It’s a good time to be Netflix. While other studios contend with the nightmare of shut theaters, the world’s most popular streaming service continues to announce films like they’re bingo numbers. Its 2021 slate includes 70-plus titles, eight of which are animated.
Several of these, like the cg comedy feature Back to the Outback, were already announced for this year. There’s only one new acquisition here, but it’s a big one: Wish Dragon, a U.S.-China co-production from Sony Pictures Animation. The first product of the studio’s new international initiative, the film was developed and animated at China’s Base Animation; Jackie Chan is among the producers.
Features based on the Nickelodeon series The Loud House and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were already announced, and are now confirmed to be coming this year. Nickelodeon announced a multi-year output deal with Netflix in late 2019 — part of its transition to a “studio model” that will see it increasingly create content for third parties.
Netflix is also strengthening its ties with the U.K.’s Aardman Animations, which is producing two half-hour specials for the streamer. One of them, Robin Robin,was initially slated for the 2020 holidays, and was probably delayed because the pandemic disrupted the stop-motion shoot.
In October, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos revealed that the company is aiming to start releasing six original animated features a year. It isn’t quite there yet — the list below contains five, and in any case Sarandos was not referring to acquisitions or films produced by third parties.
The 2021 slate is also short on the sorts of tentpole releases from high-profile talent that Netflix promises in future years. Films like Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Aardman’s sequel to Chicken Run, Henry Selick’s Wendell & Wild, and Nora Twomey’s My Father’s Dragon are all due for 2022 or later.
In the meantime, here’s what subscribers will be getting in the next 12 months…
A Winter’s Tale From Shaun The Sheep
Director: Steve Cox Format: Half-hour special
Synopsis: In this 30-minute special from Aardman, the world’s favourite sheep stars in his very own winter’s tale. Shaun’s seasonal excitement turns to dismay when a farmhouse raid to get bigger stockings for the Flock inadvertently leads to Timmy going missing. Can Shaun get Timmy back before he becomes someone else’s present? Prepare for a “Santastic” adventure as everyone learns the true value of Christmas.
Back to the Outback
Directors: Clare Knight, Harry Cripps Format: Feature
Synopsis: Tired of being locked in a reptile house where humans gawk at them like they’re monsters, a ragtag group of Australia’s deadliest creatures plot a daring escape from their zoo to the Outback, a place where they’ll fit in without being judged for their scales and fangs. Leading the group is Maddie, a poisonous snake with a heart of gold, who bands together with self-assured thorny devil lizard Zoe, lovelorn hairy spider Frank, and sensitive scorpion Nigel.
But when their nemesis — Pretty Boy, a cute but obnoxious koala — unexpectedly joins their escape, Maddie and the gang have no choice but to take him with them. So begins a hair-raising and hilarious road trip across Australia, as they are pursued by a zookeeper Chaz and his adventure-seeking mini-me.
Maya and the Three
Director/creator/showrunner: Jorge Gutiérrez Format: Limited series
Synopsis: Set in a mythical Mesoamerican inspired world, a warrior princess embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters to help save the world of men and gods.
The Loud House Movie
Director: Dave Needham Format: Feature
Synopsis: In Nickelodeon’s The Loud House Movie, the biggest family on television goes on the biggest Loud family vacation ever! The adventure follows the Loud family to Scotland where they discover that they are descendants of Scottish royalty. The family quickly indulges in the most wish-fulfilling high-life ever when they discover their ancestral home is a castle.
Director: Chris Appelhans Format: Feature
Synopsis: In Sony Pictures Animation’s Wish Dragon, Din, a working-class college student with big dreams but small means, and Long, a cynical but all-powerful dragon capable of granting wishes, set off on a hilarious adventure through modern day Shanghai in pursuit of Din’s long-lost childhood friend, Lina. Their journey forces them to answer some of life’s biggest questions — because when you can wish for anything, you have to decide what really matters.
Directors: Dan Ojari, Mikey Please Format: Half-hour special
A stop-motion holiday musical special from Aardman. When her egg fortuitously rolls into a rubbish dump, Robin is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent. Robin sets off on the heist to end all heists to prove to her family that she can be a really good mouse – but ends up discovering who she really is.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Directors: Ant Ward, Andy Suriano Format: Feature
Synopsis: In Nickelodeon’s Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, the Ninja Turtles are faced with their greatest challenge yet when a mysterious stranger arrives from the future with a dire warning. Leo is forced to rise and lead his brothers, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey in a fight to save the world from a terrifying alien species … the Krang!
Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans
Directors: Johane Matte, Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Andrew L. Schmidt Format: Feature
Synopsis: In Dreamworks’s Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans, Arcadia may look like an ordinary town but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures including trolls, aliens, and wizards. Now the heroes from the hit series Trollhunters,3Below, and Wizards, team up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.