Too many animated movies these days feel like they came off an factory assembly line, but the latest from Laika Entertainment is visually and tonally unique.
A new trailer for "The Boxtrolls" doesn't have any dialogue -- just Cee Lo Green's version of "They're So Square" playing over snippets of scenes. But the tantalizing glimpse is enough to show off some gorgeous stop-motion animation and a quirky, steampunk sensibility. Laika is the studio behind the similarly beautiful and weird "Coraline."
The story centers around an orphan little boy who is raised by the box trolls living under the streets of his town. But their cozy, homey world is threatened by an exterminator who wants to get rid of all of them.
"The Boxtrolls" features the voices of Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, and opens in theaters September 26.
Gallery | 2014 Family Movie Preview
- 'The Lego Movie' (February 7, 2014)
What It's About: The first full-length Lego movie follows everyman mini-figure Emmet (Chris Pratt) who is mistaken as the "chosen one" to save the world. Like Frodo, he embarks on an epic journey with a fellowship of much stronger mini-figs to stop a villain from ruining the LEGO universe.
Why We're Excited: It's impossible not to be excited about a movie that stars the multi-talented Pratt as the guileless protagonist and includes popular Lego characters like Superman (Channing Tatum), Batman (Will Arnett), Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) and Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders), as well as Morgan Freeman. An epic journey plus Legos times a ton of comedy, action and even romance equals a lot of fun for the whole family.
- 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman' (March 7, 2014)
What It's About: A genius dog named Mr. Peabody lives with his sweet adopted son Sherman, but when Sherman accidentally tells a visiting girl about his father's WABAC time-travel machine, they can't help but test it out. Since time travel is never consequence free, Mr. Peabody and the kids are forced on an adventure through history to try and fix the future.
Why We're Excited: Ty Burrell is the voice of Mr. Peabody, the talking dog scientist, and the historical figures are voiced by actors like Mel Brooks as Albert Einstein, Stanley Tucci as Leonardo da Vinci, and Lake Bell as the Mona Lisa. History lessons, time travel, and well-known celebs as legendary icons is a winning combination for parents and kids.
- 'Muppets Most Wanted' (March 21, 2014)
What It's About: It turns out our beloved Kermit the Frog has an evil Doppelganger, the nefarious thief Constantine. The "world's most dangerous frog," Constantine manages to switch identities with Kermit, sending Kermie to a Russian prison, while he infiltrates the Muppets and plans his greatest crime ever.
Why We're Excited: How can we not be excited? All of the Muppets are back, this time opposite stars like Tina Fey (in a hilariously thick Russian accent), Ricky Gervais playing Dominic Badguy (that's "bad-GEE" -- it's French), "Modern Family" star Ty Burrell, and a slew of other celebrities from Tom Hiddleston, Zach Galifianakis to Salma Hayek and Danny Trejo. We can't wait.
- 'Rio 2' (April 11, 2014)
What It's About: Blu and Jewel are now parents with three children, so Jewel decides to teach the kids about their wild heritage with a trip to the Amazon. Once there, the family of five discovers other blue macaws, including Jewel's stern father... but the family reunion includes new dangers, like the angry parakeet Nigel.
Why We're Excited: Rio was one of 2011's most colorful animated hits, and the sequel looks more of the same -- lush visuals, a catchy samba score, (it is Brazil, after all), and the voice talents of Anne Hathaway (Jewel), Jesse Eisenberg (Blu), Jemaine Clement (Nigel), and Jamie Foxx, plus new additions Rita Moreno, Andy Garcia, and more! Plus, the trailer features giggle-worthy gag of an adorable capybara belting out "Memory."
- 'Disney's Bears' (April 18, 2014)
What It's About: Every year around Earth Day (April 22), Disneynature releases another wildlife documentary, and 2014's is about -- you guessed it! -- bears. Set in Alaska, the "true life adventure" follows mother bears as they take their new cubs on their annual journey for food and shelter.Why We're Excited: Disneynature's docs are a perfect combination of educational and entertaining, so they're ideal for kids who love animals. If you think teddy bears are cute, take a peek at mama brown bear Sky at her cubs in the trailer, and you won't be able to resist the call of the wild to see Disney's latest animal doc.
- 'Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return' (May 9, 2014)
What It's About: In this animated Oz sequel, Dorothy Gale figures out a new way to return to Oz. Once back, Dorothy realizes her old pals, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow, are in danger thanks to a villain called the Jester, who turns people into marionettes. Dorothy once again embarks on a journey, but this time it's to save Oz, not just to get home.Why We're Excited: "Glee" star Lea Michele headlines this animated musical sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" as young Dorothy with a fantastic vocal range. The rest of the cast is equally as standout: Kelsey Grammer is the Tin Man; Dan Aykroyd is the Scarecrow; James Belushi is the Cowardly Lion; Broadway vet Bernadette Peters is the Good Witch, Glinda; and comedy legend Martin Short plays the villainous Jester.
- 'Maleficent' (May 30, 2014)
What It's About: Remember "Sleeping Beauty"? This is a prequel and retelling of that fairy tale told from the perspective of the villain, Maleficent, so we can finally know why the stone-hearted sorceress curses baby Aurora in the first place; we all know it couldn't just be sour grapes at not being invited to her christening!Why We're Excited: After a four-year hiatus to direct, travel the world as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, and raise her six kids with fiancé Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie is exercising her acting chops -- as one of Disney's most sinister villains. Everyone wants to see her pull it off, and it doesn't hurt that lovely young Elle Fanning is Princess Aurora and that the debut director is an Oscar-winning production designer responsible for "Avatar," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Oz the Great and Powerful," so the visuals will be stunning.
