet showed they are perfectly capable with in-house sequels and the factor of Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee returning does bring some confidence. WIll this recapture the same success back in 2013? We gotta wait and see on that.
Unscheduled North American releases
We will now take a look at several international animated features that have a guaranteed 2019 release but are still without a concrete date for North America.
Beijing-based Base FX makes their feature debut with Wish Dragon. From the mind of Coraline illustrator Chris Appelhans, this is a contemporary Chinese tale about a boy who endures the moral challenges of befriending a wish-making dragon. The film releases in Mainland China on July 26, with Sony Pictures Animation planning to showcase it internationally, though with no assigned release dates yet.On Animation welcomes you to Playmobil, the place where anything can happen! In Playmobil: The Movie, Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) of the live-action world enters the animated plastic universe in search for her missing brother Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). Despite releasing across Europe this August via StudioCanal, Global Road Entertainment’s bankruptcy has put the US theatrical release in limbo and without a distributor. Director Lino DiSalvo recently stated on Twitter a new US release date is being searched for.
Aardman is back to give their lovable Oscar-nominated sheep another exciting adventure. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon serves a loving homage to the classic science fiction genre, where Shaun (Justin Fletcher) and his flock attempt to return a crash-landed alien back to it’s home. While StudioCanal will release the film in the native UK on October 18, North American distributor Lionsgate is yet to assign a date for that area.
Finally, we’ll give an honourable mention to the Netflix original movie Klaus. The magnum opus of Despicable Me creator Sergio Pablos, this ambitious 2D animated feature tells the story of a desperate postman who accidentally discovers Santa Claus. Netflix plans to have the film available for streaming by the end of 2019, although a theatrical release of any capacity is yet to be announced.