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PREVIEW: 2011 U.S. Animated Features

2011 promises to deliver a brand new slate of American animated features. But how new is it? Our list of sixteen features below reveals an awful lot of familiar faces with continuing adventures for Kung Fu Panda, Shrek’s Puss In Boots, Cars‘ Lightning McQueen, and the casts of Alvin and the Chipmunks and Happy Feet. The Smurfs franchise is dusted off, Winnie the Pooh reappears, and Tintin gets a make-over in mo-cap.

Such reliance on sequels, revivals, spin-offs and specific techniques (all but one film is computer animated) show a greater dependence by producers on traditional major-studio business models. Even Pixar, which once was recognized for its originality, will rely on a sequel (Cars 2) for the second straight year. Expect studios to play it cautious and unoriginal as long as their formulas perform reliably. Animated features may not exactly qualify as an innovative art form in the United States, but they are reliable cash cows for movie studios. This year, six of the top fifteen films at the US box office were animated, which is remarkable considering the tiny percentage of animated features compared to the overall film market.

In 2011, the emigration of live-action directors to animation continues en masse with first timers Gore Verbinski and Steven Spielberg. George Miller and Robert Zemeckis also continue to produce animation. Other notable events to watch: ILM debuts its first CG feature; Illumination (the production company behind Despicable Me) tries for a second box office hit; Aardman restarts its feature ambitions with a new creative/distribution partner.

This is by no means a complete list of animated features slated for release in 2011. Our list focuses on films made by American studios. There will be, of course, dozens of foreign and independent productions, many of which we predict will be more daring in content, style and technique. No one knows how all of this will play out, but two things are for certain: Robert Zemeckis’s films will continue to horrify viewers, and throughout the year Cartoon Brew readers will make their opinions known loud and clear.


Gnomeo and Juliet
Release Date: February 11, 2011
Director: Kelly Asbury
Production Company: Starz Animation
Label: Touchstone Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Release Date: March 4, 2011
Director: Gore Verbinski
Label: Nickelodeon Movies
Production Company: Industrial Light & Magic
Distributor: Paramount
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Mars Needs Moms
Release Date: March 11, 2011
Director: Simon Wells
Production Company: Image Movers Digital
Distributor: Walt Disney
Technique: CGI (Mo-cap)
Film Website


Release Date: March 18, 2011
Director: Greg Mottola
Production Company: Working Title Films
Distributor: Universal
Technique: CGI/Live-Action
Film Website

Release Date: April 1, 2011
Director: Tim Hill
Production Company: Illumination
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Technique: CGI/Live-Action
Film Website

Release Date: April 8, 2011 (pushed back to April 15, 2011)
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Production Company: Blue Sky
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Hoodwinked Too

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
Release Date: April 29, 2011
Director: Mike Disa
Production Company: Kanbar Entertainment
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom
Release Date: May 27, 2011
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Cars 2
Release Date: June 24, 2011
Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Production Company: Pixar
Distributor: Walt Disney
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Winnie the Pooh
Release Date:July 15, 2011
Directors: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall
Production Company: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney
Technique: Hand-drawn
Film Website


The Smurfs
Release Date: August 5, 2011
Director: Raja Gosnell
Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Technique: CGI/Live-Action
Film Website

Puss in Boots
Release Date: November 4, 2011
Director: Chris Miller
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Technique: CGI
Film Website

Happy Feet 2
(Still not from the film)

Happy Feet 2
Release Date: November 18, 2011
Director: George Miller
Production Company: Animal Logic
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Technique: CGI (Mo-cap)

Arthur Christmas
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Directors: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook
Production Company: Aardman Animations for Sony Pictures Animation
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Technique: CGI
Film Website

(Concept art via regis28brittany’s DeviantArt)

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked
Release Date: December 16, 2011
Directors: n/a
Production Company: n/a
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Technique: CGI/Live-Action
Film Website


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
December 23, 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Production Company: WingNut Films
Label: Amblin Entertainment
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Technique: CGI (Mo-cap)

Bunyan and Babe

Bunyan and Babe
2011 (no release date set yet)
Directors: Tony Bancroft, Jim Rygeil
Production Company: Exodus Film Group
Distributor: MGM
Technique: CGI/Live-Action
Film website

(Still not from the film)

2011 (no release date set yet)
Directors: Ash Brannon
Production Company: Bedrock Studios/Reel FX (animation)
Distributor: Unknown
Technique: CGI

  • 1 2D(unless Bunyan & Babe is also 2D) and 14 cgi. Hopefully, some Independents will shine before the year’s done.

