Back in the mid-1990s, Disney and Pixar set a precedent for computer-animated films with the release of Toy Story. As the first full-length feature of its type, that film set Disney apart from competing studios, but Dreamworks ultimately established itself as a major player with the Shrek franchise a few years later.
In the decade or so since then, the palette of animated films has expanded dramatically; studios like Fox and Universal have joined the fray in a big way with their Ice Age and Despicable Me franchises, respectively. Now, the latter has announced release dates for a couple of new projects that should keep audiences coming back for more.
Universal has officially announced that Despicable Me 3 will hit theaters on June 30, 2017, followed on November 17, 2017 by the big-screen release of a new animated take on Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Both films will be produced by Illumination Entertainment, continuing Universal's long-term partnership with the production company.
Considering the $935 million worldwide box office gross that Despicable Me 2 reined it, it's absolutely no surprise that Universal aims to keep the adventures of Gru, his children and his beloved minions alive. However, it's worth noting that the 2017 release will actually mark the fourth film in the franchise, as Universal has already staked out a summer 2015 release date for the Minions spinoff. It's clear that the studio is banking on long-term plans for the Despicable Me brand. So fans (and non-fans alike) had better get used to the pointy-nosed anti-hero and his yellow colleagues.
As for Grinch, the previously-announced film is expected to follow the visual and tonal template of Universal's last adaptation of Seuss in the 2012 hit The Lorax, also produced by Illumination. History has certainly proven that the works of Seuss are perhaps better suited to animated productions. Universal's 2000 live-action Grinch and its 2003 take on The Cat in the Hat – while financially successful – were critically slammed and heavily criticized as not remaining true to the spirit of the source material. Hopefully, an animated take on these classic stories (Universal is also developing a Cat in the Hat film) can hew more closely to what Seuss fans expect.
Are you looking forward to more Despicable Me, or do you think Universal is stretching the franchise too far? Does the prospect of an animated Grinch sound like a refreshing re-start or a lazy retread of a story that's already been told? Sound off in the comments section.
Despicable Me 3 will hit theaters on June 30, 2017. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is set for release on November 17, 2017.