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.

LIST OF 2011 FEATURES BY RELEASE DATE

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


Rango
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


Paul

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


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


Rio
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


Smurfs

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


Chipwrecked
(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


Tintin

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


Turkeys
(Still not from the film)

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

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