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Upcoming animated movies in 2021 the whole family will love

The pandemic of 2020 has forced us to get creative as we invent ways to keep ourselves entertained. You can only rewatch your favorite (or formerly favorite) animated shows and movies so many times. For many of us, movie theaters are a distant memory, and streaming service subscriptions have risen as we eagerly grasp at any new content we can get our hands on. But there's help on the horizon. Despite roadblocks and setbacks, pandemic-related and otherwise, the animated movie industry is determined to continue entertaining us when we need it the most.

Heading into 2021, we've got a slate of releases to look forward to. Some of them are sequels to classics we know and love, while others are fresh inventions full of promise. Hopefully, we'll be able to make it to theaters by the time most of these pieces are released, but if not, each of them is sure nonetheless to amuse and delight the whole family from wherever we have the pleasure of viewing them.

Rumble

We hope you're ready to rumble because this has been billed as "the biggest underdog story ever." If the 2020 coronavirus pandemic delayed, canceled, or disrupted a season of your favorite sport, you'll be pleased to know that this animated sports comedy is, so far, proceeding mostly on schedule, as its premiere has only been pushed back from January 19 to May 14, 2021.

Rumble promises inventive, engaging visuals in a future where monsters enjoy all-star athlete status in the global "monster wrestling" craze. The reigning champion, "Tentacular," is a reptilian titan who's taller than a building, complete with glowing spots on his skin and tentacled hands capable of arresting a blimp in mid-air (and taking a selfie with its aerial camera). However, he may not be champ for long because a teenage girl, Winnie, wants to follow in her father's career footsteps by coaching Steve, an unathletic underdog, to unseat Tentacular.

There's plenty of physical comedy for all ages, like a monster using a bridge as a chin-up bar. The writers have slipped some jokes in for the adults, too, as in the trailer when Winnie notes that they need to improve Steve's "strength and endurance," then calls over a female monster. All they do is tango, but the suggestion wouldn't be lost on parents, who'll most likely have a great time watching this with their kids.

Spirit Untamed

The 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, like its subject, had a soul so unbreakable and enduring that it's still alive almost two decades later. In the original story, the stubborn and fiery stallion fights off numerous attempts to tame him, from an army colonel to a kind-hearted Lakota named Little Creek, who eventually becomes his friend. The popular animated film, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, has a loyal fanbase that even set up a Change.org petition for a sequel. Netflix distributed an animated series based on the film, Spirit Riding Free, in 2017.

This series paved the way for nostalgic fans to finally get their cinematic sequel, Spirit Untamed, which is set to come out on June 4, 2021 and is a continuation of the animated series. The Spirit sequel is an example of the unique strength of animated productions during this pandemic. Most of the work has been done remotely, in contrast to the more physical requirements of live-action films.

The Addams Family 2

One thing we won't need to fear next Halloween is a lack of entertainment, or so the optimistic trailer for The Addams Family 2 suggests. The teaser assures us that by next Halloween, when the sequel to 2019's first animated installment is set to come out, everything will be back to normal (or abnormal, for fans).

The plot remains a spooky secret so far, but we can expect a deluge of unusual encounters and situations for our core cast of all-star actors, which includes reprisals from Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams, Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, and Snoop Dogg as Cousin Itt. SNL alum Bill Hader also joins to voice a brand-new character named Cyrus.

The 2019 movie incorporates real-time satire of social media and society into its story about the Addams family struggling to fit into the world, so we can only guess at what topical material the sequel will utilize in October 2021.

Raya and the Last Dragon

The upcoming animated film Raya and the Last Dragon is sure to excite each generation for a unique reason. On March 12, 2021, we'll meet a fierce female warrior named Raya who, 500 years after dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity from the monstrous Druun creatures, must find the last living dragon in order to combat the renewed threat of the Druun. Not only will we be treated to a strong female protagonist in the form of Raya, who will be voiced by Star Wars' Kelly Marie Tran, but the dragon Sisu is also voiced by a rising female star, Awkwafina.

Younger viewers will be drawn to the aesthetics of the fantasy world and the adventure of the plot, which takes place in a landscape inspired by Southeast Asian cultures and directed by Don Hall of Moana and Big Hero 6. Slightly older generations, on the other hand, can find nostalgia in the similarities that many fans have already drawn between the aesthetics, world-building, and themes of this story and the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series, although, it's important not to over-simplify Asian representation and epic tales, and we should go into Raya ready to appreciate it in all its unique, enchanting glory.

Space Jam: A New Legacy

In 2003, the Looney Tunes were Back in Action for a theatrical release, but they haven't appeared in theaters since. On July 16, 2021, though, that's scheduled to change with the premiere of Space Jam: A New Legacy, the sequel to the original Space Jam movie that came out a whole 25 years prior.

