13-ish animated movies to look forward to in 2018
The Incredibles 2
Release: June 15, 2018
By the end of 2018, it should come as no surprise that one of the biggest box offices of the year will have turned out to be the long-awaited follow-up to Pixar’s 2004 gem, the super-family thriller The Incredibles. Writer-director Brad Bird, one of animation’s modern geniuses, has kept the secrets of his sequel close to the chest, but the details we do know — like how Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl takes on the central action role here, or how Craig T. Nelson’s Mr. Incredible in turn takes on baby Jack-Jack — are already generating an electric enthusiasm among critics, industry folk, and eager fans who have been waiting almost 14 years to see America’s first family of superheroes slip back into those bold, brilliant reds.
Release: Jan. 26, 2018
Unlike prehistoric predecessors like The Croods and Ice Age, the familiar land-before-time tale takes a new creative twist via the masterworkers at Aardman Animations, who speed your typical primordial protagonism a few clicks ahead and introduce an innocent caveman (Eddie Redmayne) to an intimidating new adversary, both physical and metaphorical: The Bronze Age, manifested via a whirligig city run by a metal-happy despot (Tom Hiddleston). As if its pedigree from the trailblazing Wallace and Gromit studio isn’t enough to tantalize, Early Man also features Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, thereby forming a central voice-cast trio that should galvanize any anglophile to immediately go chisel their tickets, Flintstones-style.
Isle of Dogs
Release: March 23, 2018
Nine years after Wes Anderson delighted audiences with his stunning stop-motion comedy Fantastic Mr. Fox, the ever-symmetrical director has returned to his stylish slice of the medium with a new work that once again recruits his cast of familiars like Bill Murray and Edward Norton (or their voices, at least). The film's title refers to a quarantine island off the coast of a dystopian Japan where dogs have been remanded for fear of sickness. Bryan Cranston voices a charismatic canine named Chief, who leads a pack of pets (Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban among them) as they help an adventurous human trespasser reconnect with his own detained pup (voiced by Liev Schreiber).
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
Release: Nov. 21, 2018
Back in 2012, Wreck-It Ralph made a strong impression with its prescient themes, one such being the struggle of finding one's place in a world that increasingly values novelty. In 2018, no arena of clashing identities will leave you wondering where you fit in more than the internet — the next frontier that would-be video game villain Ralph will crash in Disney's Thanksgiving-set sequel. This time, newly-minted princess Vanellope von Schweetz is fully by Ralph's side, rather than a thorn in it, and together they’re guided through cyberspace by a trendy tastemaker named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). Beyond the likely skewering of the spastic on-demand hell-circus that is the modern internet, early film footage screened at Disney’s 2017 fan expo has already suggested that it’s actually the old, not the new, that may have filmgoers buzzing most: Disney's entire line of iconic princesses will appear in full CG in Wreck-It Ralph 2, in a must-be-seen-to-be-believed comic sequence that’s bound to make more waves than a Wi-Fi signal.
Mary and The Witch's Flower
Release: Jan. 18, 2018 (U.S.)
The first feature film from the nascent Studio Ponoc would mark the animation house as one to watch, had the company's pedigree of Studio Ghibli-alumni founders not already earmarked it as a major new player and source of excitement for animation fans eager to see more from like minds of Miyazaki. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a cofounder with producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, is a graduate of animated wonders like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Secret World of Arrietty (his directorial debut); here he's at the helm of Mary, a ravishing story about a young girl who finds herself taking a crash course in witchcraft (and maybe a little light botany). The movie debuted in Japan last year, but some spell must have worked to thankfully beget its U.S. distribution.
