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Ink & Pixel: Special Edition: 2016 Animation Preview!

01.20.2016
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Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

Greetings everyone, and welcome to this year's annual Animation Preview! After having recently crowned our Top 5 Animated Films of 2015, it's time to turn our gazes forward, and gather our enthusiasm for what's to come with regard to the full-length animated features set for release in the year 2016! I'm not going to lie, you might want to pour yourself a strong drink before we get started, because this is one hell of a long list. Cheers to you in the new year, and away we go!

NORM OF THE NORTH – January 15th, 2016

Distributed by Lionsgate, and produced by both Splash Entertainment and Assemblage Entertainment, NORM OF THE NORTH tells the story of Norm, a quip-a-minute polar bear, who, along with his three ceaselessly-flatulent lemming pals, find themselves traveling away from their icy Arctic home and to the concrete jungle of New York City. While visiting the Big Apple, Norm and his friends aim to foil the plans of a real estate corporation that has ordered the re-purposing of their homeland. Naturally, it's up to Norm (Rob Schneider),Vera, a sympathetic single-mom who works for the corporation (Heather Graham), and the Minion-like lemmings, to put a stop to the construction.

Eh. I'll be honest, you won't find any love or optimism for NORM OF THE NORTH from me. In addition to the film already having received an unbearable number of negative reviews, there is next to nothing about its presentation that excites me. My advice is to stay home, keep warm, and wait until January 29th – the day that a certain bear of the panda variety makes an overdue return to cinemas.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 – January  29th, 2016

Ah, now this is more like it! Dreamworks Animation is teaming up with Oriental Dreamworks for the making of KUNG FU PANDA 3, marking this film as the first high-profile American animated feature to be co-produced by a Chinese organization. In this third full-length installment of the franchise, Po (Jack Black) finally re-unites with his estranged father (Bryan Cranston), and together, they travel back to their family's homeland. Little do they know that more than a few surprises await them both.

Skidoosh! Ha ha ha! Sorry, I just wanted to get that out of my system. As you can probably gauge, I'm very glad to see that KUNG FU PANDA 3 is finally making its way into theaters. It's been roughly 4 ½ years since when we last visited Po and his kung fu master friends in the Valley of Peace, and I think it's high time that we're all re-untied. I mean seriously, check out this cast: Angelina Jolie Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, David Cross, James Hong – and now you want to add Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, and J.K. Simmons to the mix? Just shut up and take my money!

ZOOTOPIA – March 4th, 2016

The first of two films scheduled for release by Walt Disney Animation Studios this year, ZOOTOPIA is a 3D computer-animated noir buddy-comedy from directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, with co-direction credits going to Jared Bush. Set in the anthropomorphicaly-populated and class-based society of Zootopia, Judy Hops (Kate Hudson) is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed police officer bunny who's new to the force and ready for action. The problem is, that due to her small and non-intimidating stature, Judy has been given the job of local meter maid. Insulted, Judy decides to investigate a missing animals case, hoping that solving it will earn her the respect she so rightfully deserves. Unfortunately for Officer Hops, she's going to need the help of local con-fox, Nick Wilde, to do it.

I'm assuming that by now you've seen the trailer for this movie. You know, the one where an eager rabbit and a sharply-dressed fox visit their local DMV … and it's run entirely by sloths! From what I can tell, ZOOTOPIA looks as if it could really deliver in terms of clever writing, sleek character design, and killer comedic pacing. In my estimation, this film also presents Disney with a unique opportunity to deliver a bit of sly social-commentary, given the very real 'equal-opportunity' issues it addresses . I'll be looking forward to this one.

RATCHET & CLANK – April 29th, 2016

I feel as if I wrote about this movie in last year's preview article. Oh, that's because I totally did! That said, let's refresh our memories, shall we? Based on the popular action-platforming game series from Insomniac Games, and under the directorial eyes of Kevin Munroe and Jerrica Cleland, the film will be presented as an origin story of sorts. With plenty of new story beats to keep the material fresh and engaging for long-standing fans of the game franchise from which this movie is based.

Will 2016 be the year that Ratchet & Clank make a well-deserved comeback? I sure as hell hope so, because if I have to write a preview about this movie again next year, Insomniac Games, Focus Features, and I are going to have words. I've always been a big fan of Ratchet & Clank. Don't let me down, boys!

