These days, animated films are among the biggest earners at the box office, and they can also produce some films of impeccable quality. 2016 brought us Finding Dory, Zootopia, Moana, and The Secret Life of Pets, but 2017 looks to be even better. The coming year will bring us more animation from Disney and Pixar, and also gives us a chance to return to the universe of The Lego Movie with two different spin-off projects, both of which are exciting.
All of these films give us plenty to be excited about in 2017, but there are also some less hyped animated properties that deserve attention. The coming year promises to be another great one for animation, and, if this list is any indicator, there’s going to be plenty to choose from. From Captain Underpants to The Red Turtle to a third Despicable Me film, here are Our 15 Most Anticipated Animated Movies Of 2017.
15 The Lego Ninjago Movie - September 22, 2017
There are two Lego Movie spinoffs on this list, and The Lego Ninjago Movie is the first. The film, which is also an animated series on Cartoon Network, follows six teenage ninjas who are tasked with defending their island home of Ninjago. The ninjas use an incredible set of vehicles to take on their foes, but they’re also normal high school students, and must balance both worlds.
Ninjago has been an hugely successful property during its time on Cartoon Network, and there’s little reason to think that this will change when this filmed adaptation hits theaters. The film comes with an outstanding voice cast that includes Dave Franco, Michael Peña, Jackie Chan, and Fred Armisen. With a cast like that, expect The Lego Ninjago Movie to include plenty of wit and laughs, and some of the incredibly detailed animation and action-packed frames that made The Lego Movie so successful.
14 The Star - November 10, 2017
Christmas movies are often hit-or-miss affairs, but The Star is a promising project for several reasons. The producers behind the project, which include Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, are known for their ability to produce highly entertaining products, and this foray into animation promises to do just that. Following a donkey and his animal friends who become unwitting heroes during the first Christmas, The Star is telling an explicitly religious story that will almost certainly appeal to Christian audiences.
We’ve seen many films in recent years that were given a wide release while telling Christian stories, but there have been very few animated films to take this trajectory. Of course, the story of a donkey who saves Christmas has the potential to be a huge crossover hit, especially with the superpowered team set to produce it. Whether The Star is a huge hit or not, it’s a different kind of Christmas story, one that will definitely be interesting to watch.
13 Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale - March 9, 2017
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale represents a different type of animated film, but it’s one that should excite audiences. A continuation of the anime series of the same name, Ordinal Scale picks up after the events of Sword Art Online’s second season, and sees the show’s characters playing a new game called Ordinal Scale. This new game uses augmented reality, and ranks players according to their achievements.
Things begin to go awry when the team discovers that this new game contains monsters from Aincrad, the game they were trapped inside for two years. The decision to adapt Sword Art Online to the big screen will likely enhance the show’s already stellar visuals, and will also allow the creators to tell one self-contained, but extended story. Sword Art Online is one of the most popular anime in the world, and there’s no reason to think that Ordinal Scale will be anything but excellent.
12 The Emoji Movie - August 4, 2017
When it was announced that Hollywood was planning to make an animated film that revolved around emojis, it initially seemed like a strange and potentially depressing choice. While that’s still a possibility, it’s hard to argue that the film’s story, about an abnormal emoji that can represent more than one feeling, has the potential to become a fairly interesting one.
This is really a story about the boxes that we get put in in our lives, and the way they come to define our existence. This ambiguous emoji is multiple things, and it seems as though The Emoji Movie will ultimately decide that that’s for the best. It’s okay to be more than one thing. The film features a stellar voice cast that includes T.J. Miller, Ilana Glazer, and James Corden, and it might just be the surprise hit of the year. After all, no one saw The Lego Movie coming either.
11 The Boss Baby - March 31, 2017
The trailers that have been released for The Boss Baby thus far are fairly strange. They give us a sense of the story that’s set to unfold, about the older brother of a newborn child who wears a suit, carries a briefcase, and describes himself as “The Boss Baby.” While the older brother initially works to expose his younger brother, the pair eventually unite after they discover a plot designed to create an imbalance of love in the world.
