The Most Anticipated Animated Films of 2021 Are For Adults Who Want to Feel Like Kids

The joyful legacy of Saturday-morning cartoons is alive and well in 2021. The technology of animation just keeps getting better and better, even if sometimes it can veer towards uncanny valley territory (looking at you, CATS). But more often than not, animated movies give us the unique gift of whimsical renderings of our wildest dreams. With the state of the world being what it is, we may need silly, goofy, beautiful cartoons now more than ever.

Luckily, the animation industry is uniquely situated to thrive in the remote-working times that we’re living in, and we are sure to see a rise in animated features (for all ages!) in the coming years. From the new Space Jam movie to Bob’s Burgers: The Movie—and every cartoon chronicle in between—here are the ten most anticipated animated movie releases for 2021.

1| Tom & Jerry (Feb. 26)

The world’s most famous cartoon enemies return for a big screen game of cat-and-mouse. When Jerry takes up residence in a miniature suite (feat. AirPods he uses as speakers) at a fancy New York City hotel, Tom is hired to catch Jerry before he ruins an important wedding. A mix of live-action and computer animation, the film stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, and Ken Jeong.

2| SpongeBob 2: Sponge on the Run (Feb 2021)

The newest SpongeBob movie delayed release again and again, but fans in the U.S. will finally get to watch it this year on PVOD and CBS All Access, most likely in February. With 3D animation, our old Bikini Bottom buddies will look a little different, but still embark on the same goofy adventures we know and love. In Sponge on the Run, SpongeBob and Patrick must rescue Gary, who has been “snail-napped.” Keanu Reeves makes a puzzling appearance as a wise ‘sage’ tumbleweed who advises them on their journey.


3| Raya and the Last Dragon (Mar. 5)

In this fantastical tale from the creators of Moana and Frozen, a young warrior named Raya must find the last remaining dragon to restore peace in the lands of Kumandra. Starring The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu the Dragon.

4| Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (April 2)

The famous James Corden-voiced bunny is back for another hop around the silver screen. Starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne in live-action roles as Thomas and Bea, this sequel finds Peter Rabbit and his furry friends running amok in the big city after they run away from home, attempt a farmer’s market heist, and get caught up with some shady characters.

5| Bob's Burgers: The Movie (April 9)

Photo by Fox.

Everybody’s favorite burger-flipping oddball family, the Belchers, are set to make their feature debut in Bob’s Burgers: The Movie this year. With a trailer yet-to-be-released and details murky, all we know is the film will feature the original cast in their iconic roles and it’s sure to “scratch every itch the fans of the show have ever had,” according to creator Loren Bouchard.

watch now

6| Rumble (May 14)

In a world where gigantic monsters live alongside humans, monsters are renowned athletes competing in Monster Wrestling. Blockers' Geraldine Viswanathan stars as Winnie, a human teenager, who trains fluffy underdog monster Steve (Will Arnett) to rise to the top and defeat the reigning champion, Tentacular (Terry Crews).

7| Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 2)

Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned villain origin story? In this sequel to the spin-off prequel to Despicable Me (we can’t keep track, either), 12-year old Felonious Gru tries to prove his worth to a group of supervillains by showing them just how evil he can be. If you or a loved one has found yourself taken with the Minions craze, The Rise of Gru is sure to deliver lots of shenanigans with the tiny, yellow, denim overall-wearing henchmen.

8| Space Jam 2: A New Legacy (July 16)

The long wait for the follow-up to 1996’s Space Jam will soon be over. The new film will star LeBron James, Bugs Bunny, and the rest of the Looney Tunes crew as they dribble their way through a new, virtual adventure that just might include appearances from Warner Bros. characters like Voldemort and Pennywise. The crossover possibilities are endlessly chaotic, as LeBron and his young son, Bronny, are trapped in a digital world orchestrated by an AI villain (Don Cheadle) and must play their way out. Lebron himself described it as a “parenting movie” as his character must come to terms with his son’s true dreams and talents, even as they differ from his own.


9| The Addams Family 2 (Oct. 8)

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, and they’re back for a sequel. Due out this Halloween, when—as the trailer says, the world will hopefully ‘return to (ab)normal’—the animated take on the classic gothic family will feature the same cast voicing the ghoulish characters (Chloë Grace Moretz, Charlize Theron, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler, Snoop Dogg, Oscar Isaac). Oh, and add Bill Hader and Javon Walton to the mix.

10| Encanto (Nov. 24)

With music by Lin Manuel-Miranda, Disney’s animated musical Encanto takes place in Colombia and centers on a magical family. Miranda called it an “intergenerational family story with all the complexity that brings.”

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

View More Articles About:
More Videos You Can Watch
About The Author
Anna Grace Lee
Anna Grace Lee is an editorial fellow at Esquire, where she covers pop culture, music, and entertainment.
View Other Articles From Anna Grace
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us