  • Blasko

    Agreed — looks like too much CGI and too many sequels. Takes the “new” right out of Happy New Year. Like Michael, I’ll look forward to independent releases and releases outside the U.S.

  • Justin

    The new Winnie the Pooh movie looks more exciting than everything else. Cars 2 and Happy Feet 2 is exciting too. Puss N’ Boots and the Smurfs look interesting.

    Another Alvin movie? Why? Are like popular or something? Now kids are never going to experience what Alvin and the Chipmunks are truly like because of this crap. Well, if they’re going to continue this, Paramount should release more Alvin Shows from the 1960s because, thanks to this crap, kids know who Alvin is and those Alvin Shows will sell well. The same thing with the old Winnie the Pooh shorts; because of the new movie (which unlike Alvin, will recapture how we enjoyed it)those will make great tie ins. Let me end this with Jerry Beck’s Pink Panther theory: There was a new Pink Panther Show, and the big thing was that he is going to talk. If you love the panther, you don’t want him to talk, and if you don’t know who he is, you don’t care if he talks.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      We can only hope someone at Paramount (or whoever could make that decision about the 1961 magnum opus) would get a clue.

    • Juria

      I will agree with you on the Pink Panther, he should NEVER, EVER talk. Pooh, on the other hand, is a classic that, unless your parents happen to be total morons, you know who Pooh is.

      My big gripe is this, people having an expected idea of how Alvin and The Chipmunks should be. The Chipmunks are an ever-changing part of our culture. They changed from the hand puppets in the 50’s to a cartoon in the 60’s, and the cartoon style changed again in the 80’s and 90’s, and now they’ve gone through yet another change, almost a modernized version of their classic selves. Sure, the humor may be a tad off, but the personality is still there, it’s still Alvin and The Chipmunks, and it will be for quite a while.

      I see no point in calling it crap, as all that does is it makes people want to see it more. The more one person hates something, the more others want to find out why. Overall, they’re a success story that has consantly changed with the era they’re in.

  • Justin

    Excuse me, I meant are THEY like popular, not are like popular

  • paburrows

    Yeah I have to say that the best thing about Michael Bay’s Garbageformers was that they released new DVDs of the original cartoon series. Lets hope that they do the same with the Chipmunks.

  • GAWD!!!!! The Smurfs look fokken scary!!!!! These EYES!!! !>.<
    And again; Why always CGI?

    Winnie the Pooh looks great!:)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I’m puzzled as to why those eyes have to be blue (I think greater irony is if they were hazel).

    • Maxie

      On some of the pictures I’ve seen of the Smurfs movie, the eyes aren’t as shiny, which is better, I guess. And it’s always CGI because it’s easier to do than 2D, believe it or not.

  • All this time, I thought HOP was a live action/cgi hybrid! So its 100 percent cgi? interesting…..

    • Chris,

      HOP is indeed a live action/CG hybrid. We say so in the post above. The Chipmunks sequel and The Smurfs movie are also live action/CG hybrid movies.

      • The Brewmasters

        Sorry, Chris, we corrected that.

      • oh ok thanks!

  • theycallmeshine

    Only one hand-drawn film… *sigh*

  • Clint

    I’ll definately see the Pooh movie, Cars 2, Rango, and maybe Rio in theaters. The others I’ll probably just wait to rent.

  • The number of remakes and sequels is embarrassing. The only ones among them that sound interesting are Cars 2 and Winnie the Pooh.

    • Agreed, though I might see Rango, and I actually hold out some hope for the Smurfs (hey, surely the original Peyo comics give this franchise a richer mythos to mine for feature films then, say, Yogi Bear or Alvin & the Chipmunks?).

  • Iritscen

    I notice three women’s names among the films’ directors. Hasn’t it historically been extremely rare for a woman to direct an animated feature film, or have I read some misleading information on the subject?

    • The Chipmunks’ “Squeakquel” is the highest grossing film directed by a woman.

  • Sat

    At least there’s Ghibli studios. Can we get a similar list for foreign features to come? Or independent? Or is it too hard to tell?

  • Looking forward to Rio and Winnie. Though mostly just Rio.

  • the Gee

    Well, I hope there are pleasant surprises amongst some of those films.

