Last week, Disney (NYSE: DIS ) Pixar fans around the world gasped in horror as the company announced that it's delaying the release of two widely anticipated films, Finding Dory and The Good Dinosaur.
As it stands, Finding Dory is now slated for release on June 17, 2016, or seven months later than Pixar had originally planned. Meanwhile, The Good Dinosaur got pushed back by a full 18 months and will now hit theaters on Nov. 25, 2015.
Perhaps worst of all, this means 2014 will be the first year since 2005 audiences won't be able to enjoy a newly released Pixar film. But don't panic! Just because Pixar isn't planning on appeasing your need for wholesome, kid-friendly entertainment next year doesn't mean other studios will leave you high and dry.
Consider these animated films, then, which should keep you busy next year.
1. Mr. Peabody & Sherman
First up, DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA ) is planning on bringing Mr. Peabody & Sherman to the big screen on March 7, 2014.
If the title sounds familiar, that's because it's based on the characters from the Peabody's Improbable History segments of the 1960s cartoon series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. And it's OK, middle-aged folks; you can admit you watched it when you were a kid.
This time around, DreamWorks has secured Modern Family's Ty Burrell (think "cool" dad Phil) to supply the voice for Mr. Peabody, whose witty commentary should easily ensure that audiences are suitably entertained.
We still don't know how much DreamWorks will spend to produce the film, but remember that The Croods grossed more than $585 million in box-office receipts earlier this year on a production budget of "just" $135 million. If DreamWorks can even partially replicate that success while at the same time rejuvenating a decades-old brand, you can bet Mr. Peabody & Sherman will be worth their effort.
2. Rio 2
On April 11, 2014, News Corp.'s (NASDAQ: NWS ) 20th Century Fox subsidiary Blue Sky Studios will release Rio 2, which brings back nearly the entire voice cast of its 2011 predecessor, including Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, and Tracy Morgan.
And why not? The first movie enjoyed positive word of mouth from audiences and earned an impressive "A" from CinemaScore, while at the same time grabbing nearly $485 million in worldwide receipts on a reasonable production budget of $90 million. For reference, that's even better than the solid $259 million take achieved by this year's Epic from the same studio.
3. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Next up, on June 13, 2014, DreamWorks is releasing another sequel in How to Train Your Dragon 2, with which it's betting it can improve on the nearly $495 million take of How to Train Your Dragon in 2010.
Curiously enough, however, the original required a stunning $165 million budget, so it represented a huge risk for the company that just happened to pay off nicely -- so nicely, in fact, that DreamWorks turned the concept into a TV series dubbed Dragons: Riders of Berk last year, and has already laid out tentative plans for a third installment of the big-budget movie franchise for release in June 2016.
4. Planes: Fire & Rescue
But for all the hype surrounding Disney Pixar's world-renowned animation, it's also easy to forget about DisneyToon Studios, which is bringing Planes: Fire & Rescue to theaters on July 18, 2014. For those of you keeping track, that's less than a year following the release of this summer's hit Planes, which has already earned a worldwide gross of $156 million just seven weeks into its theatrical run.
And no, in case you were wondering, Planes is not a Pixar film, but was created by DisneyToon Studios as a spinoff of Pixar's Cars franchise. Most impressive, though, is that DisneyToon achieved it all using a relatively minuscule production budget of just $50 million, or less than half of what it took for Pixar to create Cars back in 2006.
Still, Planes has already proved itself with a respectable "A-" CinemaScore from audiences, and it's safe to say Disney knows a thing or two about making massively profitable sequels. In the end, expect Planes: Fire & Rescue to continue the winning streak.
At risk of looking like a huge overachiever, DreamWorks will aim to win the fall season next year by releasing Home on Nov. 26, 2014.
Home, for its part, should make children's-literature fans happy, considering it's based on the popular kids' book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Home is still relatively early in the process, though, so we haven't been treated to any sneak peeks of how, exactly, DreamWorks plans to bring the book to life.
We do know, however, that DreamWorks has recruited Rihanna and The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons (better known as "Sheldon") to voice the main characters in the movie.
Even so, the jury's still out regarding whether Home will be a box-office hit, given DreamWorks' track record of similar literature-derived attempts. On one hand, for example, How to Train Your Dragon was hugely successful, and based on the children's book series of the same name. On the other hand, Rise of the Guardians, which was an adaptation of the book series The Guardians of Childhood, was a box-office flop and resulted in an $87 million writedown for DreamWorks in 2012.
6. Big Hero 6
But Home won't be alone next November, either. Just a few weeks earlier, on Nov. 7, 2014, Disney will release its first Marvel-based animated superhero film, Big Hero 6.
I already voiced my excitement for Big Hero 6 last week, given that Disney won't be making an Incredibles sequel anytime in the near future (see my thoughts on it here), but given the almost-ludicrous success of Disney's previous live-action Marvel films to date, it's hard to overstate the potential for replicating Disney's comic book-inspired popularity in the animated space.
Another casualty of delays
Up until last week, it's also worth noting that this list would have closed with the December 2014 release of Minions, a spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise from Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) Universal Studios.
That would have been a great way to end the year, especially since Despicable Me 2 brought in an incredible $854.3 million over the past 13 weeks, making it the second-highest grossing film of 2013 so far, behind only Disney's Iron Man 3. Unfortunately, though, Universal last Friday announced it was pushing Minions to July 10, 2015, or just a few weeks after Pixar's Finding Dory.
That's just as well, though, because even after all those delays, I'm convinced the rest of these titles should present plenty to keep our insatiable appetite for animation satisfied.
So enjoy the show, folks, because I know I will.
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