The explosion in popularity of animated feature films in recent years could probably never have been imagined in Hollywood’s “golden age.” Nowadays, it seems as if every month there’s a new release from the likes of Pixar/Disney or Sony Pictures Animation accompanied by a roster of top-tier actors and actresses providing the voice overs. 2014 was a superb year for animation, and 2015 is already looking promising. But whether one’s taste in animation leans towards releases from mega-budget Hollywood studios or more modest foreign variants, the upcoming slate of animated features in 2015 promises something for everyone.
Here’s a peek at the top five animation projects scheduled to be released this year:
Touted as a “sweet-natured but cleverly off-kilter feature-length debut” for Aardman Animation by Variety’s Guy Lodge, Shaun the Sheep follows the antics of Aardman’s “plucky farmyard hero” based loosely on the popular stop-motion television series (itself a distant spinoff of Aardman’s own cherished Wallace and Gromit franchise). The character of “Shaun,” a sheep introduced 20 years ago in the aforementioned Wallace and Gromit “A Close Shave” outing, has since headlined over 100 miniature adventures for the small screen, with writer-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak believing this latest family treat will be met with a gleeful reception.
- The Good Dinosaur (Disney/Pixar)
Who can forget the goose bumps Steven Spielberg’s seminal Jurassic Park gave us when we first saw those prehistoric creatures come to life and eat from trees? With the upcoming reboot of this franchise Jurassic World causing a stir, the animation geniuses at Pixar have announced The Good Dinosaur, due out later this year; with Lucas Neff, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, John Lithgow, Frances McDormand and Judy Greer being featured for voiceovers, the film concentrates on the adventures of prehistoric creature Arlo and his human companion in a world where extinction never eliminated the dinosaur.
- Minions (Universal/Illumination Entertainment)
If ever there were animated characters from more recent projects that could be considered “rock stars,” it’s the “Minions” from Despicable Me. The stir that these seemingly unsuspecting “personalities” have caused amongst kids and young adults alike – and the subsequent marketing volcano that has followed – is difficult to imagine; as such, there was little doubt that a franchise would follow. After Despicable Me had grossed 543 million dollars worldwide and the follow-up grossed a jaw-dropping 970 million, the third film in the series would have some big shoes to fill. Enter Minions, slated for release on July 10th, which attempts to explain where the “Minions” come from, and which also chronicles these yellow single-celled organisms’ dealings with history’s most notorious villains.
- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Paramount)
Love him or hate him, Spongebob is aging pretty gracefully. Sure, he courted controversy in the past because of his (supposedly) subversive political leanings and his unconventional (although constitutionally protected) lifestyle. Fox News is really at its best when it hones in on Nickelodeon. Anyway, the yellow, chuckling sea-dweller is set to hit the big screen yet again. His movies have historically performed well at the box office, and his show is still getting favorable ratings (if you aren’t still watching it, check to see when it’s on through Nickelodeon or Nick subsidiary channels – listing info here), because the show has gotten better of the years. The film was released on February 6th, and it follows Spongebob on his quest to discover a stolen recipe that takes him into the realm of humans, where he is said to “tangle with a pirate.”
- Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Pictures Animation)
In a bit of a twist, legendary comedian Mel Brooks will be voicing the ancient vampire “Vlad” – the “cranky old father” of Adam Sandler’s Dracula – in the animated sequel to the staggeringly successful Hotel Transylvania . The film is slated to arrive in theaters on September 25th, with Genndy Tartakovsky returning to the director’s chair. The original film, released in 2012, explored the generational gap between everybody’s favorite bloodsucker (Dracula) and his young – for a vampire, at least – 118-year-old daughter “Mavis” (Selena Gomez), her desire to experience the world outside of “the family hotel” and her magnetism toward the hapless human, Jonathan (Andy Samberg). In this follow-up, a family reunion of sorts brings Vlad to town, along with some secrets and drama, to visit the estranged son he hasn’t seen in years.
From dinosaurs, to sentient sponges, to Mel Brooks (notice any overlaps there?), it seems that 2015 is going to be memorable in the annals of animated motion pictures