2024 Promises to Be a Feast for Animation Lovers

The year 2023 was an embarrassment of riches when it came to animation. Movies like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” became massive commercial successes and crossed the billion-dollar mark at the box office, while movies like “Nimona” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” hit big with audiences and critics. There were films that boasted wildly different aesthetics and showed the power of the animation medium, like “Blue Giant” and “The First Slam Dunk.” We also saw the return of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, who gave us his most personal film to date with “The Boy and the Heron.”

That’s a lot for 2024 to live up to — luckily, it seems the year will bring with it a healthy mix of big studio franchises and more grown-up animated fare. There are still big and highly anticipated animated movies slated to be released in 2024. Here is a rundown of 2024 animated releases with updates to come.

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This article was first published on January 3, 2024, and last updated June 13.

“Great Pretender Razbliuto” (WIT Studio/Crunchyroll, January 9)

“Great Pretender” was one of the big anime surprises of 2020. It is a highly energetic show with a vibrant color palette about con artists pulling big jobs and a lovable cast of international characters with many flaws and personal issues. Like any great heist movie, “Great Pretender” is also full of fun twists and turns — and boasts an ending theme song by Freddy Mercury. Now, we’re getting a movie continuation in “Great Pretender Razbliuto,” which will introduce a new con artist and expand on the story of the main crew while building up a thrilling scheme.

“Orion and the Dark” (DreamWorks/Netflix, February 2)

ORION AND THE DARK, Orion (voice: Jacob Tremblay), 2024. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Orion and the Dark’©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

One of Netflix’s big reveals at Annecy in 2023, “Orion and the Dark” boasts a script written by Charlie Kaufman, known for his mind-bending writing on movies like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and the stop-motion “Anomalisa.” Based on Emma Yarlett’s book, “Orion and the Dark” stars Jacob Tremblay as a young kid scared of everything who embarks on an adventure full of strange creatures where he will face his greatest fears — even some that are friendlier than he thought. Early previews promise a film full of Kaufman-esque imagery, like creatures inspired by the Muppets and the work of Werner Herzog, and a handcrafted visual style.

“The Tiger’s Apprentice” (Paramount Animation/Paramount+, February 2)

Over 15 years since Cartoon Network first announced an adaptation of “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” the film will finally be released. Though originally slated for theaters, Paramount shifted the release of “The Tiger’s Apprentice” over to Paramount+. Directed by Raman Hui (the “Monster Hunt” films), the film is an adaptation of Laurence Yep’s book of the same name, and it follows a Chinese-American boy who discovers he comes from a long line of magical protectors. As the apprentice of a shape-shifting tiger, the boy must learn the necessary magic to protect an ancient phoenix. “The Tiger’s Apprentice” has an all-star cast that includes Michelle Yeoh, Sandra Oh, Henry Golding, Sherry Cola, and more.

“Kung Fu Panda 4” (DreamWorks/Universal, March 8)

The Dragon Warrior is back! “Kung Fu Panda” is one of the best animated trilogies around, with stunning action choreography, heartfelt stories, and memorable characters. For the franchise’s fourth installment, Jack Black’s Po the Panda will face his biggest challenge yet: retirement. The film sees Po training the next Dragon Warrior while becoming a spiritual leader, which is sure to lead to plenty of ridiculously funny scenarios. “Kung Fu Panda 4” expands the franchise’s stellar voice cast by bringing in Viola Davis, Awkwafina, and Ke Huy Quan to voice new characters. The film is directed by “Shrek Forever After” and “Sky High” director Mike Mitchell.

“The Garfield Movie” (DNEG Animation/Sony Pictures Releasing, May 24)

Going exclusively by the casting of Chris Pratt as the star of a new animated movie based on a beloved character, “The Garfield Movie” is set to be the biggest box office hit of 2024. Even if it isn’t, the new adaptation at least has some truly bizarre yet kind of exciting voice casting, like Samuel L. Jackson playing Garfield’s estranged father, Vic, or the star of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Harvey Guillén, as Garfield’s best friend, Odie. The new CG animated film is animated by DNEG Animation, known for the surprisingly great and hilarious “Ron’s Gone Wrong” and the visually stunning “Entergalactic.”

“Chicken for Linda” (GKids, April 5 in N.Y., April 12 in L.A., April 15 original French version in select theaters)

Directed by the married duo Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach, this delightful hand-painted French-Italian musical comedy took the 2023 Annecy Cristal Award and the 2023 Animation Is Film Grand Jury Prize. “Chicken for Linda” is about memory and mother-daughter bonding. After Paulette (voiced by Clotilde Hesme) wrongly punishes 8-year-old Linda (Melinée Leclerc), she tries to make it up to her by cooking her late husband’s signature dish: chicken and peppers. It’s the only memory Linda has of her father, who returns as narrator to help fill the void through magical realism. What ensues is a wild chase to catch a chicken during a supermarket strike.

