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2017: The Year Ahead In Animated Film

Last year turned out to be a spectacular year for animated features. It would be easy to look at the list of upcoming films for 2017 and think that this year is looking considerably less promising. Look beyond the major studios though and there's some very interesting releases coming down the pipe. Could 2017 be the year for independent animation to truly shine? It's time for our annual look ahead to the year's animated feature film releases.

What films are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments or via social media!

Ocean Waves

Technically this was released (In New York) at the very end of 2016, but considering most of the cinema run takes place early in 2017 (and the film was first released in 1993) we think you'll forgive us. This high-school set rom-com was actually originally made for Japanese television, and remained the last Studio Ghibli film (excluding shorts) that had not screened in the United States.. until now that is. Thanks to the ever reliable GKIDS Films!

ETA: Now (US)

The Red Turtle

Michael Dudok de Wit's dialogue-free fable is the first international co-production that Studio Ghibli has embarked on. Ghibli legend Isao Takahata acted as "Artistic Producer" on the film, which should be enough to assure you that this film is going to be something special. This has been high up our most wanted list from the minute we first saw the first images, but the trailers only increased our excitement. This is one not to be missed.

ETA : January 20th (US) Summer 2017 TBC (UK)

My Life As A Zucchini/ My Life As A Courgette

Claude Barras' French/Swiss stop-motion has melted the hearts of audiences everywhere it has played so far, and has generated an awful lot of awards buzz along the way. Now thanks to the fine folks at GKIDS (again), audiences in the US will get to see it themselves, starting with a screening at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

ETA: February TBC (US) TBA (UK)

A Silent Voice

Kyoto Animation's adaptation of the manga of the same name features a teenager who seeks out the deaf former classmate he used to bully as a child, in an effort to atone for past sins. The film is receiving a limited cinema run in the UK from Anime Limited, as well as screening at part of the Japan Foundation's Touring Film Programme.

ETA: Early 2017 (UK)

The Lego Batman Movie

Darkness! No Parents! The best thing in 2014's The Lego Movie gets his own spin-off. There's the danger that what worked so well as part of a larger film could fall flat when asked to carry a whole film, but the trailers so far have us reassured this won't be the case. To paraphrase The Dark Knight: forget Ben Affleck,  this is the Batman movie we deserve right now

ETA: February 10th (US/ UK)

Rock Dog

Animated by US outfit Reel FX (The Book Of Life) but entirely funded by Chinese money, Rock Dog has a double claim to fame. Not only was it China's most expensive animated film to date.. it was also it's biggest animated flop.  Neither necessarily should reflect on the quality of the film itself though, which looks to be a perfectly charming tale of a Tibetan Mastiff trying to make his dreams or rock-stardom come true.

ETA: February 24th (US)

Mune: Guardian Of the Moon

This 2015 French CGI flick presents a captivating world featuring cute creatures and guardians, where a young faun named Mune must rise up to meet his destiny as guardian of the moon. The film arrives in American cinemas this year courtesy of GKIDS.

ETA: Early 2017 (US)


Set in 1800's Paris, this beautifully animated CG film from France follows the efforts of a young girl from the country who dreams of being a Ballerina. Released late last year in the UK and other countries under the original title of Ballerina, it arrives Stateside from the Weinstein Company in March, complete with an entirely unnecessary name change. 

ETA March 10 (US)  Out Now, (UK) [As Ballerina]

The Boss Baby

While we impatiently await the many-times delayed third How To Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks Animation keeps putting out films that ( how can we put this politely?) maybe aren't aiming quite so high. Case in point- this upcoming effort with Alec Baldwin voicing a suit-wearing baby who is much smarter than he seems.  From director Tom McGrath, a veteran of the Madagascar movies and Megamind. Maybe it'll surprise us?

ETA March 31st (US) April 7th (UK)

Smurfs: The Lost Village

After those awful live-action/CGI hybrid films, The Smurfs are back where they belong, in the animated world. Sony Pictures Animation have created a pretty impressive version of the Smurfy world here, even if some of the humour in the trailer seems rather out-of-place.  Will it smurf our minds, or will it be a pile of steaming smurf? Only smurf will tell. 

ETA : April 7th (US) March 31st (UK)

Captain Underpants

The other DWA film of 2017 is adapted from a series of hit kids' books about a pair of cheeky children who hypnotise their school principal and turn him into the superhero Captain Underpants. With no trailer so far, we have no idea how this will go but the first images released have a certain visual similarity to The Peanuts Movie. (Although we'd expect that's where any similarities end).

