There won’t be a new Pixar animated feature released in theaters before 2014 draws to a close, but the studio has two original projects (Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur) on the docket for 2015. Similarly, Walt Disney Animation Studios doesn’t have a new film scheduled to arrive next year, but in 2016 it will make up for that (so to speak) by unveiling a pair of original animated movies, in the forms of Zootopia and Moana.
Zootopia (which was previously the project’s working title only) is being directed by Byron Howard (Tangled) based on a script written by Jared Bush (Who Wants to Marry My Dad?, All of Us). The story takes place in the fictional eponymous city, where (according to the official synopsis) a “fast-talking fox” and a “self-righteous rabbit” cop end up having to work together, when both are targeted by a larger conspiracy; a Disney-animated buddy adventure, in other words.
It sounds as though Howard’s new Disney animated feature will veer close to the territory the Mouse House explored back in the 1980s with Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Fox and the Hound, as it wrestles with issues of social prejudice (this time in a world where humans never existed) with a story about how “even natural enemies can become best friends.” The Mouse House’s newly-released Big Hero 6 offers a superhero(es) origin story with modern values (something other recent Disney ‘toons have had), so hopefully Zootopia will likewise find a way to put a relevant spin on its own familiar themes.
As for the release date, Zootopia launches in theaters on March 4th, 2016. That’s the same date that Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children adaptation is slated to arrive, but the latter (a supernatural/fantasy tale) has a slighter older audience as its main target, compared to Zootopia (which will be appealing to more of a family demographic). Both should be able to carve out a decent-sized slice of box office pie.
Moana is a sea-faring tale about the eponymous South Pacific islander and her grand adventure in ancient Oceania, as envisioned by the renowned Disney animated film directors, Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog). Recent Disney Animation Studios releases Tangled and Frozen are loose adaptations of older fairy tales, but Moana (like Princess and the Frog) will be an original twist on the princess fantasy/adventure sub-genre.
Disney has set Moana to arrive on November 23rd, 2016; its competition during the 2016 Thanksgiving frame will include the Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which opens the preceding Friday. Animated films released under the Disney umbrella rarely fail to find an audience; given the filmmaking talent onboard, Moana is shaping up to be a good movie that can hold its own against a new Wizarding World adventure.
Zootopia arrives in U.S. theaters on March 4th, 2016, followed by Moana on November 23rd later that year.