“Thelma the Unicorn” (May 17, Netflix)

Based on the popular children’s books series by Aaron Blabey (“The Bad Guys”), this animated musical concerns an outcast mini pony (Brittany Howard) who dreams of musical stardom and unexpectedly gets her wish during a pink and glam moment when she becomes a unicorn. Directed by Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Lynn Wang (“Unikitty!”) and animated by Mikros Animation (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”), the voice cast also includes Will Forte as Otis, a donkey and Thelma’s best friend, Jermaine Clement as talent agent Vic Diamond, Edi Patterson, Fred Armisen, and Zach Galifianakis.

“Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle” (May 31, Crunchyroll/Sony Pictures)

This feature, produced by Production I.G and directed by Susumu Mitsunaka, was made in honor of the 10th anniversary of the popular volleyball anime series, and was a huge hit in Japan. It continues the contest between rivals Karasuno and Nekoma on the big screen.

“Robot Dreams” (NEON, May 31)

Pablo Berger’s silent film scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature — and now gets a full theatrical release. The melancholy film follows the adventures of friends Robot and Dog, separated by circumstance and weather in painstakingly recreated ’80s NYC.

“Inside Out 2” (Pixar, June 14)

INSIDE OUT 2, from left: Fear (purple, voice: Tony Hale), Sadness (glasses, voice: Phylis Smith), Anger (red, voice: Lewis Black), Joy (green dress, voice: Amy Poehler), Disgust (green, voice: Liza Lapira), Anxiety (orange, voice: Maya Hawke), 2024. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Inside Out 2’©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

The first “Inside Out” was a wonderful animated movie that showed us what an emotional young girl’s head is like, with a vast world of colorful imagination and a heartbreaking Pixar side character. For the sequel, Pixar raises the stakes by going inside a teenager’s head. Judging by how emotionally intelligent the first film was, we can expect a complex, deeply relatable story about growing up and facing the worst thing: anxiety. Maya Hawke joins the cast as Anxiety, while Liza Lapira and Tony Hale replace Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader as Disgust and Fear, respectively. “Inside Out 2” comes from longtime Pixar veteran Kelsey Mann in his feature directorial debut, while Meg LeFauve returns to pen the script.

“Ultraman: Rising” (Netflix, June 14)

This reimagining of the popular anime franchise (a co-production of Netflix, Tsuburaya Productions, and Industrial Light & Magic) marks the directorial debut of veteran animator Shannon Tindle (“Lost Ollie,” “Kubo and the Two Strings”). It looks to be a heartwarming superhero film about balancing career and family. With Tokyo under siege from rising kaiju attacks, Dodgers baseball superstar Ken Sato (Christopher Sean) reluctantly returns home to take on the mantle of Ultraman with a lot of emotional baggage. But Sato gets sidetracked when he reluctantly adopts a 35-foot-tall, fire-breathing baby kaiju. Tindle has designed a colorful and graphic 2D sensibility in CG that’s organic to the DNA of the franchise, and ILM (the Oscar-winning “Rango”) handles the animation with wonderful flourish.

“Blue Lock the Movie — Episode Nagi” (Crunchyroll/Sony Pictures, June 28)

This marks the first film from the hit anime sports series and follows high schooler Nagi Seishiro as he discovers his hidden talent for soccer. The film is produced by Eightbit and directed by Shunsuke Ishikawa.

“Despicable Me 4” (Illumination/Universal, July 3)

Director Chris Renaud returns for a superhero riff that introduces baby Gru Jr. (Steve Carell), aspiring supervillain Poppy Prescott (Joey King), and a sinister revenge plot aimed at Gru (Carell) and his family from childhood rival Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), who has escaped from prison and harnessed the power of a cockroach. The new script, which still finds plenty of room for The Minions, is from franchise regular Ken Daurio and “The White Lotus” creator Mike White, who previously wrote the studio’s “Migration.”

“The Imaginary” (Netflix, July 5)

“The Imaginary,” based on the acclaimed novel by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett, follows young Amanda and her imaginary companion, Rudger, who discover a magical world of creatures and places never before seen until a sinister force threatens to destroy it. Produced by Studio Ponoc and directed by former Studio Ghibli animator Yoshiyuki Momose (“Grave of the Fireflies”), the anime boasts hand-drawn animation by Les Films du Poisson Rouge (“Klaus”) that’s heightened by innovative techniques of light and shadow.

“Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie” (Netflix/Nickelodeon Movies, August 2)

When Bikini Bottom and all its denizens are suddenly scooped out of the ocean, Sandy Cheeks and SpongeBob SquarePants journey to Texas to save the town from a villainous plot. Liza Johnson directs, while Carolyn Lawrence and Tom Kenny reprise their roles as Sandy and SpongeBob from the long-running cartoon, and they’re joined by a cast of pals new and old, including Wanda Sykes, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Mr. Lawrence, Rodger Bumpass, Johnny Knoxville, Craig Robinson, Grey DeLisle, Ilia Isorelýs Paulino, and Matty Cardarople.

“Transformers One” (Paramount Animation, September 20)

The first of two 2023 movies to take a popular live-action franchise back to its animated roots, “Transformers One” will finally give modern audiences the origin story of Optimus Prime and Megatron as they go from friends to sworn enemies (animated by ILM). The film will be largely set on the homeworld of Cybertron, which has only been shown briefly in the live-action movies, giving “Transformers One” a huge canvas with which to play. “Toy Story 4” director Josh Cooley helms this one from a script by Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, alongside Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. Chris Hemsworth is set to voice the once and future Autobots leader, while Brian Tyree Henry gives voice to the Decepticon leader.

“The Wild Robot” (DreamWorks/Universal, September 27)

'The Wild Robot' DreamWorks
‘The Wild Robot’DreamWorks

Chris Sanders, co-director of “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” returns to DreamWorks to helm “The Wild Robot,” one of the most anticipated animated movies of the year that explores the bridge between technology and nature. It’s adapted from Peter Brown’s illustrated book about a robot called Roz (Lupita Nyong’o), who washed ashore on an uninhabited island and must embark on a journey of survival and discovery when she inadvertently becomes the protector of an orphaned gosling bird. The all-star voice cast also includes Pedro Pascal as fox Fink, Catherine O’Hara as opossum Pinktail, Bill Nighy as goose Longneck, Kit Connor as gosling Brightbill, and Stephanie Hsu as robot Vontra, plus Matt Berry, Ving Rhames, and Mark Hamill.

“Piece By Piece” (Focus Features, October 11)

The animated musical biopic about cultural icon Pharrell Williams and his world is uniquely created through LEGO brick building. It’s directed and co-produced by Morgan Neville (the Oscar-winning doc “20 Feet from Stardom”), and boasts a cast that includes Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Busta Rhymes, Jay Z, and Snoop Dogg.

“Spellbound” (Netflix/Skydance Animation, November 22)

Vicky Jenson (“Shrek” co-director) directs Skydance Animation’s second feature under the John Lasseter regime, with Netflix as distribution partner of the studio. It’s a musical comedy about a princess (Rachel Zegler) who attempts to break the spell that has turned her parents (Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem) into monsters. The voice cast also includes John Lithgow, Jenifer Lewis, Nathan Lane, and Tituss Burgess. The original score is from EGOT-winning composer Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”), who wrote the songs with lyrics by Glenn Slater (“Tangled”).

“Moana 2” (Disney, November 27)

Disney’s holiday gift for families will be “Moana 2,” a sequel to the beloved 2016 film. (This is separate from the still-planned live-action adaptation, set for a 2025 release.) “Moana 2,” which began as a Disney+ series before reworked into a theatrical feature is directed by David G. Derrick Jr. (storyboard artist on “Moana”). Auliʻi Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson return to voice Moana and Maui, respectively. After receiving an unexpected call from her wayfinding ancestors, Moana must journey to the far seas of Oceania and into dangerous, long-lost waters for an adventure unlike anything she’s ever faced, according to the official synopsis.

“That Christmas” (Netflix/Locksmith Animation, December)

Based on the charming trilogy of children’s books by multi-award-winning writer-director Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill”), “That Christmas” follows a series of entwined tales about family and friends, love and loneliness, and Santa Claus making a big mistake. Veteran animator Simon Otto (the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise) makes his feature directorial debut. The voice cast is led by Brian Cox, Fiona Shaw, Jodie Whittaker, Lolly Adefope, and Alex Macqueen, and the score is by John Powell (the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise).

Mumakil in Warner Bros' anime film 'The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim' by Kenji Kamiyama.
Mumakil in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’Warner Bros.

