By Jackson Murphy
I seem to make this statement every year, but it does seem like we’re about to enter one of the biggest, and potentially best years in the history of Animated Movies. The crowded 2016 line-up already includes more than a dozen features with a variety of appealing storylines. Headlining the group are a trio of highly-anticipated sequels. DreamWorks Animation has chosen a rather interesting, January 29th release date for “Kung Fu Panda 3”. This threequel picks-up right where 2011’s “KFP 2″ left off, as Po reunites with his actual father and meets an entire colony of pandas who he must now train for battle. Disney/Pixar’s”Finding Dory” will be released a whopping 13 years after “Finding Nemo”, on June 17th. I’m staying cautiously optimistic. Pixar could certainly knock this one out of the park, but the script has to be superb, with a tremendous emotional punch, to match expectations.
And just a month later, on July 22nd, is “Ice Age: Collision Course”. Based on the teaser screened before “The Peanuts Movie”, this fifth installment is taking things to a new “frontier”, as Scrat has, somehow, ventured into the future. Disney Animation took a break in 2015 (following the Oscar-winning “Big Hero 6”) to focus on two ’16 projects. “Zootopia” (Mar. 4) is an “animals with human characteristics” comedy. And “Moana” (Nov. 23) is set in beautiful Hawaii and stars, Dwayne Johnson. Will Lilo & Stitch be making cameo appearances?
Illumination Entertainment’s “The Secret Life of Pets” (July 8) has had its humorous teaser trailer play in front of every family film since “Minions” in July. The studio has also just announced “Sing” for Dec. 21. The story centers around an animal music competition and features the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Seth MacFarlane. The concept sounds fun, and Universal, the film’s distributor, is reporting that 85 songs will be used in the film. Yes, that’s not a typo. McConaughey also leads Focus Features and Laika’s latest, “Kubo and the Two Strings”, a stop-motion adventure out Aug. 19.
While Sony Pictures Animation hasn’t confirmed a 2016 film as of yet, Sony/Columbia is distributing two releases. “The Angry Birds Movie” (May 20) is based on the online game series that, I guess, is still popular. And Seth Rogen and his pals star in a raunchy animated comedy called “Sausage Party” (Aug. 12).
And finally, three others that could be hit or miss: “Norm of the North” from Lionsgate looks less than promising (and a Jan. 15 open doesn’t help). “Storks,” from Warner Bros., is currently scheduled for a prime Sept. 23 release. And “Trolls”, starring those iconic toys (and the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick) is DreamWorks’ second ’16 film, due out Nov. 4.
Jackson Murphy (a.k.a. Lights-Camera-Jackson) has been a film critic/entertainment reporter on TV and radio since the age of 7 1/2. He currently appears weekly on WFLY radio (Albany, NY) and his reviews appear in The Record (Troy, NY) newspaper.
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