The Space Jam movies are hybrid films that unify the sports and cartoon fandoms and employ a slapstick brand of humor that offers general appeal without a critical burden. The original story centers around a basketball contest between the Looney Tunes and a band of space monsters, with the fate of Bugs Bunny and his friends hanging in the balance. It also features many NBA stars of the '90s, including the great Michael Jordan.

As for Space Jam 2, we don't know a whole lot about it, other than the fact it's starring Lebron James, will be directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Night), and will be produced by Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther, Creed, and Fruitvale Station.

The Boss Baby: Family Business

With a due date of March 26, 2021, The Boss Baby: Family Business will deliver full-grown versions of the titular toddler, Ted (still impeccably voiced by Alec Baldwin), and his older brother, Tim, from the 2017 original. This time around, Ted is an uncle, and the new Boss Baby is Tim's daughter, Tina, voiced by Amy Sedaris. Eva Longoria and Jeff Goldblum have also joined the cast.

The original film was loosely based on a picture book by Marla Frazee. Considering that a simple children's book has spawned a media empire (including the Netflix series released in 2018, The Boss Baby: Back in Business, and even an interactive Netflix special), maybe it really is the babies who are behind everything. The espionage bent of this film only serves to support this conspiracy. But the story of birth and the awkward growth of a family is timeless at any age.

Luca

Director Enrico Casarosa revealed to Variety that part of the inspiration behind Pixar's Luca, set for release in 2021, comes from the essential and formative nature of childhood friendships. Indeed, the relationships we have as children often set the course for the rest of our lives — or at least our outlooks on them — and the same is true of the films we watch as kids, which is why every family should consider watching this one together.

The "beauty and charm of the Italian seaside" isn't just an alluring aesthetic feature for all viewers but a personal connection on the part of Casarosa, who grew up on the Italian Riviera like the titular young protagonist of this film. Luca, however, harbors a secret that Casarosa (we hope) didn't — he's actually a sea monster disguised as a human, and this hidden fact threatens the unforgettable bond he forms in the film with his new best friend. Luca comes from a secret world just below the surface of the water, but this story shows us that true friendship runs much deeper.

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans

The Tales of Arcadia saga is expansive, a trilogy of three animated series — Trollhunters, 3Below, and Wizards created by Guillermo del Toro. And even the original Trollhunters story was based on a book co-written by del Toro with David Klaus. Now, it's finally concluding with an animated Netflix original film.

If your family hasn't been following along with these series, now there's a reason to occupy some of your indoor hours with the shows in preparation for the film's release in the first few months of 2021. The story takes place in the fictional town of Arcadia Oaks, which is the unlikely secret hotspot for a flurry of supernatural and even extraterrestrial activity. Guillermo del Toro has commented on the creative freedom afforded by partnering with Netflix, and this may be what's allowed him to dance across the boundaries of genre to create an enthralling part-fantasy, part-sci-fi world for his teenage heroes — one that he'll top off with the upcoming adventure film.

Blazing Samurai

Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles is a satirical take on the classic Western, and Blazing Samurai, coming up in 2021, is an animated martial arts take on Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks will actually provide the voice of the Shogun character, speaking alongside a cast that includes fan favorites like Michelle Yeoh, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, and George Takei.

There isn't a lot of publicity material yet for Blazing Samurai, the release of which was initially planned for 2017. It tells the story of an underdog (who's literally a dog) determined to become a great samurai and protect his town from becoming the litter box of an evil cat warlord. We haven't seen much imagery for the film, except for a theatrical poster showing the backside of a substantial feline in a singlet. There's sure to be plenty of satirical content for adult viewers, while younger audiences will chuckle at the plight of the scrappy protagonist and the expected humor offered by cartoon martial arts.

My Father's Dragon

Children's literature is a great source for filmmakers hoping to make animated movies. For proof, look no further than My Father's Dragon. Distributed by Netflix, My Father's Dragon is set for release in 2021, and it's based on the book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannett. (And it's also illustrated by her stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett!)

The protagonist, Elmer Elevator, has taken his escapades into the animated film world before, with the anime film adaptation Elmer's Adventure: My Father's Dragon in 1997. In the story, Elmer runs away from home to Wild Island in order to rescue a dragon being held captive there. Director Nora Twomey has stated that the film reminds her of the works of Roald Dahl, a surreal, whimsical author who has fascinated audiences of all ages for generations. Twomey says that you can't always tell what's real in this film, and that in itself is a great adventure.