“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” (Sola Entertainment/New Line Cinema, December 13)

It’s been almost 10 years since we last visited Middle-earth on the big screen, but “The War of the Rohirrim,” directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set to scratch that sweet high fantasy itch with an epic, 2D anime film based on the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings.” The film tells the story of the House of Eorl that ruled Rohan, specifically about the daughter of Helm Hammerhand, after whom Helm’s Deep was named. The preview shown at Annecy made it clear this movie is cut from the same cloth as the Peter Jackson films, as it draws inspiration from the WETA archives and brings back Stephen Gallagher (“The Hobbit”) to compose the score. Seeing a big 2D fantasy movie on the big screen doesn’t happen every day, which makes this a special cinematic event every Tolkien — and animation — fan should be excited about.

“Mufasa: The Lion King” (Disney, December 20)

Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) directs this origin story about Mufasa (Aaron Pierre), who struggles and rises to nobility, and the inevitable conflict with brother Scar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). It’s an original prequel to Jon Favreau’s innovative photorealistic remake of “The Lion King,” with MPC returning to provide more nuanced performances with their keyframe animation. We shall see if Disney once again terms this “live-action,” and does not submit for Best Animated Feature. A more expansive African savanna provides the setting. Rafiki (John Kani) tells Kiara (daughter of Simba and Nala) the story of her grandfather, while Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) add colorful commentary. Jenkins is joined by such long-time collaborators as cinematographer James Laxton, production designer Mark Friedberg, editor Joi McMillon, and composer Nicholas Britell (who is joined by returning Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, with Lin-Manuel Miranda composing the songs).

“Fixed” (Sony Pictures Animation/New Line, TBA)

Animation icon Genndy Tartakovsky (“Primal”) directs this R-rated, 2D canine comedy in the style of Looney Tunes by Renegade Animation. On the day before he is to be neutered, blue bloodhound Bull (voiced by Adam DeVine), who is in love with the dog next door (Kathryn Hahn), is treated to one last day of fun by his friends. The voice cast also includes Idris Elba, Fred Armisen, Bobby Moynihan, and Beck Bennett.

“Flow” (Sideshow/Janus Films, TBA)

Latvian animation director Gints Zilbalodis (“Away”) created a masterpiece of silent naturalism in this Biblical-like adventure about a solitary black cat forced to survive a catastrophic flood with fellow animals on a boat bound for the closest safe refuge. They include a capybara, lemur, stork, and golden retriever. The CG animation and environments (from a team based in France, Belgium, and Latvia) are warmly stylized and the animal behavior is very believable, except for some creative license in navigating the boat and displaying other bits of dexterity. The Oscar contender premiered at Cannes and was an Annecy fave, earning the Gan Foundation Award for Distribution, the Audience Award, the Jury Award, and a special prize for best original music from Zilbalodis and Rihards Zalupe.

“Ghost Cat Anzu” (GKids, TBA)

A Japanese fantasy directed by Yôko Kuno and Nobuhiro Yamashita concerns a ghost cat who looks after an 11-year-old girl in her grandfather’s house in a small Japanese town, where she’s abandoned by her father.

“Overlord: The Sacred Kingdom” (Crunchyroll/Sony Pictures, TBA)

The first film from the fantasy video game franchise, produced by Madhouse and directed by Naoyuki Ito, picks up after Season 4 by following Momonga, who finds himself transported into his favorite video game.

“The Colors Within” (GKids, TBA)

The latest coming-of-age anime from acclaimed director Naoko Yamada (“A Silent Voice”), premiering at Annecy, is about a high school student, Totsuko, who can see the colors of others (bliss, excitement, serenity). Although she doesn’t play an instrument, Totsuko forms a band with a classmate and a music enthusiast she meets in a used bookstore. The hand-drawn animation is from Science SARU (“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” “Inu-Oh”).

“The Day the Earth Blew Up: A Looney Tunes Movie” (Warner Bros. Animation, TBA)

Daffy Duck and Porky Pig (both voiced by Eric Bauza) headline the first fully 2D-animated, non-compilation theatrical feature in the “Looney Tunes” franchise, directed by Peter Browngardt (executive producer/creative director of “Looney Tunes Cartoons”). Due to a series of antics at the bubblegum factory, Daffy and Porky discover a secret alien plot to take over the Earth via mind-control.

“Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl” (Netflix/Aardman, Year-End Oscar Qualification)

Aardman’s legendary stop-motion franchise is back with a new feature in time for the holidays. Gromit’s concern that Wallace has become overdependent on his inventions proves justified when Wallace invents a “smart gnome” that seems to develop a mind of its own. The film marks the return of the villainous penguin, Feathers McGraw, from the Oscar-winning short “The Wrong Trousers.” “Wallace & Gromit” creator Nick Park directs with Merlin Crossingham (the franchise creative director).

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