Our Top Kids and Animation Movies Releasing in 2016
Kids movies typically rake in big bucks without much critical acclaim, but it’s undeniably potent when one of them connects with a large scale audience. Especially to the height of last year’s Inside Out, which was universally praised as one of the most original family films in quite some time. But Disney-Pixar isn’t resting on its laurels anytime soon, as June’s Finding Dory potently shows off. As the sequel to one of the studio’s biggest hits (Finding Nemo), Dory will dominate younger audiences as the hottest release of the year.
Elsewhere, lesser studio releases like Kung Fu Panda 3, Ratchet and Clank, and The Angry Birds Movie fill out the rest of a typical twelve month roster for family viewers. Each will do well, but the real challenge will be outshining Disney’s triple threat of Dory, the live-action rendition of The Jungle Book, and original film Zootopia. As the hub to the happiest place on Earth, the studio’s stronghold on contemporary kids remain strong.
Kung Fu Panda 3 – Release Date: January 29th 2016
Po (Jack Black), everyone’s favorite karate wielding panda bear, returns for a third time with wild adventure. This time, Po and his biological father arrive in the village of his birth, where, much to his chagrin, he finds an arranged marriage waiting for him. Meanwhile, an ancient spirit dubbed Kai has begun terrorizing China, forcing Po to turn this lazy village into a fleet of kung fu pandas. Reuniting an all star cast of voices that include Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Bryan Cranston, and Jackie Chan, Kung Fu Panda 3 is another highly touted sequel that’s sure to please the family moviegoers.
Zootopia – Release Date: March 4th 2016
Walt Disney Animation Studios returns with their 55th animated feature, Zootopia. Telling the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a rabbit and police officer in the metropolitan neighborhood of Zootopia, who quickly finds herself in charge of a missing otter case. With a city of residents (J.K. Simmons, Idris Elba, Shakira) on the brink of mass panic, Hopps is forced to partner up with sly con artist and red fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). Though wildly differing in their views of the world, the odd couple must work through their differences and save the otter from a watery demise.
Ratchet & Clank – Release Date: April 29th 2016
Though continuing in the vein of video game adaptations, fans of the Ratchet & Clank series will be happy to hear the input that series creators Insomniac Games had on this upcoming animated comedy. Retelling the origin story of the game’s titular duo, the film shows how Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), a lowly mechanic, and Clank (David Kaye), an escaped robot, come to forge a friendship while attempting to save the Solana Galaxy from the evil grasps of Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) and the Blarg. Though loosely based on the game, the film also integrates elements of later stories, making for a well rounded adaptation of the series as a whole. In this regard, Ratchet & Clank will hit big with 2016 audiences.
The Angry Birds Movie – Release Date: May 20th 2016
As one of the odder movie concepts to hit theaters this year, The Angry Birds Movie pulls directly from the popular video game of the same name. This feature length adaptation follows seven particularly angry birds: Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride), Matilda (Maya Rudolph), Stella (Kate McKinnon), Hal (Tony Hales), and Bubbles (Hannibal Buress) who all live in an idyllic paradise. But trouble quickly flaps its wings when a group of pigs, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), begin invading their territory. This disagreement soon turns sour, and The Angry Birds begin investigating the pigs’ plan. Though the game has lost the luster of a few years ago, the film will most assuredly strike a chord with families everywhere.
The Secret Life of Pets – Release Date: July 8th 2016
Upbeat terrier Max (Louis C.K.) has a bit of a problem when his owner brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a mongrel who manages to snatch up all human affection. But just when a rivalry is truck up between the two, a cute rabbit named Snowball (Kevin Hart) arrives to wreak havoc as the leader of the “Flushed Pets” – a group conspiring to exact revenge on their former owners. The vocal pedigree of performers like C.K. and Hart will undoubtedly keep adult fans interested, while Illusion Entertainment’s sly animation will be sure to enthrall kids of all young ages. Furthering the sweetening of the pot for savvy vocal spotters will be the talents of Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Steve Coogan, and Hannibal Buress among several others; an array not often seen in kids comedy. Time will tell whether The Secret Life of Pets finds it’s home with audiences, but given its pedigree, it’ll be hard pressed not to.
Ice Age: Collision Course – Release Date: July 22nd 2016
Remember when the first Ice Age (2002) came out? It seems almost as long ago as the actual Ice Age itself, but a steady stream of star-studded sequels have lined theater seats ever since; hence this fifth installment arriving July 22nd. It reunites usual suspects Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo, and adds an assimilation of new voices that remain bafflingly impressive: Jennifer Lopez, Adam DeVine, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg, and even Neil DeGrasse Tyson for crying out loud! This coming off a fourth film that managed to wield the vocal talents of superstar musicians Nicki Minaj and Drake – it’s unclear how the Ice Age filmmakers accumulate their acting pool, but it remains stunning nonetheless. The story behind Collision Course is bound to be a silly endeavor, complete with squirrel humor and family lessons, but there’s much worse audiences could do for their little ones.