Release: Nov. 9, 2018
If the sentence “Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the Grinch” doesn’t fill you with an anticipatory tingle, look to the success of Illumination Entertainment and its mastery of physical comedy for an idea of the sort of animated antics we might expect from the newest incarnation of Dr. Seuss’s Christmas classic. While Minions may be absent (emphasis on may, because honestly, who knows), the manic populace du jour are the Whos of Whoville, likely in plentiful supply in the Seussian vision of the film's co-directors, Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Peter Candeland. Just to reiterate: Benedict Cumberbatch. Grinch. Let's not lose sight of what's really important this season.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Release: December 21, 2018
Miles Morales will finally make his way onto the big screen, and not a second too soon. Fans have long been clamoring — and understandably still are — to see the half-Latin, half-black heir to Peter Parker actually come to life on film. Until the very-much-live-action Tom Holland hangs up his newly-appointed Spidey suit, though, fans will have to settle for an animated Morales (Shameik Moore) leading Sony’s feature-length Spider-Man toon. The film is an exciting endeavor in and of itself for Spidey fans, finally introducing a wider cinematic audience to the idea of Spider-Man’s mythos post-Parker. To make it an even more giddy event, geek gurus Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) are producing, with Lord penning the script.
Release: Sept. 28, 2018
WB’s autumn entry is a wintry comedy that purports to upend the legend of Bigfoot (think Wicked but hairier). While the campfire story feels a bit like something we’ve heard before — the monster thinks the human is the scary one! — there’s enough to love in early teases to suggest that Channing Tatum (voicing Migo, a curious, man-seeking yeti) will put his charisma into overdrive and help endear audiences to his basket of abominables.
Release: Late Spring (U.S.)
Like a DeviantArt account come to life, the Dark Knight has been entirely reconceived in feudal Japan as a crusader of medieval goons (and probably predominantly farm-based crimes). On its stylistic merits alone, the Japanese film (released on Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) promises to be unlike any Batman picture you’ve ever seen, but there's some narrative intrigue that we're eager to see addressed as well, such as the zillion questions we have alone about whatever 13th-century maniac becomes the Joker.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
Release: July 27, 2018
An incredibly specific niche of the market will be there on opening night for the first feature film starring the popular Teen Titan sidekick ensemble: Robin, Raven, Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy, all of whom mainstream audiences will meet regardless later this year on DC’s live-action TV series Titans. For those who have already fallen in love with the eccentric superheroes from either of their two longrunning Cartoon Network series, however, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is the not-TV event of the summer.
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero
Release: Feb. 2, 2018 (U.S.)
A left-field pick you won’t see in most headlines is a visually stunning and deeply inspiring story of a legendary slave-turned-warrior who frees himself from servitude. Offering exactly the kind of overlooked cultural storytelling that audiences have claimed to be seeking, the gorgeous film has a lot to love (including voice actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Ian McShane, operating at peak deliciousness) and deserves the attention of filmgoers who have been craving a little more meat with their animated movies.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Release: July 13, 2018
Those with kids will tell you that Sony’s series of family adventures featuring famous movie monsters (and wacky single dad Dracula!) shouldn’t be written off as a peripheral franchise, having now proven itself a global smash with two king-sized audiences. Those without kids, then, may consider using director Genndy Tartakovsky’s third installment to check in on the fuss. Granted, there’s no reason to assume that the third movie will be any less corny than its two preceding candies — but at the very least, you'll leave with a greater understanding of why these spooky-adjacent slapstick comedies have been charming the kid crowd well outside of the Halloween season.
Sherlock Gnomes/Gnome Alone
Release: March 23, 2018 (Sherlock Gnomes)
Release: Feb. 22, 2018 (Gnome Alone)
So, look. Apparently, this “Gnomes” franchise is really going to be a thing, at least for as long as the folks in charge continue to make films built solely around lukewarm puns (let me save you a brainstorm: do Sweet Gnome Alabama next). But in an even more ludicrous turn of events, Sherlock Gnomes is preceded in release by February’s completely unrelated film Gnome Alone, thus giving audiences two entirely separate movies about anthropomorphic garden gnomes. Lo! It may have taken 50 years to get a single Wonder Woman movie on the big screen, but thank goodness our children and their children will never say they had to suffer any lack of gnome representation in the industry.