2023 Animated Features 2023 Animated Features

Around this time each year, we publish a preview of the major animated features due to come out in the U.S. the following year.

The lists are never definitive and are subject to regular changes and additions. In fact, several of the distributors on the list below told us they have other films planned for 2023 but aren’t ready to announce them just yet. Several of the films on this year’s list appeared on last year’s but were later delayed for a variety of reasons.

Before the pandemic, Cartoon Brew only included theatrical features on our annual list but that no longer seems prudent, even though U.S. theaters are now mostly back to “normal.” That being said, we haven’t included every straight-to-streaming feature on the list either, but instead opted to highlight some of the biggest.

Considering the upheaval happening at many of the U.S.’s largest animation companies, there is a bit of guesswork that goes into creating a list like this. At this time last year, who’d have thought that Warner Bros., so much in favor of a straight-to-streaming release model under previous leadership, would pull a complete 180-degree turn under new boss David Zaslav and cancel nearly every production that isn’t seen as theatrical-worthy?

And what might Disney’s distribution plans look like now that streaming-fan CEO Bob Chapek is out and former boss Bob Iger is back in? Netflix hosted limited releases for several of its big animation feature titles in 2022, but who knows if its future releases will received wider theatrical debuts in the next year.

The Amazing Maurice

Director: Toby Genkel Co-director: Florian Westermann

Production Companies: Sky Cinema, Cantilever Media, Ulysses Filmproduktion, Studio Rakete, Red Star 3D

U.S.: Distributor: Viva Kids

Release Date: February 3, 2023

Aladdin and Shrek writer Terry Rossio adapts Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents in this cg feature, animated by Studio Rakete in Hamburg, Germany, and Red Star Animation in Sheffield, U.K. The book is a unique children’s entry in the comic-fantasy Discworld book series and follows Maurice, a streetwise ginger cat who comes up with a money-making scam by befriending a group of self-taught talking rats.


Baby Shark’s Big Movie!

Director: Alan Foreman

Production Companies: Nickelodeon Animation, The Pinkfong Company

U.S.: Distributor: Paramount

Release Date: Holiday 2023

From viral earworm to Emmy-nominated tv series to feature film, Baby Shark will make its big screen debut next year in this film that follows the character and his family as they move to Chomp City, the big city of sharks.


Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

Director: Sam Fell

Production Company: Aardman Animations

U.S.: Distributor: Netflix

Release Date: 2023

A sequel to 2000’s Chicken Run, this stop-motion film features a flock of chickens trying to break into an impenetrable fortress. Ginger and Rocky, stars of the original, are now joined by a daughter, Molly. Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi replace original voice actors Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson, but not without a bit of controversy.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Elemental

Director: Peter Sohn

Production Company: Pixar

U.S.: Distributor: Walt Disney Studios

Release Date: June 16, 2023

Pixar’s 27th film, Elemental is set in Element City, where fire, water, land, and air residents live together. The story introduces Ember, a tough, quick-witted, and fiery young woman, whose friendship with a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade challenges her beliefs about the world they live in. The film’s narrative is influenced by Sohn’s Bronx upbringing as a child of two immigrants.


Ernest & Celestine 2: A Trip to Gibberitia

Directors: Julien Chheng, Jean-Christophe Roger

Production Companies: Folivari, France 3 Cinéma, Les Armateurs

U.S.: Distributor: N/A

Release Date: 2023 (December 14, 2022, in France)

Ten years after Ernest & Celestine hit the big screen, eventually scoring an Oscar nod, its titular duo is traveling back to Ernest’s country, Gibberitia, to fix his broken violin. This exotic land is home to the best musicians on earth and music constantly fills the air with joy. However, upon arriving, the heroes discover that all forms of music have been banned there for many years. Unwilling to imagine life without the art form, the two are joined by their friends and a mysterious masked outlaw to bring music and happiness to the land of bears.


Fixed

Director: Genndy Tartakovsky

Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks

U.S.: Distributor: New Line Cinema

Release Date: 2023

Fixed is Sony Pictures Animation’s first R-rated comedy. It’s billed as the story of an average, all-around good dog who is in love with the show dog next door, and what happens when he learns that he is going to get neutered in the morning. What does a dog do with his last night out with his besties?


Ladybug and Cat Noir: The Movie

Director: Jeremy Zag

Production Companies: Zag Inc., Method Animation, Toei Animation, On Animation Studios

U.S.: Distributor: N/A

Release Date: 2023

Ladybug & Cat Noir: The Movie is an upcoming animated musical film based on the global smash hit series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. Continuing the show’s narrative, this feature finds Ladybug and Cat Noir surrounded by new allies and fighting an ever more powerful and determined opponent. But great changes lie ahead for Ladybug and Cat Noir in their superhero lives, and for Marinette and Adrien in their lives at school.


