It’s that time again, dear reader. Fall is officially upon us, and with it the another big season for animated feature films. I know that fall is officially here, not just by my calendar, but by the lament of my 9-year-old neighbor that her teacher actually gave her homework this week. Teachers instinctually know when the torpor caused by the summer heat should give way to the deeper thinking that becomes possible with cooler weather (or, at least, that is my explanation); filmmakers, too, seem to follow this logic, as the high-octane summer blockbusters give way to the more staid, award-seeking dramas of the fall.
Luckily, this fall also has a wide variety of visually engaging, heartstring-tugging, laugh-inducing animated films coming to the theaters. Here are the ones to look out for:
Hotel Transylvania 2 — Sept. 25
The goulash gang is back in this sequel to Sony Picture Animation’s 2012 story about Dracula’s hunted hotel and his attempts to shelter his teenage daughter from the amorous attentions of a clueless, mortal teen boy. In the sequel, Dracula is now Grandpa, and he is horrified to find that his half-vampire grandson shows no signs of following in his undead footsteps.
Normally I am wary of sequels, especially of children’s films, because they are often used as a surefire way of draining the wallets of parents rather than a genuine attempt to enhance the older story. This one may do that as well, but the original story was so great at humorously drawing out the tensions between the monsters and the mortals that I am willing to give them another shot at building on that theme.
Hell and Back — Oct. 2
I am ashamed to say this one almost slipped under my radar completely. Created by the company known for Robot Chicken and BoJack Horseman, ShadowMachine Films, this deliciously dark and crude stop motion comedy follows two juvenile friends as they attempt to rescue another friend from the bowels of hell (where they accidentally sent him). Featuring the voice talents of Nick Swardson, Mila Kunis, T.J. Miller, and Susan Sarandon, just to name a few, this may be just the most Halloween-y film to go see if you’re not into the blood ‘n guts film (or the strangely similar, Alexander Ludwig-starring films about the Final Girl motif). While the purile humor might not be for everyone, I have always enjoyed Robot Chicken and am thus pretty excited to see what that crew does with a feature film.
The Peanuts Movie — Nov. 6
The Peanuts kids are back in theaters for the first time in 35 years! Charlie Brown and friends, brought to life by Blue Sky Studios, are back to their old tricks as a new girl moves into town and Snoopy takes to the skies to battle his archenemy. I think I will always have a big place in my heart for the traditional, limited animation of the Peanuts movies I grew up with, and I’m slightly disappointed that they didn’t keep that style for this movie. However, this is a good look for a new audience and I did chuckle at the trailer, making me think that this will be a great new approach to the well-known characters.
The Good Dinosaur — Nov. 25
Pixar’s second original movie of 2015, The Good Dinosaur tells the story of a young Apatosaurus named Arlo who, after the tragic death of his father, gets swept away from his family in a river and must make his way back. Along the way he meets Spot, who becomes his loyal human companion (instead of a boy and his dog, think a dino and his boy).
Were it any other studio than Pixar, my instinct would be that this second film of the year would falter in comparison to the wonderful, emotional film that was Inside Out, which was released earlier this summer. Being Pixar, though, I have no doubt that this film will match, or exceed, the last in great story telling and overwhelming heartwarming moments. I was lucky enough to see a clip of this film at Annecy earlier this year, and it was all I could do not to ugly cry in a theater full of strangers. This film is definitely a must-see this fall (just make sure to bring tissues).
Anomalisa — Dec. 30
The video above is not a trailer, at least not in the traditional sense. But is does give a great insight into all the creative power funneled into Anomalisa, set to make it’s way into mainstream theaters at the end of this year (conveniently just making the deadline for awards considerations). Written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and directed in tandem with Duke Johnson (Morel Orel), the film is about a man crippled by the mundanity of his life. Made outside the traditional animation studio systems, this looks like an amazing film, and a great testament to the possibilities of independent filmmaking. This isn’t one to bring the kids to, but certainly worth the price of admission for the rest of us.
Le Petit Prince — ??? US Release
Still no word yet when this animated feature will be released in US and UK theaters, but I’ll be there when it is. The film’s story centers on The Little Girl, who is being pressured by her mother to prepare for adulthood. Her neighbor, The Aviator, shows her an alternate world where anything is possible, beginning The Little Girl’s journey into the universe of The Little Prince.
I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about this one, though. I was one of those kids who grew up in love with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s wonderful story, and it’s hard to see it adapted at all. That being said, the team behind this feature film (including Mark Osborne, who also directed Kung Fu Panda) is quite wonderful, and seem to have tried to make the film into a story that can stand on it’s own alongside the book, which is the best way to deal with such difficult and beloved source material.