Fall 2023 Will See an Embarrassment of Animated Riches, from ‘Wish’ to Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film Fall 2023 Will See an Embarrassment of Animated Riches, from ‘Wish’ to Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’

Fall 2023 Will See an Embarrassment of Animated Riches, from ‘Wish’ to Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’



Fall 2023 Will See an Embarrassment of Animated Riches, from ‘Wish’ to Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’

The animated highlights of 2023 thus far: Illumination/Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($1.36 billion globally, $574.9 million domestically) and Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” ($689 million globally, $381 million domestically) were massive box office hits, proving that there is a hungry audience clamoring to see animation in theaters again.

However, Pixar/Disney’s “Elemental” and DreamWorks/Universal’s “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” were major box office flops: Pixar’s immigrant story about the elements trying to co-exist only mustered $154.4 million domestically (placing 20th on the studio’s list of features). However, it recovered to become Disney+’s most-viewed movie premiere of the year. Meanwhile, DreamWorks’ coming-of-age Kraken comedy had the worst domestic showing in the studio’s history (with $15.7 million). This signaled that original animated content still has theatrical hurdles to overcome compared to franchises.

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Fortunately, the animated reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Nickelodeon/Paramount) was a hit, grossing $117.5 million domestically, and Netflix/Anapurna Animation’s “Nimona” was a critical success. Both boasted very different-looking 2D aesthetics, which is the trend today, thanks to “Into the Spider-Verse.”

Fall 2023 Will See an Embarrassment of Animated Riches from | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“The Boy and the Heron”GKIDS

The fall offers two high-profile sequels — Aardman/Netflix’s “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” (closing the Animation Is Film Festival on October 22), and DreamWorks/Universal’s’ “Trolls Band Together” — Disney’s animated musical “Wish,” which pays tribute to the studio’s 100th anniversary, and the long-awaited summary film from Studio Ghibli’s anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, “The Boy and the Heron,” (GKids), which premiered at TIFF and will open the Animation Is Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on October 18. Plus, Netflix has “Leo,” written by and starring Adam Sandler as the voice of a wise old lizard, and Illumination/Universal’s “Migration,” about a family of ducks stepping outside their comfort zone.

In terms of the Oscar race, “Across the Spider-Verse” is the favorite, with “The Boy and the Heron” and “Wish” posing the strongest competition. Other hopefuls include “Elemental,” “Dawn of the Nugget,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Nimona,” “The Peasants” (Sony Pictures Classics), the Polish international entry (from the Oscar-nominated animation team that made “Loving Vincent”), Pablo Berger’s acclaimed 2D animated feature debut “Robot Dreams” (NEON), Makoto Shinkai’s “Suzume” (Crunchyroll), and “They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics), the Bossa Nova origin story documentary from Oscar-nominated directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal (“Chico & Rita”).

Below is a rundown of 2023 releases with updates to come. Note: This article was first published March 28, 2023, and was last updated September 6, 2023.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Illumination/Universal, April 5)

“Teen Titans Go!” creators Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic direct the video game adaption about struggling Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) having their first adventure in the Mushroom Kingdom. But with a twist: It’s Luigi who needs rescuing, not badass Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), who helps Mario find his brother after he gets kidnapped by the fire-breaking, egotistical Koopa Bowser (Jack Black) bent on world domination. The voice cast also includes Seth Rogen as the underachieving Donkey Kong. Illumination adapts the iconic Nintendo world-building and character designs with eye-popping animation and game-like action. And the directors lend over-the-top humor and emotion.

“Suzume” (Crunchyroll, April 14)

Shinkai made his most beautiful and ambitious fantasy romance yet, in which a small-town teen anxiously travels throughout Japan with a mysterious companion trapped inside a magical chair to save her country from a cataclysmic disaster. Both are drawn to closing doors that connect them to the past, present, and future. The director was inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake and expertly makes use of both hand-drawn and more expressive and complex CG animation for character and effects. Musically, he re-teams with the rock band Radwimps, who provide a lot of songs on the radio during the road trip, as well as the lovely main theme song. Composer Kazuma Jinnouchi brings more musical expression to his score.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony, June 2)

Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller follow up their Oscar-winning, game-changing “Into the Spider-Verse” with the even more ambitious “Across the Spider-Verse.” Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos (“The Legend of Korra”), Kemp Powers (“Soul” co-director), and Justin K. Thompson (“Into the Spider-Verse” production designer), the sequel finds Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) hurled into five different universes to battle Spot (Jason Schwartzman).