The Bad Guys

It might be a good idea to break out the old library card so you can prep for this upcoming film, set for release on September 17, 2021. The film version of Aaron Blabey's Scholastic book series, The Bad Guys, features a cast of animal characters who've been working together to pull off heists for years, but they've become somewhat reformed after tiring of being ostracized by society for their vileness.

The five anti-heroes are a group of stereotypically sinister animals — Mr. Shark, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Ms. Tarantula. The "bad guys" attempt to "go good" after a life of crime, and they fail in a humiliating, hilarious way that aims to put a twist on the heist comedy. The "bad guys who change their ways" represent character types that are both easy and complex to root for, which makes this an engaging flick the whole family can look forward to.

Minions: The Rise of Gru

With three Despicable Me films released so far, not to mention the Minions movie from 2015, this animated franchise is one of the most financially successful in history. The appeal comes, in part, from the unintentionally endearing Gru, who, in spite of himself, has a heart of gold purer than any he could ever steal (corny but true). And it also owes itself, of course, to the adorable, unintelligible absurdity of the Minions.

Big-eyed, bright-colored, baby-talking creatures like these might seem to have been invented to hold the attention of children, but the loyal minions of the Minions themselves are truly the parents, who shamelessly circulate Minion memes to their Facebook friends all day long. So, everyone should be excited about the upcoming film. On July 2, 2021Minions: The Rise of Gru will combine the franchise's two core strengths and show us the Minions' first encounter with a 12-year-old Felonius Gru. While it purports to be the story of how Gru became evil, the film will actually illuminate his underlying good.

Tom and Jerry

On March 5, 2021, Tom and Jerry will get a Space Jam-style revival, crossing from their animated lives into the live-action world. After over eight decades of playing cat and mouse, this is a fitting escalation for a rivalry that simply couldn't be contained by the animated universe.

With such a long history, these classic characters will no doubt attract, quite literally, everybody and their mother when they begin to scurry across the big screen next year. As for the plot, the involvement of outside threats throws a wrench into their rivalry, potentially forcing them to work together as an enemy conspires against them both in an upscale New York hotel. The leaps in animation from the original are incredible, and with the real world at their disposal, the writers and animators have a lot of creative freedom to tell this story in a way that both honors and transcends the classic cartoons that audiences have been enjoying since the 1940s.

Hotel Transylvania 4

The Hotel Transylvania franchise has been making us laugh since 2012, and in 2021, it looks like Dracula and company will be returning to the big screen. We don't know a whole lot about the plot yet, but according to Variety, Genndy Tartakovsky is writing the screenplay and serving as a producer. Plus, in addition to voicing Mavis, Selena Gomez will be serving as executive producer.

We suppose the really big question is whether or not the film will actually take place in the hotel. After all, the second movie spent quite a bit of time at a summer camp, and part three takes place on a cruise ship (and the lost city of Atlantis). Regardless of the setting, we're expecting a tender examination of family dynamics and generational conflict through a fantasy lens. Granted, it'll be exacerbated in a family of monstrous immortals, but still, it's something we all understand. Keep an eye on August 6, 2021 for this Adam Sandler flick.

Wish Dragon

Wish Dragon, a project Sony jumped onto in 2018, will star international favorite and long-time film veteran Jackie Chan, whose voice and comedic prowess audiences of all ages may recognize from films and television shows of various eras. American audiences got to know the star decades ago as a kung fu film star who did all his own stunts in productions like Drunken Master, Police Story, and Rush Hour. Younger generations may know him from more recent films, such as Kung Fu Panda and the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid

As for the rest of Wish Dragon's cast, some recognizable stars include Constance Wu, John Cho, and Bobby Lee. The film will be a union of comedy and mythology that explores the moral implications of wish-granting in the setting of modern China. In other words, this will be a rich visual and thematic piece that all ages will enjoy.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

Though The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run was released in select countries around the globe in 2020, the film is still on the run toward American screens and won't arrive until 2021. The first two installments of the film series have definitely left us ready to soak up the third whenever it arrives. The frenetic action in this film starts when SpongeBob's beloved pet snail, Gary, is snail-napped, and the gang must journey to the Lost City of Atlantic City to save him. The premise's play on words hints that we can expect an absurd and shockingly clever experience that's similar to the one delivered by 2015's critically acclaimed film.

The eagerly awaited movie will feature cameos from household names like Keanu Reeves and Snoop Dogg, which is fitting because the household is where most people will finally see it. Instead of releasing in theaters, the film will only find U.S. audiences through premium on-demand rental services and, eventually, exclusively through CBS All-Access, which will expand to feature every season of SpongeBob Squarepants, as well. Nothing like wholesome family entertainment to get memories of 2020 "ex-sponged."

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