The year 2023 was an embarrassment of riches when it came to animation. Movies like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” became massive commercial successes and crossed the billion-dollar mark at the box office, while movies like “Nimona” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” hit big with audiences and critics. There were films that boasted wildly different aesthetics and showed the power of the animation medium like “Blue Giant” and “The First Slam Dunk.” And we also saw the return of a legendary animator, with Hayao Miyazaki giving us his most personal film to date with “The Boy and the Heron.”

That’s a lot for 2024 to live up to — luckily, it seems the year will bring with it a healthy mix of big studio franchises and more grown-up animated fair. There are still big and highly anticipated animated movies slated to be released in 2024. Here is a rundown of 2024 animated releases with updates to come. 

This article was first published on January 3, 2024, and last updated February 7.

“Great Pretender Razbliuto” (WIT Studio/Crunchyroll, January 9)

“Great Pretender” was one of the big anime surprises of 2020. It is a highly energetic show with a vibrant color palette about con artists pulling big jobs and a lovable cast of international characters with many flaws and personal issues. Like any great heist movie, “Great Pretender” is also full of fun twists and turns — and boasts an ending theme song by Freddy Mercury. Now, we’re getting a movie continuation in “Great Pretender Razbliuto,” which will introduce a new con artist and expand on the story of the main crew while building up a thrilling scheme.

“Orion and the Dark” (DreamWorks/Netflix, February 2)

ORION AND THE DARK, Orion (voice: Jacob Tremblay), 2024. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Orion and the Dark”©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

One of Netflix’s big reveals at Annecy in 2023, “Orion and the Dark” boasts a script written by Charlie Kaufman, known for his mind-bending writing on movies like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and the stop-motion “Anomalisa.” Based on Emma Yarlett’s book, “Orion and the Dark” stars Jacob Tremblay as a young kid scared of everything who embarks on an adventure full of strange creatures where he will face his greatest fears — even some that are friendlier than he thought. Early previews promise a film full of Kaufman-esque imagery, like creatures inspired by the Muppets and the work of Werner Herzog, and a handcrafted visual style.

“The Tiger’s Apprentice” (Paramount Animation/Paramount+, February 2)

Over 15 years since Cartoon Network first announced an adaptation of “The Tiger’s Apprentice,” the film will finally be released. Though originally slated for theaters, Paramount shifted the release of “The Tiger’s Apprentice” over to Paramount+. Directed by Raman Hui (the “Monster Hunt” films), the film is an adaptation of Laurence Yep’s book of the same name, and it follows a Chinese-American boy who discovers he comes from a long line of magical protectors. As the apprentice of a shape-shifting tiger, the boy must learn the necessary magic to protect an ancient phoenix. “The Tiger’s Apprentice” has an all-star cast that includes Michelle Yeoh, Sandra Oh, Henry Golding, Sherry Cola, and more.

“Kung Fu Panda 4” (DreamWorks/Universal, March 8)

The Dragon Warrior is back! “Kung Fu Panda” is one of the best-animated trilogies around, with stunning action choreography, heartfelt stories, and memorable characters. For the franchise’s fourth installment, Jack Black’s Po the Panda will face his biggest challenge yet: retirement. The film sees Po training the next Dragon Warrior while becoming a spiritual leader, which is sure to lead to plenty of ridiculously funny scenarios. “Kung Fu Panda 4” expands the franchise’s stellar voice cast by bringing in Viola Davis, Awkwafina, and Ke Huy Quan to voice new characters. The film is directed by “Shrek Forever After” and “Sky High” director Mike Mitchell.

“The Garfield Movie” (DNEG Animation/Sony Pictures Releasing, May 24)

Going exclusively by the casting of Chris Pratt as the star of a new animated movie based on a beloved character, “The Garfield Movie” is set to be the biggest box office hit of 2024. Even if it isn’t, the new adaptation at least has some truly bizarre yet kind of exciting voice casting, like Samuel L. Jackson playing Garfield’s estranged father, Vic, or the star of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Harvey Guillén, as Garfield’s best friend Odie. The new CG animated film is animated by DNEG Animation, known for the surprisingly great and hilarious “Ron’s Gone Wrong” and the visually stunning “Entergalactic.”

