2024 Features 2024 Features

(UPDATED FEBRUARY 7, 2024) We’re not ready to close the curtain on 2023 just yet, but it is time for us to look forward to 2024 and some of the biggest animated features that are coming our way.

This look at the 2024 slate of American studio films has the usual mix of franchises (Kung Fu Panda 4, Inside Out 2, Despicable Me 4, Moana 2) and established children’s IP (Garfield, Mufasa: The Lion King), but there’s also something else bubbling beneath the surface.

American studios are no longer targeting just kids and family audiences with their animation releases. For example, there’s the R-rated original Fixed from Sony Pictures Animation and Warner Bros.’s New Line Cinema, as well as a couple mature IP adaptations in the form of WB’s The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim and Netflix’s Ultraman: Rising.

And speaking of Netflix, the streamer has at least seven films on its release slate next year. More than other studios, Netflix understands that there is a much greater demand for animation than is currently being supplied by U.S. companies. Legacy studios continue to release just one or two animated features a year alongside dozens of mostly forgettable live-action films. They would be smart to adopt Netflix’s strategy and stop being so precious about their animated offerings.

As always, theatrical and streaming release dates are subject to change. In fact, much of next year’s slate isn’t dated yet. Further, the 2024 list is particularly unstable due to this year’s labor strife in Hollywood. Release dates continue to shift daily, and it is to be expected that some of these films will fall off the calendar while others are added in. We’re going to be track all these changes over the coming weeks and months, so bookmark this page for easy access.

And now, here’s an early look at the calendar of features currently set for release in the U.S. next year.


FEBRUARY

Orion and the Dark
Director: Sean Charmatz
Production Company: Dreamworks
U.S. Distributor: Netflix
Release Date: February 2

Unveiled at Annecy in June, Orion and the Dark is written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Netflix’s synopsis reads: “Orion seems a lot like your average elementary school kid – shy, unassuming, harboring a secret crush. But underneath his seemingly normal exterior, Orion is a ball of adolescent anxiety, completely consumed by irrational fears of bees, dogs, the ocean, cell phone waves, murderous gutter clowns, and even falling off of a cliff. But of all his fears, the thing he’s the most afraid of is what he confronts on a nightly basis: the dark. So when the literal embodiment of his worst fear pays a visit, Dark whisks Orion away on a roller coaster ride around the world to prove there is nothing to be afraid of in the night. As the unlikely pair grows closer, Orion must decide if he can learn to accept the unknown – to stop letting fear control his life and finally embrace the joy of living.” Plenty more details in our exclusive interview with the filmmakers.


The Tiger’s Apprentice
Director: Raman Hui
Production Company: Paramount Animation
US Distributor: Paramount+
Release Date: February 2

Previously slated for a theatrical release, Paramount recently shifted the film over to its streaming platform. An adaptation of Laurence Yep’s book, The Tiger’s Apprentice follows a Chinese-American boy who discovers that he is part of a long lineage of magical protectors known as the Guardians. Under the tutelage of a shape-shifting tiger named Mr. Hu, the boy must reunite the estranged Zodiac animal warriors to fight the evil forces threatening the world.


MARCH

Kung Fu Panda 4
Director: Mike Mitchell
Production Company: Dreamworks
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 8

Very little information has been shared about this sequel aside from a release date, which Dreamworks Animation announced in August of last year. This will be the first feature in the Kung Fu Panda franchise since 2016, when Dreamworks Animation concluded a planned trilogy, although several specials and series have been produced since then.


APRIL

Spy x Family Code: White
Director: Takashi Katagiri
Production Companies: Wit Studio, Cloverworks
U.S. Distributor: Crunchyroll, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release Date: April 19

Crunchyroll has proved that anime films mean big business at the U.S. box office, and expectations are high for the first feature entry in the hugely popular Spy x Family franchise. The film turns on a husband and wife, spy and assassin team. Together, they keep their double lives to themselves while pretending to be the perfect family. However, their adopted daughter Anya, a telepath, knows both of their true identities, unbeknownst to them. While under the guise of taking his family on a weekend winter getaway, Loid’s attempt to make progress on his current mission, Operation Strix, proves difficult when Anya mistakenly gets involved and triggers events that threaten world peace.