Little Nicholas – Happy as Can Be

Directors: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre

Production Companies: On Entertainment, Foliascope, Bidibul Productions, Kaibou Production

U.S.: Distributor: Buffalo 8

Release Date: limited release on December 16, 2022; wider release in 2023

This year’s top prize winner at Annecy and Animation is Film, Little Nicholas is adapted from a popular children’s book series created by René Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The film was animated using a “Chinese ink-wash animation” style, inspired by the look and texture of Sempe’s original artwork.


The Magician’s Elephant

Director: Wendy Rogers

Production Company: Animal Logic (Netflix)

U.S.: Distributor: Netflix

Release Date: 2023

Based on the eponymous 2009 novel by Kate DiCamillo, this is the debut directorial feature of Dreamworks vfx vet Wendy Rogers (Shrek, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron). When Peter, who is searching for his long-lost sister named Adel, crosses paths with a fortune teller in the market square, there is only one question on his mind: is his sister still alive? The answer, that he must find a mysterious elephant and the magician who will conjure it, sets Peter off on a harrowing journey to complete three seemingly impossible tasks that will change the face of his town forever.

"The Magician's Elephant"
Migration

Director: Benjamin Renner

Production Company: Illumination

U.S.: Distributor: Universal Pictures

Release Date: December 22, 2023

Migration is a modern-day comedy that follows a family of ducks who convince their overprotective father to go on the trip of a lifetime as they head south for the winter from New England, through New York City, and down to the Bahamas. Mike White (School of Rock, The White Lotus) wrote the film’s screenplay and Illumination boss Chris Meledandri is producing.


The Monkey King

Director: Anthony Stacchi

Production Company: Reel FX

U.S.: Distributor: Netflix

Release Date: 2023

Once a project at Oriental Dreamworks, before that company became the fully Chinese-owned Pearl Studio, The Monkey King has seen a fair bit of behind-the-scenes drama during its long production period. Its official Netflix logline reads: “After the Dragon King steals his staff, the Monkey King sets off on a mission to get it back. But his greatest enemy proves to be his own pride.” Oscar nominee Peilin Chou (Over the Moon) is producing and legendary actor-writer-producer Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer) executive produces.


New Gods: Yang Jian

Directors: Ji Zhao

Production Company: Light Chaser Animation

U.S.: Distributor: GKIDS

Release Date: January 20, 2023

This is the second installment of Light Chaser’s New Gods series of animated action-fantasy epics inspired by Chinese mythological figures, following the 2021 feature New Gods: Nezha Reborn. Released in China on August 19 of this year, Yang Jian was the top film at the mainland China box office during its opening weekend, earning $19.8 million, on its way to over $77 million gross.


Nimona

Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane

Production Companies: Annapurna, DNEG Animation, Netflix

U.S.: Distributor: Netflix

Release Date: 2023

Originally set up at Blue Sky Studios before that company was shut down by Disney, Nimona is adapted from ND Stevenson’s popular graphic novel and tells the story of a knight framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and the only person who can help him prove his innocence is Nimona, a shape-shifting teen who might also be a monster he’s sworn to kill. Set in a techno-medieval world, it’s a story about the labels we assign to people and the shapeshifter who refuses to be defined by anyone. The feature, animated by DNEG, is being produced out of the recently-launched animation division at Annapurna.

Nimona
PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie

Director: Cal Brunker

Production Companies: Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Nickelodeon Movies, Paramount Animation, Mikros Animation

U.S.: Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Release Date: October 13, 2023

PAW Patrol: The Movie writers Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker return for this animated sequel to the 2021 film that grossed $144.3 at the global box office, despite releasing during the pandemic. In this film, a magical meteor crash lands in Adventure City and gives the PAW Patrol pups superpowers, transforming them into The Mighty Pups.

PAW Patrol The Mighty Movie
Spellbound

Director: Vicky Jenson

Production Company: Skydance Animation

U.S.: Distributor: Apple

Release Date: 2023

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 follows Princess Ellian, voiced by Rachel Zegler, and her parents, the King and Queen (Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman), as the teenager comes of age using her magical powers to defend her family when the opposing forces of light and darkness threaten to divide her 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.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson

Production Company: Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Arad Productions, Lord Miller, Pascal Pictures

U.S.: Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing

Release Date: June 2, 2023

The follow-up to 2019’s best animated feature Oscar winner, Across the Spider-Verse sees Miles Morales return for an adventure that will transport Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team of Spider-People to face off with The Spot, a villain more powerful than anything they have ever encountered. Cartoon Brew got the skinny about the upcoming sequel from the film’s three directors at Annecy this year.