These are pretty high stakes for an animated film, and they’re ones that The Boss Baby will try to deliver on in spades. The Boss Baby is using its strange conceit to tell a complicated story about the bond between two brothers, and about the way in which older brothers are often forced to deal with no longer being the center of their parents' world. With a voice cast that includes Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi, The Boss Baby promises plenty of laughs, and maybe a few tears inside of its surreal story.
10 Animal Crackers - January 13, 2017
Animal Crackers actually asks a remarkably simple question: what if the animal crackers you ate turned you into the animals they were shaped like? This is exactly what happens to the Huntington family, who have recently inherited a circus that they must defend, in spite of current their animal state. With a stunning voice cast that includes John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Ian McKellan, Gilbert Gottfried, and many others, Animal Crackers promises to start the new year off right with its mid-January release date.
The decision to tell this kind of family story may reap boundless rewards, as the movie uses its wacky premise to depict the family dynamics that govern the Huntingtons. The crackers turn members of the family into monkeys, rhinos, giraffes, lions, tigers, and many other fierce creatures. Animal Crackers may seem like silly kids’ entertainment, but don’t be too surprised if it packs an emotional wallop as well.
9 Blazing Samurai - August 25, 2017
Blazing Samurai has a fairly absurd premise, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The movie follows a young dog who longs to be a samurai, and is eventually forced to defend a small town from the feline predators that seek to rule it. The film’s voice cast, which features Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, Samuel L. Jackson, and George Takei, is reason enough to get excited. Blazing Samurai comes from Cinemation, a company outside the usual computer animation wheelhouse.
The movies is set to open over the summer, and it promises to be the kind of film that will entertain audiences of all ages. It also looks at a culture that is often neglected in kids’ films, even if it’s choosing to do it with a silly lens. The cultural traditions of the far East don’t infect America’s movie screens often enough, and Blazing Samurai is looking to do something about that. Let’s hope that it succeeds.
8 Ferdinand - December 22, 2017
The story of Ferdinand the bull is actually quite old. It was initially a children’s story from the 1930s; one that told the story of Ferdinand, a bull who would rather smell flowers than spend his time in the bull ring. The movie will be adapting this premise, which is remarkably simple but may also be rather effective. The story of Ferdinand is one of the formative cultural myths that children’s stories now regularly revolve around, and now it’s finally being adapted for the big screen.
Throughout the history of movies, an enormous number of characters have found themselves in a situation similar to Ferdinand’s. At its core, Ferdinand is a story about giving up one’s preordained birthright and forging their own path. It’s a story as old as narrative itself, and it’s one that 20th Century Fox is set to bring to theaters almost a full year from now.
7 Captain Underpants - June 2, 2017
Honestly, it’s kind of surprising that it took this long for Captain Underpants to hit theaters. The book series has been incredibly successful for over a decade, but the first ever animated movie based on the books will finally hit theaters this year. The film’s premise describes a school principal who is transformed into the superhero Captain Underpants after being hypnotized by a pair of students.
Although we have yet to see any clips from the movie itself, the news of this adaptation already has many fans of the books excited, and that excitement has only increased with the announcements relating to the voice cast. Ed Helms is set to take on the title character, with Kevin Hart voicing George Beard. The film’s June release date gives fans plenty of time to get excited for the upcoming movie, which will obviously come with the potential for sequels that could be adapted from the Captain Underpants series.
6 Paddington 2 - Sometime in 2o17
The first Paddington was perhaps one of the year’s biggest surprises when it was released in early 2015. The film focused on the classic story of a bear who was forced to move to London after his rain forest was destroyed, and used the story of this bear to tell a story about immigration in the 21st Century. Its sequel is set to capitalize on the first film’s somewhat surprising success, and promises to be a fitting follow-up to that film.
In the sequel, Paddington has successfully settled in with his British family, and has become popular inside of his community. When a present Paddington purchases for his family is stolen, Paddington becomes focused on bringing the guilty party to justice. Paddington 2’s premise may sound simple, but so did Paddington’s. Often, it seems as though the simplest stories can be used to give audiences the most meaningful and universal truths. Hopefully, this will be true for Paddington’s second installment.
