A new year means lots of promising animated TV shows, movies and events waiting for us to experience them one by one. Some of them have more buzz than others, and a few will probably disappoint us — but that doesn’t mean we can’t be all bright-eyed and optimistic in January. So here we have 16 items we are excited about as we embark on another promising journey around the sun.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Director Dean DeBlois, producers Bonnie Arnold and Brad Lewis, and the glorious voice cast are back with this much-anticipated third and final chapter in the hugely popular DreamWorks franchise. Yes, Toothless finds a lovely untamed mate, but the discovery of a new world doesn’t bode well for the peaceful Viking village. Release date: February 22
Wonder Park. Paramount Animation joined forces with Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios to produce this feature about a young girl who discovers an abandoned magical amusement park and helps rebuild with the animals who used to work there. Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, John Oliver, Mila Kunis and Ken Jeong supply the film’s voices. Nickelodeon is also working on a spinoff series. Release date: March 15
Missing Link. We love any year in which Portland’s brilliant Laika Studios delivers a new stop-motion movie. This time writer/director Chris Butler (ParaNorman) serves up a colorful new adventure in which a dashing cryptozoologist (Hugh Jackman) and an independent adventuress (Zoe Saldana) are joined by a creature known as Link (Zach Galifianakis) on a journey across the world to find his long-lost relatives. Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Tim Olyphant provide additional voices. Release date: April 12
Okko’s Inn. This beautiful new movie from director Kitaro Kosaka and studio Madhouse (which will be distributed by GKIDS in the U.S.) centers on a young girl who moves in with her grandmother in the countryside after her parents die in a car accident. She soon befriends the playful ghosts that haunt the inn and learns important life lessons. Kosaka was the animation director on many Studio Ghibli movies, including Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Release date: April
Tuca & Bertie. It seems like Netflix has an infinite number of animated series and movies in production, but we’re especially excited about this new show from comics artist Lisa Hanawalt (production designer and exec producer on BoJack Horseman), which centers on two very different 30-year-old bird-women who live in the same building. The fact that Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong are voicing Tuca and Bertie guarantees a special level of madness and whimsy. Spring
UglyDolls. We’ve been fans of Uglydolls since they began their lives as handmade plush toys created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim more than 20 years ago. This summer, they get to star in their own CG-animated STX Entertainment musical, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet, Smurfs: The Lost Village). The talented voice cast includes Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Gabriel Iglesias, Wanda Sykes, Janelle Monae, Pitbull, Emma Roberts and Blake Shelton. Release date: May 3
Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Aardman Animations’ charming plasticine characters must fight invading aliens from outer space in this sequel to the first Shaun the Sheep Movie. Aardman regular Richard Starzak (Hooves of Fire, Creature Comforts), who directed the first outing, is directing his own script. Justin Fletcher and John Sparkes are the two voice actors that have been announced to date. Release date: May 15
Toy Story 4. We know … it’s hard to get too excited about the fourth installment of a popular franchise, but this is Pixar, and Woody and the gang have a special place in our hearts. One of the new toys on the block is Forky (voiced by Tony Hale): a spork-turned-craft-project who insist that he is not a toy. We also meet a couple of carnival toy prizes called Ducky and Bunny (voiced by Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele). Patricia Arquette and Keanu Reeves are also lending their voices to the movie, which is helmed by Josh Cooley (Oscar-nominated writer on Inside Out). Release date: June 21
The Addams Family. “They’re creepy and they’re kooky … they’re all together altogether ooky,” but we can’t get enough of them. This new CG-animated version of Charles Addams’ series of cartoons has a great voice cast — Charlize Theron (Morticia), Oscar Isaac (Gomez), Chloe Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Finn Wolfhard (Pugsley), Nick Kroll (Uncle Fester), Bette Midler (Grandmama) and Allison Janney (Margaux Needler)— and arrives in time for Halloween. Wild and crazy Sausage Party helmers Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2, Monsters vs. Aliens) and Greg Tiernan (Thomas & Friends movies) reunite for this MGM/Cinesite/BermanBraun production. Release date: October 18
Frozen 2. Nobody could really “let it go!” Not after Disney made over $1.27 billion worldwide on its icy Oscar-winning musical. That’s why Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf are back for the seque, directed again by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (who is now also the big boss at Disney Animation after John Lasseter’s departure) with a script by Oscar-nominee Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures, Christopher Robin). Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling Brown are two new cast members. We don’t know much about the story, but we have a feeling the fans will pack theaters no matter where the cold weather princesses take us this time around. Release date: November 22
Two from Disney Channel: The Mouse House has several new animated series ready to go this year. Created and executive produced by Matt Braly (story artist, Gravity Falls), Amphibia chronicles the adventures of Anne Boonchuy, a self-centered 13-year-old girl who is magically transported to Amphibia, a marshland full of frog-people. With the help of an excitable young frog named Sprig, Anne will transform into a hero and discover the first true friendship of her life. The Owl House, created and exec produced by Dana Terrace (director, DuckTales), is a horror-comedy series that follows teenager Luz as she befriends a rebellious witch named Eda and a tiny warrior king in the Demon Realm. We don’t have exact premiere dates of these two new cool toons, but we’ll be watching closely!
Two from Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network has two new animated series set to debut this year. Infinity Train is created by Owen Dennis (writer & storyboard artist, Regular Show) and is about a precocious young girl named Tulip stuck on a train full of infinite worlds, trying to find her way home. Created by Diego Molano (storyboard artist, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes), Victor and Valentino is described as a “supernatural adventure comedy” that follows two half-brothers who spend a summer with their grandma in a small and mysterious town, where the myths and legends of Latin American folklore come to life. Both shows look great and have very promising characters, and hopefully will fill the big gap left by the departure of Adventure Time.
Two from Nickelodeon. We couldn’t leave our friends at Nickelodeon out of this list, although they’ve been very tight-lipped about their new slate. We know they have Glitch Techs waiting in the wings. Created by Eric Robles (Fanboy & Chum Chum) and Dan Milano (Greg the Bunny), this new toon follows the zany adventures of two kids who battle video-game monsters in the real world. We’re also excited about Los Casagrandes, the Loud House spinoff which finds Ronnie Anne and Bobby Santiago adjusting to their new life in Great Lakes City, where they live with their big, loving and multi-generational family. The series will be co-exec produced by Mark Rubiner, and famed cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz (cultural consultant on Coco) will serve as consulting producer.