MAY

The Garfield Movie
Director: Mark Dindal
Production Company: Alcon Entertainment
U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: May 24

DNEG is animating this reboot of one of the most famous cartoon cats of all time. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but Oscar-nominated screenwriter David Reynolds (Finding Nemo) adapted the screenplay. Mark Dindal has proved a beloved comedy filmmaker, having helmed features such as The Emperor’s New Groove and Cat’s Don’t Dance.


JUNE

Inside Out 2
Director: Kelsey Mann
Production Company: Pixar
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: June 14

Originally announced at D23 2022, this is the sequel to the Oscar-winning 2015 box office behemoth Inside Out. This time, the film will unspool during protagonist Riley’s teenage years and feature a new set of personified emotions that haven’t yet been named.


JULY

Despicable Me 4
Directors: Chris Renaud, Patrick Delage
Production Company: Illumination
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: July 3

We don’t know much about Despicable Me 4 beyond its release date, but we do know that box office expectations will be sky-high after the tremendous successes of Minions: The Rise of Gru last year and The Super Mario Bros. Movie this year. This is surely one of the favorites to top next year’s animation box office list.

Despicable Me 3
Despicable Me 3
SEPTEMBER

Transformers One
Director: Josh Cooley
Production Company: Paramount Animation, Hasbro, eOne
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: September 13

Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley left Pixar to helm this cg-animated origin story of how a young Optimus Prime (Chris Hemsworth) and Megatron (Brian Tyree Henry) went from being brothers-in-arms to sworn enemies. Scripted by Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman. Voice cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Keegan-Michael Key, Jon Hamm, and Laurence Fishburne.

Optimus Prime and Megatron

The Wild Robot
Director: Chris Sanders
Production Company: Dreamworks
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: September 20

Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders has returned to Dreamworks to helm this feature adaptation of Peter Brown’s bestselling illustrated book of the same name. The official synopsis reads: “When Rozzum 7134 (‘Roz’ for short), a robot designed for a futuristic urban world, finds herself washed ashore on a deserted island, a tale of survival and discovery begins when she becomes the unexpected protector to an orphaned gosling, which she names Brightbill. Together, they struggle to survive the harsh environment but only succeed with the help of a close-knit group of misfit animals, who become first friends then family. Ultimately, Roz and company save the island from a robotic invasion by Roz’s manufacturer, looking to bring her back to civilization by any means necessary. In the process, she becomes something much more than she was programmed to be, a wild robot.

The Wild Robot
OCTOBER

Piece by Piece
Director: Morgan Neville
Production Company: Focus Features
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: October 11

Piece by Piece is billed a a Lego animated biopic about the life of 13-time Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee Pharrell Williams. The film is directed by Morgan Neville, the Oscar-winning director of the 2013 documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, and produced by Focus Features, Tremolo Productions, I Am Other, and the Lego Group.

Piece by Piece
NOVEMBER

Moana 2
Director: Dave Derrick Jr.
Production Company: Walt Disney Animation Studios
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: November 27

Originally developed as a Disney+ series, the project has been reformatted as a theatrical feature called Moana 2. The film is a follow-up to the John Musker and Ron Clements-directed 2016 film and promises “an expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers.” The film is being produced between Disney’s animation studios in Burbank and Vancouver.

Moana 2
DECEMBER

The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Production Company: Warner Bros. Animation, New Line Cinema, Sola Entertainment
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
Release Date: December 13

Warner Bros. is headed back to Middle Earth with this anime adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic work. Although the film is based in the LotR universe, it is a standalone prequel that proposes to tell “the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and blood-soaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures; the mighty King of Rohan – Helm Hammerhand.” Japanese studio Sola Entertainment is handling animation.


Mufasa: The Lion King
Director: Barry Jenkins
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: December 20

This prequel to Disney’s billion-dollar 2019 cg remake of The Lion King will focus on the formative years of Mufasa and include familiar characters such as Rafiki and Timon. MPC will return to provide the animation.

Mufasa: The Lion King
UNDATED, BUT SCHEDULED FOR 2024

Fixed
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation, New Line Cinema
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema

Genndy Tartakovsky’s adult animation feature wrapped production in September and was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association for “strong crude sexual content and language throughout, some drug use and violence.” The film tells the story of Bull, an average dog who discovers he will be neutered in the morning. As the gravity of this life-altering event sets in, Bull realizes he needs one last adventure with his pack of best friends, as these are the last 24 hours with his balls.