Pete’s Dragon – Release Date: August 12th 2016
Pete’s Dragon, while not Disney’s biggest grossing film, cultivated a core audience and an Oscar nod for Best Song in 1977. Consequently, as is the case with nearly all remakes of famous projects, the pressure on director David Lowery is high to honor the sweet natured magic of the original. Past projects like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) offered a peek into the melancholy romanticism that’s distinguished Lowery’s work thus far, leaving the certainty behind a family friendly adventure a little unclear. It helps that the film sports an impressive bunch of actors, among them Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, and Robert Redford, who plays the part of elderly wood carver Mr. Meacham. The titular dragon, reimagined through the magic of CGI as opposed to the studio’s well-honed animation, will also provide evolutions that will no doubt intrigue longtime fans. As one of the lesser promoted Disney products this year, Pete’s Dragon may prove the most interesting.
Storks – Release Date: September 23rd 2016
The string of strong vocal casts continue with Storks, the latest offering from a studio that brought audiences The Lego Movie (2014). Now, SNL alum Andy Samberg plays the goofy Junior, who, in the light of stork delivery’s sudden shift to internet retailers, happens across an old fashioned baby. But with said practice now taboo in the business, it’s up to him to save the child while keeping his own skin (or feathers) safe from his boss. Other talents that pop up include Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who took some time from their busy Comedy Central show to play a pair of zany characters. As a kids movie, Storks will most likely lack the witty punch that made Lego such a phenomenon – content, it seems, with simply offering a fun loving flick that’ll be near and dear to a select few when it hits theaters in September.
Trolls – Release Date: November 4th 2016
What do Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Gwen Stefani, and Russell Brand all have in common? Each provide a voice behind the fuzzy headed toys that’ve been around since the 1960’s, though onscreen for the very first time in 2016. Appropriately titled Trolls, this DreamWorks film follows Princess Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) as they venture “beyond the only world they have knows” with predictably heartwarming results. Much of the hook behind Trolls was already executed in the recently released Smurf movies, though writing off a collection of such engaging personalities is practically impossible – especially for a kids movie. It’ll charm the pants of nostalgic adults while simultaneously re-popularizing the iconic toys for a new generation. Seems like Trolls knows exactly what it’s doing.
Moana – Release Date: November 23rd 2016
As the second billing behind what will be Disney Animation Studios’ first double release since 2002, Moana delves deep into the beautiful waters of ancient Oceania with it’s young title character. As the only daughter in a long line of navigators, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) sets sail for a fabled island, only to be joined by her hero: demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) on her quest. It’s an animated film, that, through sheer subject matter, provides a unique insight into the time honored coming-of-age tale. Filmmakers Ron Clements and John Musker, whose list of Disney classics runs from The Great Mouse Detective (1985) clear on through to Hercules (1997) and The Princess and the Frog (2009), know how to craft a pristine piece of animation, and this mythic slice of Islander folklore looks to follow in suit with it’s predecessors.
The Adventures of Tintin 2: Prisoners of the Sun – Release Date: December 16th 2016
2011’s The Adventures of Tintin made a surprising $373 million at the box office, proving that there was nothing director Steven Spielberg could not flip into certified movie gold. But with success comes the inevitable sequel, in which Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has graciously taken over the reins for follow-up outing Prisoners of the Sun. Now Jackson has more than proved his merit as a commercially guaranteed filmmaker with King Kong (2005) and The Hobbit trilogy, but kid heavy fare is something that hasn’t really been pursued in his now twenty year career. Returning stars Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis will lend their now established flair for old school investigating, as will the eccentricity of the computer based animation that made the original such a unique outing. If Jackson pulls it off, he will have proven his range, and if not, viewers will know the auteur should’ve remained in middle earth mythology.
Sing – Release Date: December 21st 2016
Popular songs and celebrity voiced animals come together to make sweet music in Sing, the latest film from the creators of Despicable Me. The songs include Anaconda, Kiss From a Rose, and Crazy Town’s Butterfly amidst enough throwback jams to make a rollicking playlist. The actors consist of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson, and many, many, many more. The movie sounds like a blast of a time, allowing each performer to play cartoon karaoke under the pretense of a singing competition being held by McConaughey’s koala character Buster Moon and assistant sheep Eddie (John C. Reilly). There’s no reason why this star-studded event shouldn’t hit big with audiences of all ages, equal parts tongue-in-cheek and good hearted farce the entire family can enjoy. Now that’s something worth singing about.