Top Animated Features to Look Forward to in 2020

22 Jan

nullBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The 2020 season of animated features is big, and we’re going to see the return of Gru! With streaming video platforms now the norm, distribution is not limited to what’s playing on the big screen. In what I offer is a list of coming works that I’m personally very excited for.

Not a lot of anime is mentioned in this list save for one. They are a unique world onto itself and deserves its own list.

Las Leyendas: El Origen
April 17

Anyone who has watched Netflix’s Legend Quest will be in for a treat! The Hispanic horror-comedy directed Ricardo Arnaiz and produced by Mexican animation studio, Ánima Estudios has gained a loving reputation. It shares the same DNA as Gravity Falls and the character designs are not too different. Instead of a brother and sister team, the tale focuses on a boy who can talk to dead people.

Leo San Juan is your take-charge kind of personality. His companions include a ghost girl, Teodora; a loony old knight, Don Andrés, the mythical dragon (if he can be called that), Alebrije; and two calaveras (skeleton kids), Finado and Moribunda. This film is the origin story about them.

They have to help a human infant who looks trapped in the afterlife. Whether this baby walked through the Espejo Eternal (“eternal mirror”)–a portal that separates the Realm of the Living and the Dead—by accident or not, the details are uncertain. Finando and Moribunda has to protect the tyke from what may be the Mexican version of Charon. As a side-story, I can’t help but be excited for what two skeleton kids can do to keep this franchise ongoing.

Scoob!
May 15

Yes, I’m a sucker for a good Scooby Doo mystery. In this reboot, we see how a pup without a name get named and how he met Shaggy Rogers. Soon, the rest of the gang are reintroduced in modern fashion. It’s weird to not see Fred sporting his trademark ascot, but with a franchise that’s 50 years old, modernizing it is a must. Even Daphne and Velma get an update to their dated look.

As for whether or not this film is a step in the right direction for keeping interest alive, I’ll take a look. This film brings a handful of classic Hanna-Barbera characters into the fold in a not all to surprising shared universe concept. As long as Captain Caveman and Blue Falcon is done right, it’s all good.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
May 22

With this third film, the huge selling point is to see when Spongebob met Gary, his pet snail.

There’s more to their relationship which holds them together. When the gastropod gets snail napped by the sea god Poseidon, my biggest question is why? Does the mewing mollusc possess something the god need? Or is Gary a snail on a mission from god?

The shenanigans will no doubt be crazy, but as long as we get a good story instead of a lengthy sitcom, I’m curious in where this film will go and hope I won’t need earplugs in the end.

Soul
June 19

Joe Gardner is the Soul Man. Well, not quite yet. He’s dreamed of making it big, but is instead a middle school music teacher. When an accident robs him of this life, hopefully his afterlife will be better (or not).

He has to help others who are not as hopeful if he’s to earn his wings. When his heaven (or is that purgatory?) is “You Seminar,” the concept seems scarier than sitting in on a long motivational Ted Falk.

When PIXAR is behind this work, the story will be inspirational. The Jazz soundtrack will no doubt be the driving force behind this work.

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Evangelion: 3.0+1.0
June 27

After 13 long years, the complete Rebuild of Evangelion is finally here! I’ve been holding off watching these set of films (well, except the first).

When Hidiki Anno took time off to make Shin Godzilla. I’m not complaining. He’s a master of his craft, and I feel he can do not wrong. With this final release, I can plan for a weekend of seeing all the films together and try not to cry.

Minions: The Rise of Gru
July 3

Five years is a long wait for the continuation, but I’m okay with it. We will see the Gru in his prime–evil and nasty. Or perhaps, we will see a character development arc which sets the Despicable Me version of this antihero as this villain’s redemption. When the focus is on Kevin, Stuart and Bob trying to keep up with the luckless boy, just what this film means will be an interesting one. There’s only so many stories that can be told in Gru’s quest for world domination.

Raya and the Last Dragon
Nov 25

This Disney produced work fills the void in what to expect in November. It’s a fantasy tale which takes cues from other stories involving dragons and thankfully does not borrow from them. We’ve seen how these serpents have faded away from history (How to Train Your Dragon) or wish to be left alone (Dragon Prince), but as for how long they will be a part of our folklore depends on how we treat these fantastic beasts.

All we know so far is in the official synopsis is: “In a mysterious realm called Kumandra, a warrior named Raya searches for the last dragon in the world.”

Over the Moon
Release Date: TBA

To dream, perchance to sleep. To lose a mother at an early age is difficult, and for young Fei Fei, a life without mom is tough. She had fantastic stories about Chang’e, the Moon Goddess. Mrs. Zhong enters this grieving family’s life and what she offers is uncertain. Her son, Chin becomes a side-kick, and these two youths embark on a crazy journey that’s going to differ completely from Georges Méliès , A Trip to the Moon.

What she learns about how the deepest loves will stay with you and to make room in your heart for something new is perfect for the upcoming Chinese New Year. As for whether or not it will debut theatrically in China this coming week, it’s hard to say, and I feel it’ll be a missed opportunity should the date actually be later in the year. Following these screenings will be its International release on Netflix.

Wish Dragon
Release Date: TBA

Two Chinese inspired films make this list. Chris Appelhans has an original tale to tell which is “a genie-in-a-bottle retelling set in contemporary China.” Also, with no further DreamWorks tales about a boy and dragon are on the slate, I’m glad other companies are picking up the tab.

This time, the tale about a boy making friends with a dragon able to make wishes come true.

The voice cast is solid and it finally gives Jackie Chan a chance to shine as Pipa God. He had a bit role in Kung Fu Panda, and he was terrific in Jackie Chan Adventures, but to put him in the lead in this work by a mainland Chinese studio will do more than show just how influential this art style is to anime cinema.

Wolfwalkers
Release Date: TBA

Coming to Apple TV+ than cinema for a better international release, this twist on a traditional werewolf story sees an Irish tale take on an aboriginal folktale. Tomm Moore can do not wrong in my book, and Cartoon Saloon‘s films (Song of the Sea, Secret of Kells) are often transcendental. I’m very curious if this latest work is a look at two different cultures clashing. It’s hard to say for certain as shapeshifters has often been traditionally an aboriginal thing.

According to the official synopsis:

In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transform her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

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