- 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' (June 14, 2014)
What It's About: Based on Cressida Coswell's best-selling children's book series, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" takes place five years after the events of the first film. There's peace between the dragons and the people of Berk, but when Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, stumble upon a secret cave that is home to hundreds of wild dragons, they find themselves having to protect the peace once again.Why We're Excited: We've been waiting four years to return to the island of Berk, with its brave and funny Vikings -- and of course Toothless, the most adorable dragon ever to grace the screen. We hope the delay in producing a sequel means the adventure is worth the wait. Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and "Games of Thrones" star Kit Harington join the already-packed voice ensemble of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig.
- 'Planes: Fire & Rescue' (July 18, 2014)
What It's About: In the second of the DisneyToon Studios' planned "Planes" trilogy, air racer Dusty Crophopper joins an elite crew of firefighting aircraft to protect Piston Peak's National Park from a raging wildfire. The rescue team includes veteran helicopter Blade Ranger, energetic Lil' Dipper, and a group of all-terrain vehicles that race the clock to stop the fire.
Why We're Excited: "Planes" wasn't as popular as Disney Pixar's "Cars" films, but it struck a chord with little vehicle fans who loved the underdog story. The sequel will broaden the "Planes" universe with emergency response aircraft and vehicles that are sure to enthrall young viewers who know the differences between a heavy-lift helicopter and an ex-military transport. "Modern Family" star Julie Bowen (Lil' Dipper) joins Dane Cook as the main voice cast.
- 'Dolphin Tale 2' (September 19, 2014)
What It's About: The original 2011 family hit (pictured here) involved an injured dolphin with an artificial tail, an injured veteran who inspired the marine prosthetic, and cute kids who made it all happen. This sequel promises a similar feel-good story, but focuses on Hope, an orphaned dolphin found nursing from her fatally injured mother.
Why We're Excited: The cast of "Dolphin Tale" reunites (Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman) for the sequel to a rewarding, well-told family drama based on a true story. For further inspiration, Bethany Hamilton, the subject of the similarly inspiring 2011 feature "Soul Surfer," joins the cast, so expect a motivational story children and tweens will especially connect with next fall.
- 'The Boxtrolls' (September 26, 2014)
What It's About: Set in Victorian England, this 3D stop-motion animated film follows an orphan named Eggs raised by cave-dwellers called the Boxtrolls who horrify the oh-so-proper townspeople with their trash-collecting ways. Eggs returns the favor by battling an exterminator (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) who is threatening to kill off the Boxtrolls.
Why We're Excited: We’re anticipating high-quality, creative animated storytelling. "Boxtrolls" is the third joint venture by the stop-motion geniuses at Laika Studios and Focus Features; their earlier two projects, "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," both garnered Oscar nominations for best animated feature. Isaac Hempstead Wright, best known as Bran Stark on HBO's "Game of Thrones,"’ stars as the voice of Eggs. The uproarious British comedy mates Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (October 10, 2014)
What It's About: After the title character (played by Ed Oxenbould, pictured) wakes up with gum in his hair, his day only gets worse. After he complains to his family, he gets no sympathy, so he wishes they’d all suffer the same as him -- a wish that comes true to everyone’s exasperation.
Why We're Excited: Based on the beloved 1972 children's book of the same name, “Alexander” promises big-budget, high-concept Disney production. Lisa Cholodenko, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director of sophisticated indie dramas such as "The Kids Are All Right" and "High Art," co-wrote the script for "Alexander." Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner co-star. Since the "Alexander" book series consists of three volumes, a hit could launch a movie franchise.
- 'Annie' (December 19, 2014)
What It's About: In this modernization of the beloved Broadway and Hollywood musical, a charming orphan dreams of "Tomorrow" while living a "Hard Knock Life," until she’s taken in by an intimidating but ultimately kind-hearted billionaire. Meanwhile, Annie’s scheming orphanage manager, Miss Hannigan, tries to capitalize on Annie’s search for her birth parents.Why We're Excited: Quvenzhané Wallis, who became the youngest actor to be nominated for an Oscar after her breakout role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," stars as the titular, ever optimistic orphan. Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx -- who obviously knows how to carry a tune -- re-imagines Daddy Warbucks as Benjamin "Will" Stacks, a media mogul he modeled after Sean “Diddy” Combs. Will Smith, who, at one point, was attached to star in it opposite daughter Willow, produced the film with fellow rapper-turned-entrepreneur Jay-Z.
- 'Night at the Museum 3' (December 25, 2014)
What It's About: Ben Stiller returns for the third installment of the popular children's book adaptation involving museum exhibits that come to life at night, after all the tourists and field-trippers have gone home.
Why We're Excited: While "Night at the Museum 2" lacked the spark and excitement of the series’ wildly creative original offering at the Met, the idea of fossils, statues, and mounted tigers coming to life still captivates anyone with an jot of imagination or wonder. Besides, Ricky Gervais, who stole the show in the second installment, recently signed on to reprise his role as Stiller’s peevish boss.
- 'The Nut Job' (January 17, 2014)
What It's About: After Surly the squirrel is exiled from his park, he's forced to fend for himself in the city until he stumbles upon the key to his -- and his former friends' -- survival: a nut shop he plans to rob with a crew of misfits preparing for winter.Why We're Excited: It comes out in January, when families will be ready for their first post-"Frozen" and "Hobbit" trip to the movies. "The Nut Job" is the first kid-friendly movie of the year, and it features the instantly recognizable voices of Will Arnett (Surly), Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph, and Katherine Heigl. When your family starts to get stir crazy from the freezing temps, this will make a good excuse to head out to the movies.