The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Directors: Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic

Production Company: Illumination, Illumination Mac Guff

U.S.: Distributor: Universal Pictures

Release Date: April 7, 2023

Written by Matthew Fogel, co-writer of Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, this big-screen adaptation is produced by Chris Meledandri and Shigeru Miyamoto. Originally scheduled to release in December of this year, the film was pushed back to spring 2023. No real synopsis has been shared yet, but from the looks of the trailer a ton of Mario’s video game pals will join him for a frantic and colorful adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom.


Suzume

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Production Company: Comix Wave Films

U.S.: Distributor: Crunchyroll

Release Date: April 12, 2023

The latest feature from Your Name and Weathering With You director Makoto Shinkai, Suzume released in Japan in November and topped the domestic box office for four straight weeks. The film follows a teenage girl on a desperate quest to close Doors of Disaster located all around Japan. Suzume is accompanied on her journey by a boy who has been magically transformed into a chair.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Director: Jeff Rowe Co-director: Kyler Spears

Production Companies: Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Mikros Animation, Cinesite Vancouver, Image Comics, Nickelodeon Movies, Paramount Pictures, Point Grey Pictures

U.S.: Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Release Date: August 4, 2023

Featuring animation done by Mikros Animation and Cinesite Vancouver, the latest TMNT movie is being produced by Point Grey Pictures’ Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Little is known about the film’s plot, but according to Mikros Animation head of production Adrianna Cohen, it will stay true to the 1990s nostalgia that the franchise holds. It’s worth noting that this is not part of the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated universe.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Trolls 3

Director: N/A

Production Company: Dreamworks

U.S.: Distributor: Universal Pictures

Release Date: November 17, 2023

Trolls will be the fifth Dreamworks franchise to get the threequel treatment after Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. Details are scant, but the third film in the series always seemed inevitable after the first movie earned $350 million at the global box office and its sequel grossed more than $100 million on PVOD during the pandemic when theaters were shut down.


Under the Boardwalk

Director: David Soren

Production Companies: Paramount Animation, DNEG

U.S.: Distributor: Paramount

Release Date: 2023

David Soren (Turbo, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie) directs this animated musical comedy about hermit crabs who live under the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. The film tells the tale of two lovestruck crabs from different backgrounds – land crab townie Armen and sea crab tourist Ramona – and the tensions that rise between their friends and families. The plot gets complicated after Armen and Ramona are swept out to sea during a storm. Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) is writing the script. David Dobkin (The Judge, Fred Claus) produces.


Unicorn Wars

Director: Alberto Vázquez

Production Companies: Abano Producións, Uniko, Autour de Minuit, Shmuby Productions

U.S.: Distributor: GKIDS

Release Date: Spring 2023

This pastel-colored anti-war allegory follows a group of religious zealot teddy bears in their hyper-violent war against environmentalist unicorns that only fight in self defense. We spoke with Birdboy and Homeless Home director Vázquez about his latest feature when it screened at Annecy in June of this year.


Wildwood

Director: Travis Knight

Production Company: Laika

U.S.: Distributor: N/A

Release Date: 2023

Wildwood will be the sixth stop-motion feature from Travis Knight’s Laika and is set in the studio’s hometown area of Portland, Oregon. Its synopsis reads: “Beyond Portland’s city limits lies Wildwood. You’re not supposed to go there. You’re not even supposed to know it exists. But Prue McKeel is about to enter this enchanted wonderland. Her baby brother Mac has been taken by a murder of crows into the forest’s depths, and she — along with her hapless classmate Curtis — is going to get him back. Prue might think she’s too old for fairy tales, but she’s just found herself at the center of one…filled with strange talking animals, roguish bandits, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions.”

Wildwood
Wish

Directors: Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn

Production Company: Walt Disney Animation Studios

U.S.: Distributor: Walt Disney Studios

Release Date: November 22, 2023

Set in a land where wishes can and do come true, the cg-animated is an homage to Disney’s first 100 years and the company’s “wish upon a star” motif, made famous in the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for the 1940 Pinocchio feature. Julia Michaels is writing the musical film’s original songs, Disney animation chief Jennifer Lee is among the writers, and Peter Del Vecho produces with Juan Pablo Reyes.

Wish

Pictured at top: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Wish


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