These include the watercolor world of Gwen’s Earth-65, the India-influenced Mumbattan, Nueva York (defended by Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099), the underground world of New London (home to Daniel Kaluuya’s Spider-Punk), and some secret universe. The Sony Imageworks animation team invented a slew of new tools for translating hand-drawn techniques into 3D, including a watercolor simulation tool for Spider-Gwen, and 17 tools for The Spot, who evolves throughout the film, going from a rough drawing to a fully formed character, with each ink drop in his body looking and behaving differently.

“Elemental” (Pixar/Disney, June 16)

Pixar’s first animated rom-com from director Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur”) is set in Element City, where people made of the four elements — earth, air, water, and fire — coexist in a community rife with division. Tough, sharp-witted, fiery Ember (Leah Lewis) develops a friendship with her polar opposite, the laid-back, sentimental, and watery Wade (Mamoudou Athie). Inspired by the love story of Sohn’s parents, who immigrated to New York from Korea in the ’70s and ran a grocery store in the Bronx, it’s about the immigrant experience and getting to know your parents as people who fell in love, raised a family, and made sacrifices that kids take for granted. Pixar created new tech for the effects-heavy film to make fire and water look and behave convincingly as CG characters and how they overlap.

“Lonely Castle in the Mirror” (GKids, June 21)

From director Keiichi Hara (“Colorful,” “Miss Hokusai”), this acclaimed anime from A-1 Pictures was adapted from the novel by Mizuki Tsujimura and nominated for the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. It concerns outcast Kokoro, who discovers a portal in her bedroom mirror where she finds an enchanting castle and is joined by six other students.

“Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” (DreamWorks/Universal, June 30)

On the surface, this film from director Kirk De Micco (“Vivo,” “The Croods”) looks like a cross between “Luca” and “Turning Red.” Ruby (Lana Condor) is a shy high school student who desperately wants to fit in, but her overprotective mom (Toni Collette) won’t let her go near the water when she wants to hang out with the popular kids at the beach. However, when she breaks the rule, Ruby discovers that she’s a direct descendant of the Kraken queens, who protect the oceans from power-hungry mermaids, and that her grandma (Jane Fonda) is the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas.

“Nimona” (Netflix, June 30)

The animated adaptation of ND Stevenson’s best-selling LGBTQ graphic novel about acceptance set in a futuristic medieval world started at Blue Sky but was picked up by Annapurna Animation and Netflix after Disney shuttered the animation studio following the Fox acquisition. Directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (“Spies in Disguise”), it’s about a knight, Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed), framed for a murder he didn’t commit. The only person who can help prove his innocence is Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shape-shifting teen who might also be a monster he’s sworn to kill. The story features a bold same-sex love story between Boldheart and rival Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang) in its quest to conquer xenophobia. DNEG handled the animation after production resumed.

“The First Slam Dunk” (GKids, July 28)

The fifth highest-grossing anime of all time and winner of the Japan Academy Prize for Best Animated Film, this marks the directorial debut of manga writer Takehiko Inoue, who adapted his popular manga series from the ’90s. The film follows speedster point guard Ryota Miyagi, who leads his Shohokuh High School basketball team to the Inter-High School National Championship against the reigning champs. It premiered July 3 at Anime Expo 2023 at the Los Angeles Convention Center before its summer theatrical release.

“Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, The Movie” (Netflix, July 28)

Co-scripted and directed by franchise producer Jeremy Zag, this series movie adaptation follows ordinary teenager Marinette, who becomes a superhero and unites with rival Cat Noir to save Paris.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, August 2)

Directed by Jeff Rowe (co-director of “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”), the film explores the Turtle brothers — Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Raphael (Brady Noon) — wanting to be accepted as normal teenagers after years of being sheltered from the human world. However, they wind up taking on a mysterious crime syndicate and an army of mutants with the help of human ally April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri). The ensemble voice cast includes Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, John Cena, Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Ice Cube, Post Malone, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, Natasia Demetriou, and Giancarlo Esposito.

“The Monkey King” (Netflix, August 18)

Directed by Anthony Stacchi (“The Boxtrolls”), the adventure comedy from Pearl Studio (“Over the Moon”) is an adaptation of the classic Chinese tale “Journey to the West” animated by Reel FX Animation Studios and Tangent Animation. It follows a monkey and his magical fighting Stick as they team up on an epic quest, where they battle gods, demons, dragons, and his ego. The voice cast includes Jimmy O. Yang as Monkey King and Stephanie Hsu.

“Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia” (GKids, September 1)

The hand-drawn sequel to “Ernest & Celestine,” adapted from the Belgian children’s book series, reunites the grouchy, musical bear Ernest (Lambert Wilson) and the sweet, young mouse Celestine (Pauline Brunner). In the sequel, the mouse accidentally breaks her pal’s violin, and they travel to his home city to find the only artist who can repair it. Directed by Jean-Christophe Roger and Julien Chheng and produced again by Didier and Damien Brunner and Stephan Roelants.

“The Inventor” (Blue Fox Entertainment, September 15)

This long-awaited stop-motion movie, about Leonardo da Vinci’s quest to find the meaning of life, premiered at Annecy. It’s from director Jim Capobianco (Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Ratatouille”) and co-director Pierre-Luc Granjon, featuring the voices of Stephen Fry (da Vinci), Daisy Ridley, and Marion Cotillard.

My Love Affair with Marriage” (8 Above, October 6 New York, October 12 L.A.)

Director Signe Baumane (“Rocks in My Pockets”) explores Zelma on her 23-year quest for perfect love and lasting marriage set against a backdrop of historic events in Eastern Europe. The hand-drawn feature includes the voices of Dagmara Dominczyk and Matthew Modine, the executive producer.

“The Boy and the Heron” (GKids, Animation is Film Festival, October 18; November 22 select; December 8 nationwide, including IMAX)

Miyazaki came out of retirement to make one last hand-drawn film about mortality and how to live as better people (and now he’s decided to keep working at 82). It’s an original fantasy inspired by one of his favorite novels growing up, “How Do You Live?” written by Genzaburo Yoshino, and took nearly a decade to complete. It takes place after the firebombing of Japan during World War II and focuses on a boy in turmoil whose family relocates to the countryside, where he encounters a talking blue heron that leads him into a parallel universe on a life-altering adventure.

“The Canterville Ghost (Blue Fox Entertainment & Shout! Studios, October 20)

Oscar Wilde’s beloved short story about a British ghost seeking redemption with the aid of a modern American family gets the animated treatment from director Ken Burdon and co-director Robert Chandler. The voice cast includes Stephen Fry (Sir Simon de Canterville), Hugh Laurie, and Freddie Highmore.

“Trolls Band Together” (DreamWorks/Universal, Animation Is Film Festival, October 21; November 17)

As Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) officially a couple in the third installment of the psychedelic jukebox musical, his past comes back to haunt him. He was once part of her favorite boy band, BroZone, with his four brothers: Floyd (Troye Sivan), John Dory (Eric André), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), and Clay (Kid Cudi). Poppy tries to reunite them, but Floyd gets kidnapped by a pair of pop-star villains — Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells) — hurling the couple on a new mission. New franchise stars include Camila Cabello, Zosia Mamet, and RuPaul Charles. Director Walt Dohrn (“Trolls World Tour”) and franchise producer Gina Shay return, and the glittery, hand-crafted animation looks more psychedelic from the DreamWorks team

“Robot Dreams” (NEON, Animation Is Film Festival, October 21)

NEON (“Flee”) is back in the Oscar hunt with Berger’s (“Blancanieves”) adaptation of the award-winning graphic novel by Sara Varon. It’s a bittersweet buddy comedy from Spain/France that follows the friendship between a dog and a robot in New York’s East Village in the ’80s, and what happens when they get separated.

