Though 2016 might have felt like a bad year for many reasons, we did get to enjoy many great animated feature films. And as we start a new year, it’s time to have a look at what the multiplexes of 2017 have in store.
Below is but a small selection of the animated feature films releasing in 2017, with many hidden gems making their way to film and animation festivals or straight to home media release without being given the multiplex treatment we will also see the release of feature films like Animal Crackers, My Little Pony: The Movie, The Nut Job 2 and Smurfs: The Lost Village alongside last years festival favourites The Red Turtle and My Life as a Courgette which will finally arrive in UK cinemas. So whilst there are plenty of opportunity to catch an animated feature in 2017, let’s have a peek at a selection of them to whet your appetite:
Chuck Steel – Night of the Trampires
UK release: 2017
Director: Mike Mort
Production Company: Trampires Ltd
“It’s no longer 1985 – it’s 1986, and Chuck Steel has work to do if he is to prevent the worst plague ever to hit Los Angeles – a scourge of deadly Trampires, mutant hybrids of vampires and bums.”
Chuck Steel is the self-proclaimed alter ego of Mike Mort, who has been drawing him for over 20 years. Chuck Steel is the embodiment of the classic 80s action hero and, after starring in several 8mm stop motion shorts Mort made in his teens, a longer short film was released in 2013 called Chuck Steel – Raging Balls of Steel Justice (co-produced by Immortal Pictures Ltd, Animatrix and Blue Dolphin Films). Mort however wasn’t done with Chuck Steel yet. He wrote the script for Trampires back in 2003 and after several years found the funding to start production on the full-length feature film with an incredibly talented crew in Wales. Chuck Steel – Night of the Trampires hasn’t set a specific release date yet, but is currently forecast as due for release in 2017.
UK release: 2017
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Production Company: BreakThru Films,Trademark Films
“We cannot speak other than by our painting.” – Vincent Van Gogh in his last letter
The trailer for Loving Vincent circulated earlier this year and simply blew people’s mind. Director Dorota Kobiela (the only female feature film director in this list and pretty much of 2017) was inspired to write the story of Vincent’s personal life after she read his letters. She felt the only way to truly tell his story was through bringing his paintings to life – not by a digital copy but by hand-painting each frame in oil in the same technique Van Gogh had used.
The massive undertaking of oil-painting all of the 65,000 frames in the film is done by a relatively small team of 115 painters. To fund re-training this team of professional oil-painters, Loving Vincent turned to Kickstarter early on in the development, and successfully funded over £53,000 of the initial £40,000 goal. Now after several years in production, Loving Vincent is set to release in 2017.
The Lego Batman Movie
UK release: 10 February 2017
Director: Chris McKay
Production Company: Warner Animation Group
“Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.”
After the success of The Lego Movie (2014) there was bound to be some sort of sequel or spin-off, and the first one of these is The Lego Batman Movie (the next one – The Lego Ninjago Movie – is set to release later in 2017). I’m personally very much looking forward to it. Every time I see either the original Lego Movie or any trailers from The Lego Batman Movie I can’t get over how it looks. I remember seeing the original film and actually not being sure for a long time whether it was CGI or some really darn good stop-motion. I love how it is animated, and how the textures and lighting make it look like actual lego. Even the special effects are not realistic effects but made from LEGO elements (I remember an interview in which the creators mentioned that everything on screen is made from existing LEGO elements).
Anyways, I’m drifting off into technique-appreciation-zone – back to another Batman movie. In the second trailer Alfred directly references all the previous Batman movies including the recent Batman vs Superman – Dawn of Justice (2016), but The Lego Batman Movie seems to blow new life into an old character. Just like in the Lego Movie Lego’s Batman is quite full of himself and doesn’t want or need anybody else in his life. Or so he thinks. When he accidentally adopts an orphan (Robin) Batman is faced with the prospect of raising a child while saving the Gotham City from the Joker.
The Boss Baby
UK release: 7 April 2017
Director: Tom McGrath
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation
“A suit-wearing briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co.”
Originally set to be released in March 2016, The Boss Baby was pushed back by DreamWorks for another year, in favour of Kung Fu Panda 3. The film is loosely based on the 2010 picture book of the same name written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Director Tom McGrath recently directed Megamind (2010), Madagascar (2005) and all its sequels, but also previously worked as storyboard artist and director on The Ren and Stimpy Show, animated on Space Jam, and was storyboard artist and concept artist/prop & set designer for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Oh, and he also does occasional voice acting.
The Boss Baby tells the story of 7-year old Tim Templeton who is jealous of his newly arrived baby brother. Suspicious of the fact that his parents don’t notice that his baby brother wears a suit, carries a briefcase and talks, he investigates and eventually discovers that his baby brother is on a mission to restore order to the world. Together they must save their parents and stabilize the balance of love in the world, which is currently upset by the incredible love for puppies.
UK release: 26 May 2017
Director: David Soren
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation for 20th Century Fox
“Two mischievous kids hypnotize their mean high school principal and turn him into their comic book creation, the kind-hearted and elastic-banded Captain Underpants.”