    Aside from those though, what about the other films that are in production? Like, Sat asked, I am thinking independent studios that might be working on features? Surely, there are other films beyond “Rio” that non-American studios are producing, too.

    Provided it is okay and if it is possible maybe people who know of any other productions that are slated for release in 2011 or Sometime Soon, could put links to them in this thread. Or, put the names of the films.

    One films I’ve been curious about for years is July Films’ ( “My Little World”

    It’s been years since they first announced it and started showing it but…hey…if there should be reasons to be optimistic about variety and traditional hand drawn features, it is productions like that. Maybe Mike Nguyen, someone working on it or in the know could chime in on the status and the plans (even if they are 50% aspirational plans and 50% concrete ones.)

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Looking forward to KFP 2. I still hope there’ll be a Bolt 2
    sometime in the future.

    Any chance for a list of foreign features? I’m really interested in Ghibli’s The Borrowers.

  • Charles

    All those movies look stupid. I can’t wait for feature animation to grow up.

    • Feature anmation has grown up. See THE ILLUSIONIST when it opens on christmas Day. Hollywood feature animation is still for the children – the 18 year old children.

    • Deaniac

      Making snide one-word remarks, prejuding movies before they come out, and contributing nothing to this post is stupid, too.

      On a broader scale, nothing for 2011 is set in stone…yet. Before you all declare this “Year of The Sequels and Rehashes”, keep in mind that more, assumingly ORIGINAL animated films could be announced as the year progresses.

      • Charles

        I didn’t say they are or will be stupid. just that to me they all look it. Doesn’t it bother anyone else that most animated features in the US are basically shooting for the same demographic? What other kind of art form is so heavily one sided like that? They act like the only kind of animated movie worth making is a fish out of water comedy adventure with a happy ending that the whole family can enjoy. Not that that’s a recipe for a bad movie. All I’m asking is for some variety and something more engaging than what you see is what you get story telling.

      • the Gee

        Return on Investment.
        I hate to bring up the business end of it but the costs are better covered if there is merchandising which that demographic wants.

        The demographic you want the entertainment made for may not pay out beyond DVDs and Art of… books. And for the books, that is only part of the audience which is going to buy those.

        Compare those possibilities with toys, special tie-ins with candy and snacks and Happy Meals.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for more diversity, too. That diversity does and certainly has occurred in animation. It just doesn’t always break even in the box office or in home video sales. You could say those are bad films and that explains why they don’t do well but you would need to admit that isn’t always the case. Even the worst hybrid flick can do well enough to eventually break even for a studio, somehow, even if there is accounting techniques to use profits from other films to cover loses.

        But, I am stating something you probably already know.

        The audiences need to be primed for the very different animated fare, like “The Illusionist”, for example. Once the audience flocks to those types of movies like they will to “Shrek” movies then it is a different ballgame, a better one.

      • Chappell

        I understand that that most animated feature films are a result of a desire to make a big return on an investment, but that in no way means the script has to be so insufferable. If studios want to make Kung Fu Panda 2 or Shrek 14, I really don’t see the problem in that. But for heaven’s sake, where is the storytelling? I refuse to believe that a poor story is the result of penny pinching. I refuse to believe that Pixar is the only studio that can send a solid story to the box office.

        But until then, you better believe I’m relieved when my niece wants to watch Ratatouille instead of Madagascar 2.

  • WakaWaka

    That doesn’t look like the best Year for “Big” Animated Films. Can’t wait for Rango and Tintin though. I think (and hope) they’re going to be great. Arthur Christmas is interesting too.

  • Ethan

    Hmmmm… isn’t Happy Feet 2 produced at Dr.D studios ?

  • Pieter

    Only looking forward to Tintin and Winnie…

  • kringle

    LOL I love the results you get when there’s currently no official screenshots or promo stills from any given movie! :D A sandy foot WORKS for Happy Feet 2!

    Never heard of this Bunyan and Babe movie. Looks interesting.

  • Abby

    Looking forward to Rango and not much else. This makes me sad.

  • Tee

    Maybe Rango, but everything else looks like depressing crap. It’s mostly motion capture and sequels. It makes me wonder what I’ve been devoting myself to all these years. Is this what animation has evolved into? It’s so sad.

  • love goes where my rosemary grows

  • joe micallef

    Rango looks amazing. I’m really looking forward to it.