“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” (Aardman/Netflix, Animation Is Film Festival, October 22; streams December 15)

The sequel to the most commercially successful stop-motion film in history picks up a few years later, where the happy-ever-after for Rocky (Zachary Levi, replacing Mel Gibson), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton, taking over from Julia Sawalha), and daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey) gets interrupted, and they’re forced to break back into the farm to save their chicken pals. Sam Fell (“ParaNorman”) directs from a script by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard, with Steve Pegram (“Arthur Christmas”) and Leyla Hobart producing.

“The Peasants” (Sony Pictures Classics, AFI Fest, October 25 and 26)

The husband-and-wife directing team of D.K. Welchman and Hugh Welchman follow up their landmark “Loving Vincent” with a more ambitious animated drama adapted from Nobel laureate Wladislaw Reymont’s early-20th-century novel about life in a rural Polish village. They once again utilize their breakthrough rotoscope technique of shooting the actors in live action and then creating 40,000 oil paintings (representing European painting and the Young Poland Movement from the turn of the XIX and XX centuries), which are placed on top of the photographic images and animated in breathtaking and immersive fashion.

“Leo” (Netflix, November 21)

The animated musical comedy written by and starring Sandler is about a 74-year-old Florida school pet lizard who escapes with his turtle friend (Bill Burr) when he finds out he only has a year left to live. But instead of exploring the outside world, he gets caught up trying to help anxious students solve their problems. It’s directed by frequent Sandler collaborators and “SNL” writers Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, and David Wachtenheim. The voice cast includes “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu, Cecily Strong, and Jason Alexander. The animation is from Animal Logic (“The Magician’s Elephant”), acquired by Netflix last year.

“Wish” (Disney, November 22)

Coinciding with Disney’s 100th anniversary comes the origin story of the wishing star, introduced in “Pinocchio” and later seen in “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Scripted by chief creative officer Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”), produced by Peter Del Vecho (“Frozen”), and directed by Chris Buck (“Frozen”) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (head of story for “Raya and the Last Dragon“), the musical fantasy is set in the medieval kingdom of Rosas where wishes magically come true (ruled by King Magnifico, voiced by Chris Pine). When eternal optimist Asha (Ariana DeBose) turns to the sky in a moment of need and makes a wish, her plea is answered by a cosmic force — a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Alan Tudyk voices her sidekick, a pajama-wearing goat.

Production designer Michael Giaimo (“Frozen”) oversaw the 2D-looking watercolor style inspired by early Disney films, with CG artists creating the new look. Grammy-nominated Julia Michaels composed seven original songs.

“They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics, November 22)

Trueba and Mariscal explore the origins of the bossa nova in this documentary about a New York music journalist who goes on a quest to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of young Brazilian piano virtuoso Tenorio Jr. The film captures a fleeting moment of creative freedom at a turning point in Latin American history in the ’60s and ’70s, just before the continent was engulfed by totalitarian regimes.

“Migration” (Illumination/Universal, December 22)

The modern-day comedy follows a family of ducks who convince their overprotective dad to go on a dream vacation as they attempt to migrate from New England to the Bahamas. Oscar nominee Benjamin Renner (“Ernest & Celestine”) directs from an original script by Mike White (“The White Lotus,” “School of Rock”). Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri is the producer.

“Blue Giant” (GKids, fall)

Director Yuzuru Tachikawa (the hit anime series “Mob Psycho 100”) adapts the manga that’s a cautionary tale about becoming a musician. Dai Miyamoto, a former high school basketball player, discovers a love of jazz and dedicates himself to learning the saxophone. Virtuoso pianist Hiromi Uehara composed the in-story original music played by Miyamoto and his jazz trio, JASS.

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