ETA: June 2nd (US) May 26th (UK)

Cars 3

This film may have a reputation as the sequel nobody wants (except for the under 8's and Disney's Merchandising arm) but admit it- that strangely dark first teaser had you intrigued. Since then it's been confirmed that the actual plot appears to be a much more straight-forward comeback story, but the trailer makes it look like an improvement on the second movie at least. If nothing else, it's reassuring that Lightning McQueen is the main character again  -rather than the annoying Mater. And having been sidelined in the second movie, it looks like racing sequences will play a bigger part in the third movie

ETA : June 16th (US) July 14th (UK)

Despicable Me 3 

Last year, Illumination proved they could have success outside their biggest franchise, with both Secret Life Of Pets and Sing. In 2017 they return to the characters that made their name, with the fourth outing (including spin-off Minions) in the Despicable Me series. The latest movie introduces a new villain, voiced by South Park's Trey Parker. The first teaser was surprisingly Minion-light, but we're sure Illumination aren't going to jettison their cash-cow anytime soon.

ETA : June 30th (US/UK)

Lego Ninjago Movie

We haven't really seen anything from the year's other Lego movie just yet, but a Lego take on martial arts cinema sounds pretty fun.  They've assembled a pretty great voice cast too, featuring Dave Franco, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Oliva Munn and (best of all) the legendary Jackie Chan.

ETA: September 22nd (US) October 13th (UK)


Pixar's original film of the year is described as "love letter to Mexico". Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich brings us the story of Miguel who travels to the land of the dead to meet his departed hero, to help make his musical dreams come true. Similarities to The Book Of Life are hard to miss, but with Pixar responsible, hopes are high that this will turn out to feel like a very different film.

ETA: November 22nd (US) December 8th (UK)

The Breadwinner

Next up from Ireland's Cartoon Saloon is Nora Twomey's first solo directed feature (after co-helming The Secret Of Kells). Adapted from the best-seller about a young Afghan girl who must disguise herself as a boy to get a job and support her family, expect this to feature heavily in the awards season chatter come 2018.

ETA: 2017 TBC (US)

Your Name

Following awards-qualifying screenings in 2016, Funimation will bring Makoto Shinkai's latest to US Cinemas sometime this year. Shinkai's body-swap rom-com has gone down a storm everywhere it has played so far, and in has even out-earned every Miyazaki film (and therefore every other Japanese film full-stop) bar Spirited Away in its homeland.

ETA: 2017 TBC (US) Out Now (UK)

In This Corner Of The World

Mai Mai Miracle's Sunao Katabuchi directs this story of a young woman named Suzu who moves to town near Hiroshima in war-time Japan. The film screened to considerable acclaim in Japan in late 2016, and earned comparisons with Grave Of the Fireflies and Barefoot Gen. Global rights to the film are held by UK distributor Animatsu who hope to bring it to the UK and other countries sometime during 2017.

ETA: 2017 TBC

Mary And The Witch's Flower

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of Studio Ghibli's Arrietty and When Marnie Was There is directing his first feature with Studio Ponoc-alongside several other former Ghibli alumni. It mimics Ghibli's house style so closely that when this was announced, some people reported it as a new Ghibli film. Still, for those suffering withdrawal symptoms while we wait for Miyazaki to make his coming out of retirement from features official, this could be just the tonic.

ETA: Summer 2017 (Japan)

My Entire Highschool Is Sinking Into The Sea

Highschool comedy meets disaster movie in this one-of-a-kind US indie film from graphic novelist Dash Shaw in his feature debut. Boasting an original mixed media style and a voice cast full of indie darlings (and Susan Sarandon as a lunch lady with attitude) this is one of the most original animated films you will see this (or any) year.

ETA: Late Spring (US)

The Girl Without Hands

French film based on the Brothers Grimm story of the miller who sells his daughter to the devil. She escapes- but loses her hands in the process.  Screened at the 2016 Annecy festival, where it picked up a juried distinction award, before being picked up for US release by GKIDS. This is definitely the most art-house title on this year's list- and its style is not going to be for everyone.


Loving Vincent

The Biography of the life and death of the world-renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh. What makes this exciting is the way in which it's made- the film was handpainted by over 100 artists, and is made in a style to pay tribute to Van Gogh's works directly.

ETA: 2017 TBC

And The Rest..

  • Illumination's Sing arrives in UK Cinemas [ETA Jan 27th]
  • The Emoji Movie is still a thing that is happening and apparently can't be stopped. [ETA: August 4th (US)] 
  • The Nut Job 2  [ETA August 17th (US)] existing is a surprise too. Apparently. enough people watched the first movie to make it worth someone's while?   
  • MLP goes feature length  in My Little Pony The Movie [ETA Oct 6th (US)] 
  • Get your game on in Yu-Gi-Oh: Dimensions In Darkness [ETA: January 20th (US) Feb 1st (UK)] 
  • Plug back in with the movie outing of Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale [ETA  March 10 (US)]