“Robot Dreams” (NEON, May 31)

Pablo Berger’s silent film scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature — and now gets a full theatrical release. The melancholy film follows the adventures of friends Robot and Dog, separated by circumstance and weather in painstakingly recreated ’80s NYC.

“Inside Out 2” (Pixar, June 14)

INSIDE OUT 2, from left: Fear (purple, voice: Tony Hale), Sadness (glasses, voice: Phylis Smith), Anger (red, voice: Lewis Black), Joy (green dress, voice: Amy Poehler), Disgust (green, voice: Liza Lapira), Anxiety (orange, voice: Maya Hawke), 2024. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Inside Out 2”©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

The first “Inside Out” was a wonderful animated movie that showed us what an emotional young girl’s head is like, with a vast world of colorful imagination and a heartbreaking Pixar side character. For the sequel, Pixar raises the stakes by going inside a teenager’s head. Judging by how emotionally intelligent the first film was, we can expect a complex, deeply relatable story about growing up and facing the worst thing: anxiety. Maya Hawke joins the cast as Anxiety, while Liza Lapira and Tony Hale replace Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader as Disgust and Fear, respectively. “Inside Out 2” comes from longtime Pixar veteran Kelsey Mann in his feature directorial debut, while Meg LeFauve returns to pen the script.

“Despicable Me 4” (Illumination/Universal, July 3)

We don’t know much about the upcoming “Despicable Me 4,” the latest installment in the hugely successful franchise created by “Klaus” director Sergio Pablos that gave the world the Minions. It’s been seven years since the last “Despicable Me” movie, with the most recent film in the franchise focusing on the little yellow sidekicks. The new film sees the return of director Chris Renaud and boasts a script written by “The White Lotus” creator Mike White — who recently wrote “Migration” for Illumination.

“Transformers One” (Paramount Animation, September 13)

The first of two 2023 movies to take a popular live-action franchise back to its animated roots, “Transformers One” will finally give modern audiences the origin story of Optimus Prime and Megatron as they go from friends to sworn enemies. The film will be largely set on the homeworld of Cybertron, which has only been shown briefly in the live-action movies, giving “Transformers One” a huge canvas with which to play. “Toy Story 4” director Josh Cooley helms this one from a script by Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, alongside Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. Chris Hemsworth is set to voice the once and future Autobots leader, while Brian Tyree Henry gives voice to the Decepticon leader.

“The Wild Robot” (DreamWorks/Universal, September 20)

Chris Sanders, co-director of “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” returns to DreamWorks to helm “The Wild Robot.” This feature adaptation of Peter Brown’s illustrated book follows a robot washed ashore on a deserted island, who must embark on a journey of survival and discovery when she inadvertently becomes the protector of an orphaned gosling bird. 

“Moana 2” (Disney, November 27)

Disney’s holiday gift for families will be “Moana 2,” a sequel to the beloved 2016 film. (This is separate from the still-planned live-action adaptation, set for a 2025 release.) “Moana 2” takes audiences on an expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers. After receiving an unexpected call from her wayfinding ancestors, Moana must journey to the far seas of Oceania and into dangerous, long-lost waters for an adventure unlike anything she’s ever faced, according to the official synopsis. 

“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” (Sola Entertainment/New Line Cinema, December 13)

It’s been almost 10 years since we last visited Middle-earth on the big screen, but “The War of the Rohirrim” is set to scratch that sweet high fantasy itch with an epic, 2D anime film based on the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings.” The film tells the story of the House of Eorl that ruled Rohan, specifically about the daughter of Helm Hammerhand, after whom Helm’s Deep was named. The preview shown at Annecy made it clear this movie is cut from the same cloth as the Peter Jackson films, as it draws inspiration from the WETA archives and brings back Stephen Gallagher (“The Hobbit”) to compose the score. Seeing a big 2D fantasy movie on the big screen doesn’t happen every day, which makes this a special cinematic event every Tolkien — and animation — fan should be excited about.

Leave a comment