Fixed

In Your Dreams
Director: Alex Woo Co-director: Erik Benson
Production Company: Kuku Studios
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

We don’t know a lot about this film yet, apart from a synopsis which reads: “A perfect family? Siblings who get along? Yeah… in your dreams. This is a comedy adventure about Stevie and her brother Elliot, who magically travel into the world of dreams with the mission of finding the Sandman who will grant them their ultimate wish — saving their parents’ marriage. The kids are total opposites, making them an unlikely duo to navigate the absurdity of their own subconscious. Along their journey, they discover that as long as they have each other, they can face anything, even their worst nightmare.”

In Your Dreams

Robot Dreams
Director: Pablo Berger
Production Company: Arcadia Motion Pictures and Lokiz Films in co-production with Noodles Production and Les Films du Worso
U.S. Distributor: Neon

A lonely dog in Manhattan builds a companion robot, and their friendship blossoms until they are forced to separate. Effortlessly charming and likable, this $6 million hand-drawn production marks the animation directorial debut of Spanish auteur Pablo Berger (Blancanieves) and won the European Film Award for best animated feature of 2023, in addition to four Goya nominations and a win in Annecy’s Contrechamp section. The film’s visual style looks ‘young,’ but Robot Dreams is the rare all-ages film that may actually have more to offer adult viewers than children.


Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie
Director: Liza Johnson
Production Company: Nickelodeon Animation
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

When Bikini Bottom and all its residents are suddenly scooped out of the ocean, Sandy Cheeks and SpongeBob SquarePants journey to Texas to save the town from a villainous plot. This is the animation debut of celebrated indie film and prestige tv director Liza Johnson (The Last of Us, Return).

Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie

Spellbound
Director: Vicky Jenson
Production Company: Skydance Animation
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

From Shrek and Shark Tale director Vicky Jenson, Spellbound is a musical featuring a score by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast). The film tells the story of Princess Ellian, a teenager with magical powers she must use to defend her family when the opposing forces of light and darkness threaten to divide their kingdom. Spellbound also features a who’s who of former Disney talent in the writing room, including Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast) and live-action Mulan scribes Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin.

Spellbound.

That Christmas
Director: Simon Otto
Production Company: Locksmith Animation
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

Based on the successful series of children’s books by BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominee Richard Curtis (Love Actually), That Christmas follows a series of entwined tales about love and loneliness, family and friends, and Santa Claus making a big mistake.

That Christmas

Thelma the Unicorn
Director: Jared Hess, Lynn Wang
Production Company: Netflix Animation, Mikros Animation
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

Based on a two-part book series by Aaron Blabey (The Bad Guys), Thelma turns on a small-time pony who dreams of becoming a glamorous music star. In a pink and glitter–filled moment of fate, Thelma is transformed into a unicorn and instantly rises to global stardom. But this new life of fame comes at a cost. Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre fame, is one of the directors.

Thelma the Last Unicorn

The Day the Earth Blew Up: A Looney Tunes Movie
Director: Pete Browngardt
Production Company: Warner Bros. Animation
US Distributor: N/A

Warner Bros. Animation is producing this Looney Tunes feature. In the film, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck are Earth’s only hope against the threat of alien invasion. Sam Register, president, Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, told Variety: “Our artists have created an incredible Looney Tunes film that follows in the cinematic tradition of when audiences first fell in love with these characters.”

The Day the Earth Blew Up

The Imaginary
Director: Yoshiyuki Momose
Production Company: Studio Ponoc
US Distributor: Netflix

Studio Ponoc, the studio launched by former Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, has made Netflix the exclusive streaming home for its upcoming features. First out of the gate is The Imaginary, about a young girl and her imaginary friend, whose fantastical adventures are threatened by a sinister force that threatens to destroy their imaginary world and the friendship within it. The hand-drawn film is an adaptation of A.F. Harrold’s children’s novel of the same name.


Ultraman: Rising
Director: Shannon Tindle Co-director: John Aoshima
Production Company: Netflix Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, Tsuburaya Productions
U.S. Distributor: Netflix

Based on the much-loved Japanese property, Netflix’s Ultraman follows baseball superstar Ken Sato as he returns to his home country of Japan to fill the role of Earth’s greatest superhero, Ultraman. Shortly after his arrival, things become complicated when he is forced to raise the offspring of his greatest foe. Ken will learn important lessons about parenthood, reconcile an estranged relationship with his own father, and helm the Kaiju Defense Force while discovering what it truly means to be Ultraman.

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