Captain Underpants is Dreamworks’ 31st film adaption, and is based on the children’s novel series of the same name by Dav Pilkey. It was one of the films affected by the DreamWorks Animations reshuffle in early 2015, when it was decided to produce the film by Mikros Image instead of the studio itself, and with a significantly lower budget. Not long after the original director Rob Letterman left the project and David Soren, the director of Turbo, took over. Just like Boss Baby was originally taken over by Kung Fu Panda 3, the original release date of Captain Underpants was pushed back in favour of Boss Baby. But for once it actually is set to release in the UK before the US!
Despicable Me 3
UK release: 30 June 2017
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda, Eric Guillon
Production Company: Illumination Entertainment (released by Universal Studios)
Do you remember Despicable Me, that quite nice film from 2010, that brought you endless merchandise of yellow creatures, a sequel in 2013, a spin-off with just minions creatively called Minions (2015), a simulator ride attraction in Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood, and now the third instalment of the series? I guess it’s easy to forget.
I actually admit though, that I liked the original movie, and even the second one was quite good. And you know what, the third one doesn’t look rubbish either in my opinion. If nothing else, aside from during the Illumination title card and at the very end we don’t see many minions in the first trailer, so that’s a win. And we get more 80s references that will go straight over small children’s heads.
UK release: 14 July 2017
Director: Brian Fee
Production Company: Pixar (released by Walt Disney Pictures)
“Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician with her own plan to win, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet, and a few unexpected turns.”
So far the reaction to the only trailer released for Cars 3 has been utter shock. People call it dark and lament the happier times for cars, like in the previous 2 instalments. But really, aside from a crash and a more muted lighting, nothing gets really shown, so it’s a big presumption to make that Cars has suddenly turned from a beloved kids franchise with multi-billion merchandise profit to a dark adult take on life and death. Having said that, the film’s tagline “From this moment, everything will change.” might just promise a shock that will send kids from innocence straight to PTSD.
UK release: unannounced (US release: August 4 2017)
Director: Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier
Production Company: Huayi Brothers (released by Open Road Films)
“A samurai hopes to make his dreams come true ,but goes through trials to defeat enemies.”
Blazing Samurai has not yet announced a UK release date, and so far only one teaser poster to show. The voice cast is however impressive and includes Michael Cera as Hank, a dog who dreams of becoming a true samurai and to save his town, Samual L Jackson as Jimbo, a cat who was a great warrior and whose butt we see on the poster, and Ricky Gervais as Ika Chu, a cat who has a grand plan to get rid of the town’s inhabitants, the cast also includes comedy legend Mel Brooks. Though having an interesting voice cast definitely doesn’t promise a good film, I think it might be worth keeping an eye out for the first trailer which will hopefully release early 2017. The word is that the inclusion of Mel Brooks in a film with “blazing” in the title is more than a coincidence as the film is said to echo the 1974 classic Blazing Saddles.
The Emoji Movie
UK release: 13 October 2017
Director: Tony Leondis
Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation
“The Emoji Movie unlocks the never-before-seen secret world inside your smartphone. Hidden within the messaging app is Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live, hoping to be selected by the phone’s user. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene, an exuberant emoji who was born without a filter and is bursting with multiple expressions.”
The first reaction people seemed to have to the teaser trailer was “Is this actually a movie?”. Well, it seems to be. And according to Gene, the Emoji character ‘Meh’, it’s their first movie even! I mean if Sony gets past the current lawsuit by Marco Husges, a former video game executive who claims to possess the merchandise trademarks to the emoji icons. Husges says he himself has plans to make an Emoji film, and possibly has no intention of letting Sony get there first.
Meanwhile however the movie is set to be released in October 2017, and tells the story of Gene as he sets out on a journey to become a normal emoji. It would be difficult to imagine what the film and/or story will actually be like – but then again The Lego Movie, The Angry Birds movie and Trolls came from a similar vague background and were financially successful, so perhaps the Emoji Movie can do the same.
UK release: 8 December 2017
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Production Company: Pixar (released by Walt Disney Pictures)
“Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like the celebrated Ernesto de la Cruz . But when he strums his idol’s guitar, he sets off a mysterious chain of events.”
Coco is an original story by Lee Unkrich inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Early production met controversy as Disney tried to trademark the phrase “Dia de los Muertos”, drawing criticism from the Latino community. Mexican-American cartoonist Lalo Alcarez drew a satirical film poster depicting a skeletal gigantic Mickey Mouse with the tagline “It’s coming to trademark your culture.”. It seemed to have worked, and Disney changed the name of the film and withdrew its application, and even hired Alcaraz as consultant in 2015. If you can’t beat them…?
It will be the first Pixar film to have a POC as main character, namely a 12 year old boy named Miguel. Miguel harbours a secret love for music – a sour point for his music-hating family who still have not forgiven Miguel’s great-great-grandfather for abandoning his wife Imelda decades earlier to follow his dreams of performing. Miguel however seizes his own musical moment, and accidentally enters the Land of the Dead, a beautiful underworld inhabited by generations’ worth of long-dead including his own great-great-grandmother Imelda.
What animated feature films of 2017 are you most looking forward to? Sound off in the comments below!