The Best New Animated Movies to Watch in Theatres
2/2/2021 • 4 min read
It's a great time for animation, and not just because Pixar and Disney have been firing on all cylinders lately — though both studios have original new stories coming this year! Nearly every big studio is trying something new with animated movies or expanding their fan-favorite worlds.
Sony has the original animated musical VIVO on the way, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, while Studio Ghibli ventures into fully CG animation with EARWIG AND THE WITCH. There are two hybrid live-action/animated movies coming from Warner Bros., and a new Minions tale is on the way from Illumination and Universal Pictures.
Here are the best new animated movies that are playing now and coming to theaters soon.
Earwig and the Witch
The famed Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli has finally made a fully CG-animated movie. It's an adaptation of a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, who also wrote another book which was turned into a different Ghibli movie, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Gorō Miyazaki directs this story of a young woman whose life changes as she discovers her connection to magic.
Growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. As the headstrong young girl sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians, she discovers a world of spells and potions, and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted.
EARWIG AND THE WITCH opens on February 3.
Tom & Jerry
Two classic characters from one of the longest-running series of animated shorts now star in their own feature film — and it's a hybrid blend of live-action and animation. When the mouse Jerry moves into New York City’s finest hotel on the eve of "the wedding of the century," the planner of the big wedding hires the cat Tom to chase off the potentially pesky mouse.
The biggest cat and mouse battle of Tom and Jerry's long rivalry ensues, threatening to destroy everything in its path. That is until an ambitious hotel staffer gets in the way, and the constantly-in-conflict duo are forced to cooperate in order to survive. Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, Colin Jost, and Ken Jeong star in the movie directed by Tim Story.
TOM & JERRY opens on February 26.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Disney takes us to a whole new world in RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON. In Kumandra, humans and dragons once lived together in harmony. When an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran), to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people.
When Raya finds the dragon, Sisu (Akwafina), she discovers that the legendary creature isn't quite what she expected. As the awkward duo works to save their world, they soon understand that trust and teamwork, rather than mythical power, is what they'll need to succeed.
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON opens on March 5.
"In the Heights" and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is the driving force behind this animated musical, in which an adventurous and music-loving kinkajou travels from Havana to Hawaii. Miranda wrote eleven songs for the movie, which is scripted my Miranda's "In the Heights" partner Quiara Alegría Hudes and directed by Kirk DeMicco, who previously directed THE CROODS. This incredible story about music and friendship will take audiences on an epic adventure to gorgeous and vibrant locations never before seen in animation.
VIVO opens on June 4.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Beatrix Potter's lovable rogue rabbit returns in PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY. Following the events of the first movie, human farmers Bea and Thomas (Rose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson) have created their own makeshift family with Peter and the rest of the rabbits, but Peter's reputation makes true reform difficult. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be.
PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY opens on June 11.
Pixar's new 2021 movie is the latest in a great run of original stories from the studio. LUCA is set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, and tells a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Young Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.
LUCA opens on June 18.
Minions: The Rise of Gru
Turn the calendar back to the 1970s for the early adventures of the Minions and their new master, Gru. As a young man, Gru is a dedicated fanboy of the villain supergroup the Vicious 6. When he sees a chance to join the crew of baddies, Gru has to come up with a plan to prove his evil prowess. That's where his new followers, the Minions, can (hopefully) help. The surprising voice cast includes action stars like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, and Dolph Lundgren — and Julie Andrews as Gru's self-absorbed mom. DESPICABLE ME 3 and MINIONS director Kyle Balda returns to direct.
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU opens on July 2.
Space Jam: A New Legacy
It's the second big live-action/animation hybrid of the year! NBA champion and global icon LeBron James goes on an epic adventure alongside Bugs Bunny in the long-awaited sequel SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY. Director Malcolm D. Lee and producers Ryan Coogler and Maverick Carter create a manic mashup of two worlds that reveals just how far some parents will go to connect with their kids.
When LeBron and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, that will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.
SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY opens on July 16.
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All images courtesy of Disney, GKids, Pixar, Illumination Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Studio Ghibli, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Pictures.