5 Despicable Me 3 - June 30, 2017
The legacy of Despicable Me is a decidedly mixed bag. On the one hand, both of the films involving Gru and company are fun, occasionally touching films about a bad guy with a heart of gold. On the other hand, they gave us the minions, a group of yellow globs that were initially amusing, but quickly wore out their welcome. Still, Despicable Me 3 looks promising, in part because it might give us a more limited dose of the minions.
In this installment, Steve Carell’s Gru and Kristen Wiig’s Lucy will team up to take down an '80s-obsessed villain voiced by Trey Parker. The first trailer gives audiences a sense of the family that Gru has formed since the first installment, and provides plenty of laughs. It’s unlikely that this third installment will be anything too extraordinary, but it looks to be another solid installment in a franchise that understands how to satisfy kids while providing a perfectly engaging story for their parents.
4 The Red Turtle - January 20, 2017
The Red Turtle is one of the earliest of these 2017 releases, and it may also be one of the most critically acclaimed. The movie is completely devoid of dialogue, and made its debut at the 2016 Cannes film festival. It follows the story of a man who has been shipwrecked, and comes across a giant red turtle that seems to be continuously inhibiting his escape from the island he’s been stranded on. This movie obviously diverges from many others on this list in that its primary audience is likely to skew far older, but the film is already being praised across the board for its lush visuals and moving story.
The film is set to open in January, so audiences won’t have to wait terribly long to check it out. The Red Turtle looks to be the kind of quietly moving movie that shows us just how artistic animation can be when it’s done well. It’s sure to be one of the best animated films of the year.
3 Cars 3 - June 16, 2017
Pixar is probably the most consistent provider of quality animated films in existence today, and typically releases at least one critically acclaimed smash-hit a year. On the scale of Pixar films, the Cars movies typically ends up on the lower end, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly good. The pleasures of the first two Cars films were in their simplicity. Of all of Pixar’s films, these were definitely the ones most directly targeted towards children.
Having said all that, Cars 3 looks to be something of a shift in tone. The first footage from the film that’s been released thus far depicts a gruesome, mid-race accident that may well incapacitate Lightning McQueen, the series’ protagonist. From there, it seems McQueen will recruit a new technician to help him compete against younger racers. Buckle up everybody. It looks like the Cars franchise is about to get a little more serious.
2 Coco - November 22, 2017
Cars 3 isn’t the only Pixar release of the coming year. The studio also has Coco, a completely original property which is promising on paper. The film follows Miguel, a 12-year-old boy who uncovers a century-old mystery that is intimately connected to his family and ancestors. Pixar’s recent attempts at original storytelling have been largely successful with films like Up and Inside Out, which both became instant tearjerkers and heartwarmers.
Coco looks to follow in the footsteps of these films, and also diversifies the voices present in animation. Featuring a largely Latin American cast, Coco will also be the first Pixar film with a central character that is Latin American. The film promises to combine elements of mystery and music with Pixar’s signature brand of humor, and tell a touching story about family and connection. With all of that behind it, Coco could well be one of the very best animated films of the year.
1 The Lego Batman Movie - February 10, 2017
The Lego Movie was, to put it plainly, amazing. One of that film’s breakout characters came in the form of everyone’s favorite brooding superhero, Batman. Now, that character is getting his own spin-off film, and it’s promising to be every bit as great as the movie that precedes it. In 2017, Batman has gotten as dark as he possibly can. The character’s appearance in Batman V. Superman was shrouded in a sense of grim fatalism that seemed to turn some people off.
Now, it seems the pendulum of Batman may be swinging the other way. In fact, it looks like the entire idea behind The Lego Batman Movie is to make fun of the gritty seriousness that has been characteristic of Batman through much of the 21st Century. This new Batman is sillier, funnier, and more cartoonish. As the trailers suggest, this new film will follow him as he fights against a team of super-bads and learns to accept the help of those around him. If The Lego Batman Movie does well, Batman may no longer be the loner he once was.
Which animated movie are you most anticipating? Let us know in the comments.