  • The Gee

    Is the “Turkeys” film a put on?

    • Eric Drobile

      No, but that image certainly is.

  • Inkan1969

    Don’t forget “Yu-Gi-Oh 3D: Bonds Beyond Time”.

  • James E. Parten

    If that is the lot, then there are some that will be successful both at the box office, and as films. I’d count the sequels to “Cars” and “Kung Fu Panda” among them.

    Some strike me as more iffy. The thought of a “Smurfs” feature of any kind will turn off as many as are attracted to it. Also, one wonders if today’s kids would know whata Smurf is!

    Some, like “Arthur’s Christmas” seem to be strictly from hunger. Like, anybody remembers?

    The one I’d count as a guaranteed failure is “Tintin”. I don’t know why Spielberg is pouring good money into a property that American audiences have never accepted, and probably never will! “Tintin” was not a hit in its late 1950’s animated form, nor in its early 1990’s form that was thrown away on HBO, where most folks could not see it. And the black-and-white live-action film proved to be a makeweight in a package of tired out turkeys that TV stations could buy in the 1970’s. (One out here did, and I do remember it running once or twice. I watched, once.)

  • chipper

    Mars Needs Moms is creeping me out. On the plus side there’s a cute lizard above it and a cute bunny below it.

  • Alissa

    Welp, there’s only three or so movies here that look like they’re worth the ticket price. If that.

    Definitely seeing Rango, and my sister will throw a fit if we don’t see KFP2, but the others look like Redbox rentals at most.

    Can’t wait for Studio Ghibli goodness though!

  • That Chick

    Atleast next year will be a good year for those who like animation with talking animals! :3

    I look forward to Rango, Rio, and Kung Fu Panda2.

  • Kyle

    Well, there’s still a decent number of movies on this list that I’m looking forward to seeing. Sequel or not.

  • Out of these films, only Rango looks really good. Maybe Kung Fu Panda 2 will impress; didn’t like the first one as much as everyone else did, but Charlie Kauffman AND Guillermo Del Toro both onboard? Call me interested. Cars 2 will be B-level Pixar at best, and Smurfs is only interesting for Neil Patrick Harris and the trainwreck factor.

    Now, looking at confirmed and potential foreign releases, things get more interesting. Redline and EVA 2.0 are confirmed for American release. If pattern holds, Disney should be releasing The Borrower Arrietty sometime next summer, and then there’s The Dream Machine, the final film by Satoshi Kon. Don’t know when it’s being released either in Japan or America, but if it’s good I could see Kon joining Heath Ledger in the realm of posthumous Oscar winners.

    • Hal

      Had no idea about Kung Fu Panda 2 – you just got my interest piqued. At least I have DREAM MACHINE to look forward to…

  • irin

    I have doubts about Winnie the Pooh because it’s Disney who makes it – after so long loving that company it begins to produce crap and I’ve lost a lot of interest in it. I really hope that they don’t screw WTP coz it’s one of the best classics EVER made.

    Oh yes The Borrower! I’m glad that Hayao Miyazaki is using his talents in another anime. Independent and foreign releases will be so much better, and also friggin less childish because I think most animated movies are aimed for kids and that is not the point. Animated movies should also be daring like Terkel i Knibe.

    Mars Needs Moms look the worst in my opinion. I can’t even believe that Spielberg is directing an animated movie. Tintin will most likely be too much action and too little story.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I’m also looking forward to Rio and Rango as well as KFP2. On the subject of Spielberg directing an animated
    movie,I wonder if Don Bluth will ever make another feature.

  • aadee

    Thanks for sharing the list! A similar list of European features would be interesting too see as well!! There are some very exciting stuff coming up too.

  • Darkblader

    Only 1 2D animated film out, and the rest are nothing but CG animation. I’m going to see the pooh movie since that looks good and only looks good on the list I see. On a similar note though, found an interesting video of someone talking about hand-drawn animation being called a lost form of art. Even mentions films that people are trying to be made. Like Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair, Bakshi’s Coney Island, Antonucci’s untitled Horror animated film, and Genndy’s Samurai Jack film.

  • Wow! Can’t they leave the Shrek franquise to rest just a year..? Really, for me the only really outstanding shrek movie was Shrek2, and yet I’ve watched them all.

    P.D. those smurfs do look ugly.

  • Why is “Mars Needs Moms” included on this? Btw, you forgot to include Hoodwinked 2