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE – May 20th, 2016

If you think the Angry Birds craze is over … you're probably right - but they're making this movie anyway. Columbia Pictures is teaming up with Rovio Entertainment for the release of an American-Finnish 3D computer-animated comedy featuring the moody characters of the popular mobile gaming franchise, Angry Birds. Directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE features 6 of the game's flightless birds (Red, Jay, Chuck, Bomb, Matilda, and the Mighty Eagle) living it up on a remote paradise. Before long, the bird's society of peace and tranquility is disrupted by the arrival of the Bad Piggies – a group of bossy swine, whose greedy, militant ways aim to … well, anger the lives of our feathered friends.

I know a lot of people who were outright obsessed with the Angry Birds gaming platform back in 2009. Since that time, 11 sequels to the bird-flinging action-puzzler have been released - each one having enjoyed its own level of success and relevance in the wide world of mobile and tablet gaming. For me, this movie feels a bit late to the party - but hey, I've been out of the loop on this franchise for quite some time. I've a sneaking suspicion that come this Spring, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE will do just fine.

SAUSAGE PARTY – June 3rd, 2016

[audible sigh] Yes, from the depraved genius of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, with the help of Columbia Pictures, comes … SAUSAGE PARTY. Okay, here's the deal. I could take the time to write up my own synopsis of this film, but it's going to be difficult for me to top what's described in the film's Wikipedia entry. Please keep in mind that I am not making any of this up, okay? SAUSAGE PARTY is the story of “One sausage's quest to discover the truth about his existence. After falling out of a shopping cart, our hero sausage and his new friends embark on a perilous journey through the supermarket to get back to their aisles before the Fourth of July sale.”  I'm just going to let that sink in before we move on to the next paragraph.

Are you still with me? We good? Alright, I'm going to admit right here and now that I'm at least curious about this one. I mean what the hell, right? Who even green-lit this thing? What drugs were involved in that decision and where can I get some? The film stars Rogan alongside an army of his comedic cohorts the likes of: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kristin Wiig, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, David Krumholtz, and Nick Kroll. There's seriously enough funny in that group to make this bizarre and somewhat existential premise work. And honestly, a comedy about food on a quest to deliver itself to suicide by mastication? I'm totally in.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS – July 8th, 2016

Yet another animated feature that shows major promise this year is none of than Illumination Entertainment's THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS! Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, this American 3D computer-animated comedy film tells the story of what happens when good pets go bad. Allow me to elaborate. In PETS, a Jack Russel terrier by the name of Max becomes un-nerved when his owner, Katie, brings home a new, slobbering mongrel by the name of Duke. Feeling as if he's no longer top dog, Max soon musters up the courage to have a dog-on-dog discussion with his new house-mate. However, before Max and Duke can hash out their differences, they discover that an abandoned rabbit by the name of Snowball is hatching an evil scheme to take his revenge on all the happily-owned pets in Manhattan.

I think THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS looks like fun. I'll admit that I could have gone my entire life without ever having seen THE MINIONS, but I'd found both of the DESPICABLE ME films to be rather enjoyable, and am curious to see if Illumination Entertainment has it in them to craft another animated blockbuster. I've seen the teaser trailer for PETS several times, and have found that its humor and depiction of clever scenarios pertaining to what animals get up to while we're away from our homes has yet to lose its appeal. With any luck this will be a surprise hit of the Summer schedule.

FINDING DORY – July 17th, 2016

Wow! Can you believe that it's been 13 years since Disney Pixar's FINDING NEMO swam into theaters? Crazy, right? Well, Andrew Stanton, who directed the original film, is back, both behind the camera and in the writer's chair for this much anticipated sequel! With the aid of co-director Angus MacLane, the characters Dory, Nemo, Marlin and the “Tank Gang” are all set to make their return to the franchise for another adventure in the deep blue sea. Of course, as per the film's title, the plot focuses on Dory this time around, who after experiencing a series of flashbacks to her youth, embarks on a journey to find her family.

I'm finding it impossible not to get excited for this movie. I do admit that the first time I saw FINDING NEMO, I thought it was just “okay”, but as time has marched on, the film has appealed to me more and more. I'm also stoked to learn that the “Tank Gang” is still a part of the mix. For me, those characters really brought the latter half of the first film together, and took its comedic elements to new heights with their snark and warped perception of captivity. I'll definitely keep on swimming along with this wonderful series when the film hits theaters in the middle of what I will assume will be a hot July.

ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE – July 22nd, 2016

Heh. I can telepathically feel you trying to do some Ice Age sequel math inside your head, right now. Let me save you the trouble. This is indeed the fifth installment to the popular 3D computer-animated film series from Blue Sky Studios. Directed by Mike Thurmeier and Galen T. Chu, the latest addition to the Ice Age canon finds returning characters Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo, Diego (Dennis Leary), Ellie (Queen Latifa) Buck (Simon Pegg), and several others having to re-locate themselves, once again, after a disastrous series of events in outer space threaten their way of life.

Straight up, I think the last Ice Age movie that I checked into was the second installment, ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN. With the announcement of this film it appears as if I have some catching up to do. Having been away from Manny, Diego, Sid, and their friends for a number of years, I'll admit that I'm quite curious to see what Blue Sky can bring to the table later this year.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS – August 19th, 2016

Yes! My favorite animation studio, Laika, is coming back with a brand-new stop-motion animated adventure, later this year! Laika film producer and animator, Travis Knight is now sitting confidently in the director's chair for what I hope will be an animated martial arts masterpiece. This film tells the tale of a young boy named Kubo, whose life gets turned upside-down when he unwittingly angers an army of ancient spirits with an axe to grind against his family name. In order to survive, Kubo must locate and harness the power of a magical suit of armor that once belonged to his late father. With the spirits haunting him at every turn, Kubo must channel his inner samurai warrior, and use the ancient ways of his heritage to win the day.

Now THIS is what I'm talking about! KUBO AND THE TWO STINGS is without a doubt my most anticipated animated film of 2016! Having worked intimately and exhaustively on other Laika projects such as: CORALINE, PARANORMAN, and THE BOXTROLLS, I'm thrilled to hear that Travis is manning the helm for this project. I've been to Laika Studios, and have experienced first hand just how hard they work at making (in my humble opinion) the best stop-motion animated films in the industry. The very thought of them tackling a coming-of-age samurai epic, complete with vengeful spirits, enchanted armor, and a hero that can vanquish evil by jamming on a guitar … ahhhhhh! There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be seeing this film as soon as it hits theaters! Bring it on, Laika!

STORKS – September 26th, 2016

Next, but not least, we have the American 3D computer-animated comedy STORKS from Warner Bros. Animation. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, this film takes the childhood tale of stoks delivering babies and twists it on its head when a internet retail delivery stork named Junior mistakenly gets his wings on an real, live parcel that looks very much like a human baby. Oh wait, that's because it totally is! It looks as if Junior is going to have to figure out what to do before anyone else finds out about his unique predicament.

Sure! We've already got polar bears in the big city and soul-searching luncheon meats, why not add an animated movie about baby-delivering storks to the mix? Real talk though, I liked the teaser trailer for this film, and with a voice-acting cast like Kelsey Grammer, Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele there's plenty of opportunities for this to be hilarious! I'll be interested to see a full-length trailer once it hits and hope for the best.

TROLLS – November 4th, 2016

Whether you find them completely adorable or hideously creepy beyond reproach, those bejeweled, funky-haired toys are making their way into theaters courtesy of Dreamworks Animation. Directed by Mike Mitchell and co-directed by Walt Dohrn, TROLLS explores the adventure of two very different-minded friends who find themselves far away from home, and lost in a world they've never known. Voicing our two lead characters will be Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, lending a bit of star-power to this interesting toy-derived re-imagining.

Honestly, until I see a trailer or perhaps a few screen shots, I'll remain optimistic. There was a time where any attempt to re-introduce a nostalgic property in animated form would cause me to roll my eyes, but the recent release of PEANUTS has given me a modicum of hope for the future. My gut tells me that this movie won't be for me, but I'll do my best not to judge it sight unseen.

MOANA – November 23rd 2016

The second full-length animated feature to be released from Walt Disney Animation Studios, this year, is the computer-animated musical fantasy, MOANA. With direction by Ron Clements and John Musker, MOANA looks to introduce the world to Disney's first Hawaiian princess! In the film, Moana, a skilled navigator, leaves her home in search of a mysterious island. Along her journey, Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) joins forces with her childhood hero, a demi-god by the name of Maui (Dwayne Johnson).

So, am I interested in this movie? Um, hello, Ron Clements and John Musker were only the paired directors of such Disney Classics as THE LITTLE MERMAID, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE, and ALADDIN! So yeah, you bet I'll be checking this one out! It feels like every year we get at least one new princess added to Disney's extensive roster, and instead I am thrilled to see that they're making a continued effort to have those characters be diverse in their ethnicity and sense of purpose in their animated worlds. Something tells me that MOANA is going to sell a lot of fancy costumes at the Disney Store come 2016's holiday season.

