While animation may not take up as much space on the roster out of the hundreds of films that come out of Hollywood every year, the ones that do break out onto the big screen and major streaming platforms reliably stick out in the hearts and minds of both audiences and critics. From original passion projects to studio sequels to small studio projects, animated films come in a wide variety due to the very nature of the medium and can range from character-driven comedies to high-concept spectacles.
In the 20 years since the medium has entered the major awards race with the advent of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, animated films have sought to advance further and further every year in their technological prowess and storytelling finesse to earn critical prestige. This year is already teeing up to be a standout year for animated films so here are ten of the most hotly anticipated toons of ‘22!
10. DC League of Super-Pets
In concept alone, DC League of Super-Pets has the makings of a family, four-quadrant audience pleaser. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Krypto the Superdog, who leads a team of shelter pets, newly gifted with fantastic powers, to save the Justice League and become unlikely heroes of Metropolis. From the creative team of John Whittington and Jared Stern, who have lovingly lampooned the DC Universe previously with The LEGO Batman Movie, Super-Pets looks to combine the celebrity-voice animal hijinks of The Secret Life of Pets with a comic book genre self-awareness that will make for a fun family night at the movies.
9. Illumination’s Super Mario Movie
The Chris Pratt animation invasion continues with the Illumination/Nintendo collaboration to bring the Mushroom Kingdom to the big screen for the first time in over 30 years. Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, the team behind Cartoon Network’s mega-hit Teen Titans GO!, helm the yet-to-be-titled Super Mario Bros. animated feature overseen by creator Shigeru Miyamoto. Although not much else has been revealed about the film yet, the voice cast has raised the collective eyebrows of the entire internet over the casting of Chris Pratt, Jack Black, and Seth Rogen, among others, as popular video game icons. Only time will tell if this cinematic adventure will yield a more faithful adaptation of the games than the 1993 live-action version.
8. Wendell and Wild
From legendary director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), Wendell and Wild has been in development for over half a decade and has finally found a home on Netflix in 2022. Starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a duo of demonic con-men brothers, Wendell and Wild is set to combine otherworldly macabre with fantastical silliness, all in painstakingly immaculate stop-motion animation.
7. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania
Now an Amazon Prime Video exclusive, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is the fourth in Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania series. Although Genndy Tartakovsky has turned over directing duties in favor of writing for the third sequel, the film does make good on the kinetically elastic animation he had instilled in the previous films to deliver another laugh-a-minute cartoon comedy that follows the Drac Pack as they a way to undo a scientific mishap that transformed them into mere humans. The film also serves as the theatrical debut for YouTube impressionist and voice actor Brian Hull as he takes over the role of Dracula from Adam Sandler.
6. The Bob’s Burgers Movie
After over a decade since Winnie the Pooh (2011), the grand tradition of hand-drawn animated films from Disney returns in a singularly unexpected way. With over 200 TV episodes in counting, The Bob’s Burgers Movie will catapult the Fox cult-hit Bob’s Burgers onto the big screen for the first time ever in a musical comedy helmed by creator Loren Bouchard. Fans of the off-color cartoon can look forward to seeing the Belcher family sing and dance their way through a musical mis-adventure eleven years in the making.
The world of streaming will be seeing double of the little wooden boy this year with Robert Zemeckis’ live-action remake of the 1940 animated classic on Disney+ and Guillermo Del Toro’s long-gestating stop-motion adaptation of the original book for Netflix. Set in 1930’s fascist Italy, Del Toro’s version promises to be a darker and more twisted version of the Carlo Collodi tale and features an all-star voice cast, including Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, and Cate Blanchett. With a screenplay by Over the Garden Wall’s Patrick McHale, Pinocchio will newly carve its own edge out of the living puppet.
4. The Bad Guys
In the vein of Despicable Me, Megamind, and Wreck-It-Ralph, DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys posits what would happen if a villain wanted to change their lot in life for the better and become good. Based on the book series by Aaron Blabey, the film follows a ragtag pack of the most famously feared members of the animal kingdom (wolf, shark, snake, spider, snake) as they try to turn over a new leaf from a life of crime to become model citizens. The film represents a stylistic shift from DreamWorks’ most recent efforts by incorporating high-speed flourishes in animation and traditionally expressive designs.
3. Turning Red
Director Domee Shi’s Oscar-winning short film Bao became an instant favorite among the canon of Pixar’s animated shorts, using Chinese cultural symbols and brilliant allegory to tell a universal family story. Turning Red is lotted to do much of the same in following 13-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) as she learns to survive middle school amidst the discovery of her family’s mystical lineage. When Mei gets flustered, she transforms into a giant red panda in an explosion of fur and emotions. Turning Red looks to be a touching and hilarious coming-of-age story that only Pixar could pull off.
From the first Avenger to Space Ranger, Chris Evans is trading in his vibranium shield for terillium-carbonic alloy wings in Lightyear. From Finding Dory co-director Angus MacLane, Lightyear fully realizes the true-blue space hero first introduced in toy-form in the original Toy Story. The film will star Evans as the “real” Buzz Lightyear that inspired the toy we all know and love from Andy’s room in an origin story set for infinity and beyond. A sci-fi adventure unlike anything Pixar has done before, Lightyear will set a new technical standard for the studio through its breathtakingly believable, yet still expressive animation.
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)
Move over, No Way Home! If there is such a thing as a perfect culmination of gifted animators and talented filmmakers, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) has the potential to be it. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return to write and produce the sequel to the 2018 animation game-changer under directors Joaquim Dos Santos (Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra) and Kemp Powers (Soul). With the promise of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) encountering even more spider-people in another dimension-hopping superhero epic, Across the Spider-Verse is poised to become yet another artistic landmark for not just Sony Pictures Animation, but for the medium at large.