Illumination Entertainment’s The Secret Life of Pets is the 7th animated movie to receive a wide theatrical release this year. That means we’ve basically been getting one significant animated movie per month, although you can quibble over whether Norm of the North and Ratchet & Clank truly qualify as “significant.”
A trip in the way back machine shows that 20 years ago, in the age of Independence Day and Twister, there were only 5 major animated movies released per year.
But that was then, and this is now. Animated movies are simply a way of life in Hollywood right now, and they have been for a while. As with everything else in the business, Disney does it better than everyone else. Zootopia grossed more domestically than Norm of the North, Ratchet & Clank, Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Angry Birds Movie combined, and now Finding Dory has left Zootopia in its dust. As such, it might seem like Disney’s Moana is the only other animated movie of consequence for the rest of the year, but it is actually but one of seven additional animated films this year.
On top of that, once we get past Ice Age: Collision Course there will be no more animated sequels this year. Several companies are betting big on potential franchise-starters. The following movie, though, might just be a franchise-ender, if judged solely by the following question: “Where else can a franchise about prehistoric animals go after aliens?”
Ice Age: Collision Course (7/22)
Premise: Meteors vs. Prehistoric Animals.
Notable Voices: Nick Offerman, Adam Devine, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Lopez, John Leguizamo, Dennis Leary, Ray Romano and so, so, so many other celebrities
Verdict: I’ve actually never seen any of the Ice Age movies before. Do they warrant a marathon leading up to Collision Course?
Sausage Party (8/12)
Premise: R-Rated version of a Pixar-esque “What if?” story in which grocery store food is actually sentient and completely unaware of the horrors awaiting them.
Notable Voices: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera
Verdict: It seems like a good idea with somewhat poor execution, but there will likely be several big laughs to be had.
Kubo and The Two Strings (8/19)
Premise: A stop-motion animated version of Tenacious D’s The Pick of Destiny layered over 47 Ronin and Mulan, or at least that’s what it reminds me of. The actual premise involves a young boy in ancient Japan who “accidentally summons an ancient evil and must defeat it whiles solving the mystery of his legendary samurai uncle.
Notable Voices: Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagaw
Verdict: From the studio that brought us Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls…actually, stop. You had me at Coraline. I previously wrote about this trailer in more detail.
The Wild Life (aka Robinson Crusoe) (9/9)
Premise: Robinson Crusoe from the point of view of the island’s animals
Verdict: This is actually a Belgian-French film which came out overseas in March. It didn’t do very well over there, and it probably won’t here.
Premise: Those old baby-delivering storks are now part of a highly competitive package delivery service, but then a baby comes along….um, hilarity ensues.
Notable Voices: Andy Samberg, Kesley Grammer, Katie Crown, Keegan-Michael Key, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell
Verdict: Co-directed and written by Nicholas Stoller, the guy responsible for the Neighbors franchise, Sex Tape, Zoolander 2, the new Muppets movies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. That’s a real mixed bag there, but his Muppets experience might translate into Storks being a perfectly enjoyable flick.
Premise: What premise? This is just the vehicle for new Justin Timberlake music, right?
No, Seriously, Smart-Ass, Give Me the Premise: Happy troll has to partner with grumpy troll to save the village and fight the bad guy
Notable Voices: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden (!), Gwen Stefani (!!)
Verdict: The music will definitely be fun. As for the movie, well, it looks pretty standard. Anna Kendrick at least has a chance to turn her co-lead character into a Mabel Pines-esque lovable figure, but that could also go so wrong.
Premise: “In ancient Oceania in the South Pacific, the young Moana is a born navigator who sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her journey, she teams up with her hero and legendary demi-god Maui.”
Notable Voices: The Rock, Alan Tudyk and introducing Auli’i Cravalho
Verdict: Original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. What more do you need?
Premise: American Idol with animals
Verdict: Hearing McConaughey going so far out of his usual range might make the whole thing worth it, but the film itself might be little more than the animated equivalent of a jukebox musical, which is probably exactly what you want for a family viewing option over Christmas. Also, Zootopia was a world in which considerable thought had been put into how its anthropomorphized animals fit into the world. Sing does not appear to have put nearly as much thought into it.