HENCHMAN – 2016

From Bron Studios comes computer-animated action comedy HENCHMEN, starring James Marsden, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Rob Riggle, Jane Krakowski, as well as others! Adam Wood is set to direct this film about a disgraced henchman named Hank, who after forming the “Union of Evil” tries to prevent a criminal mastermind by the name of Baron Blackout from destroying the world.

Well, the cast is certainly there for this one, and the HENCHMEN teaser trailer which debuted back in 2014 shows a fair amount of promise. Let's hope that Bron Studios has been using the past year to make HENCHMEN an animated feature worth talking about in 2016.

ANIMAL CRACKERS – 2016

That's right, those dry-as-the-Sahara animal-shaped biscuit cookies will soon be coming to a theater near you! Co-written and co-directed by Scott Christian Sava, along with Dean Lorey and Tony Bancroft, ANIMAL CRACKERS features the story of what happens when a family inherits a magical circus, and with it, a bizarre box of Animal Crackers, that when eaten, magically transforms that them into the animal they have eaten.

From what I've read, Sava has been shopping this story around in June of 2013. Not to be discouraged by a bit of bad luck, Sava constructed a short film with which to show potential investors, and evetually sold the film after acquiring stars such as Sylvester Stallone, Danny Devito, and Emily Blunt in addition to several other A-listers. For me, I like the obvious passion displayed from Sava to get this film off the ground and into theaters. I'll admit that the film has a ways to go if it's going to capture my attention, though, as I found the void-of-any-dialogue teaser trailer to be under-whelming. Though I've received word just this morning that Carter Goodrich (character designer of FINDING NEMO, BRAVE, and MONSTERS INC.) has joined the team - so we can expect the film to have a fresh look when a proper trailer hits. Here's hoping that when Animal Crackers is properly revealed to audiences that it leaves a better taste in our mouths than the crackers upon which it's based.

SLY COOPER – 2016

From Sony Computer Entertainment and Rainmaker Entertainment comes the American-Canadian 3D computer-animated action comedy based on the timeless video game series by the same name. First announced back in 2014, SLY COOPER is finally making its way to theaters some time in 2016! In the film, our hero and master thief, Sly, embarks on a globe-trotting adventure to recover the pages of an ancient book containing the Sly family secrets of stealth and thievery. With all of the talented folks who've made the games a success, it's no wonder that Sly and his friends have what it takes to appeal to audiences via the big screen.

Yeah, I don't know. These video game to silver screen movies are such a crap shoot, right? I mean, I've seen both Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper do some amazing things on the Sony Playstation, I'm just not 100% convinced that their antics will be as widely received by today's movie going public. Hopefully, both of those films will have me eating my skepticism later this year – complete with a side-dish of crow.

Phew, we did it! All of us, together! So what do you think? 2016 certainly looks to be one of the busiest year in film history for animated projects, and from the look of it, studios are trying out lots of ideas in and effort to entertain audiences from every age group. We'll be talking more about these movies as they get closer to their release. Until then, have a great year, and don't forget to show your love to the films that appeal most to you by seeing them when they arrive at a theater near you! Cheers!

Extra Tidbit: That's quite the list, huh? What animated feature film are you looking forward to the most in 2016? Let us know in the comment section below!
Source: joblo.com

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5:41PM on 01/21/2016

You forgot to mention one projectů

There's also a film coming out December 21 called SING, which is from Illumination Entertainment with voices from people like Scarlet Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane etc
There's also a film coming out December 21 called SING, which is from Illumination Entertainment with voices from people like Scarlet Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane etc
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7:11PM on 01/21/2016
Written and directed by Garth Jennings? I'm intrigued.
Written and directed by Garth Jennings? I'm intrigued.
10:25AM on 01/21/2016

I'm only excited for....

KUNG FU PANDA 3, ZOOTOPIA, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, SAUSAGE PARTY (which really comes out on August 12th), FINDING DORY (which really comes out on July 17th), ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE, TROLLS, and MOANA!
KUNG FU PANDA 3, ZOOTOPIA, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, SAUSAGE PARTY (which really comes out on August 12th), FINDING DORY (which really comes out on July 17th), ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE, TROLLS, and MOANA!
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