Header Ads

2021: The Year Ahead In Animated Film


We publish one of these movie previews every year, but this year we find ourselves in a unique situation. Several of the films on our 2020 preview have been pushed into this year instead (what with one thing and another) or had their release plans change. Due to the unpredictability of current events, there's a decent chance that any of the films listed this year will have their release dates changed or their release changing format. Never has our use of ETA- as in ESTIMATED Time of Arrival- been more appropriate. And so, while this is always the case anyway (pandemic or not), bear in mind that this year in particular all release dates are subject to change. Even in a normal year, our preview won't give the full picture, as there will likely be some smaller indie and international films from indie distributors that haven't been announced yet. With ALL that said, let's look ahead to what animated delights the next twelve months will hold (probably).

Earwig And The Witch

The latest film from the revived Studio Ghibli is somewhat controversial, as Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son), has made the studio's first fully CG feature. Narratively though it's very much traditional Ghibli fare, with witches, talking cats, and plucky young heroines, adapted from a children's' book by original Howl's Moving Castle author Diana Wynne Jones.  Made for TV in Japan, the film is getting upgraded to a theatrical release overseas, although it will also be getting a near-simultaneous HBO Max release in the US.

ETA:  Feb 3 (Cinemas) Feb 5 (HBO MAX) [US]  TBA [UK]

Raya And The Last Dragon

Pushed from its original 2020 holiday release date, the latest from Walt Disney Animation Studios has slipped into a spring 2021 date instead. Taking its inspiration from East Asian culture and mythology (but set in a fictional world) it focuses on Raya's quest to find the mythical beast of the title and save her homeland. From our first look at her in the film's debut trailer, it seems that as a martial arts warrior meets Lara Croft, Raya is far from your typical Disney Princess.

ETA: March 5 [Cinema and Disney Plus Premier Access]


Bob's Burgers: The Movie

The big-screen spin-off of the popular TV sitcom was announced before Disney acquired Fox and news on it has been virtually nonexistent. But creator Loren Bouchard has repeatedly assured fans that it's coming and that it will be worth the wait. Still, it's pretty hard to believe that this is supposed to be coming out in just a few months and we don't have any idea what the plot is. On the other hand- we probably don't need to know anything more- if you love Bob's Burgers, you're already on board.

ETA:  April 9 [US] April 13 [UK]

Ron's Gone Wrong

As the first release from new UK Studio Locksmith Animation,  this is a bit of an unknown quantity.  Locksmith was co-founded by former Aardman staffer, and director of Arthur Christmas, Sarah Smith and Smith co-directs here, as well as penning the screenplay along with Borat writer and UK comedy stalwart Peter Baynham. We've yet to see one frame, but the team behind it makes it extremely promising- as does the concept, which sees an 11-year old boy make friends with a defective robot.

ETA: April 23 [US, UK]


SpongeBob The Movie: Sponge On The Run 

Despite being available on Netflix outside of the US and Canada, American Spongeheads have been deprived of this latest movie offering since it was removed from its original cinema release last May. They'll finally be able to see it this year when it arrives exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming site. The third movie spin-off from the long-running Nickelodeon series is notable as it drops the show's usual style for an eye-catching style of CG.

ETA: Early 2021 (CBS All Access) [US]


Little is known about Pixar's next feature, their third original in two years, beyond the basic premise. Enrico Casarosa, director of Oscar-nominated short La Luna draws on his own formative years to bring us a coming-of-age tale set in the beautiful Italian Riveria. But presumably, Casarosa is not secretly a sea monster in human form, unlike the film's titular character.

ETA:  18 June [US, UK]

Minions: The Rise Of Gru

Delayed a full year due to the shutdown, Illumination's flagship franchise returns with an entry that is both a sequel to the 2015 spin-off Minions and a prequel to the original Despicable Me.  The film will depict how the minions first came to serve a young Gru.  The last two entries in the franchise were both $1 billion grossing juggernauts- will this follow suit or will audiences have finally had their fill of the yellow fellows?

ETA: July  2

The Boss Baby: Family Business

This DreamWorks sequel to the Oscar-nominated (remember that?!) original sees the stars of the original Tim and Ted Templeton now adults- with Tim the father to baby Tina. Tina is soon revealed to be employed by Baby Corp, and it's not long before she turns Tim and Ted back into their infant selves in order to enlist their help against a new mad scientist threatening the world. Originally scheduled for release in March.

ETA:  September 17


WDAS next film will shine a light on Latin America, in a Colombian set fantasy. In a village in the mountains, the Madrigal family were all born with magical powers. All that is, except for Mirabel. But when the village is threatened, it's Mirabel who steps up to save the day. The film will feature brand new songs from Moana/Hamilton's Lin Manuel Miranda.

ETA: November 24 [US]


Sing 2

Illumination's other sequel is a follow up to the surprisingly charming musical comedy Sing. The reason the original worked was largely down to British writer/director Garth Jennings (Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Son Of Rambow) who will be back for this follow up. In the second film Buster and his friends must try and coax reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (voice by... Bono) out of retirement to join them for the opening of a new show.

ETA:  December 22 [US]



Calamity is the second feature from Remi Chaye, director of Long Way North and Assistant Director on The Secret Of Kells. It sees the French director tackle a very American story, as it focusses on the childhood of Martha "Calamity" Jane Cannary.  Set in 1863, it shows how Martha Jane must fight against the strict gender roles of the time and learn how to drive the family wagon and keep her loved ones safe. This hugely entertaining, beautifully animated tale is sure to be a real crowd pleaser when it's released in the United States later this year.

ETA: 2021 tbc [US]


Disappearing from the 2020 schedule at the last minute, we don't have a new release date yet for the latest from Sony Pictures Animation. Sony is committed to giving the film a cinema release though, and we would hope that we get to see the film sometime in 2021. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe (both former Gravity Falls writers) write and direct this original story of a family road trip interrupted by a robot uprising. The visuals are also a huge factor here- the animation style is an evolution of the one created for Spider-Verse.

ETA:  2021 ( hopefully)


Croods: A New Age Stone-age DreamWorks sequel ETA (March 26) [UK] ⦿ Tom & Jerry: The Movie Live-action/animated hybrid adventure with the iconic cat and mouse duo  ETA (Feb 26) [US] (March 19) [UK] ⦿ Rumble Universal's Monster Wrestling movie. ETA (May 16) [UK], (May 21)[UK]  ⦿ Space Jam:A New Legacy Looney Tunes b-ball sequel. ETA ( July 16)   ⦿ Monkey King: A Hero's Journey To The West Chinese animation ETA (June 18) [UK] ⦿ Maya The Bee 3: The Golden Orb European CG feature. ETA (May 10) [UK] ⦿ Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Annoying Rabbbit  ETA (April 2).