“Spirit Riding Free” will arrive on the big screen on May 14, 2021, while “The Bad Guys” is set to debut on Sept. 17, 2021. The latter will replace “Spooky Jack,” a cartoon from the Universal-owned Blumhouse that the studio took off its release calendar.
The still-untitled “Spirit Riding Free” is based on the DreamWorks Animation Television series on Netflix, which itself was inspired by the 2002 Oscar-nominated film “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.” The animated adventure continues the story about an unbreakable bond between a girl and her wild horse. The Netflix series consists of 52 episodes so far with more content on the way this fall and in 2020. Elaine Bogan (“Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia,” “3 Below,” “Dragons: Race to the Edge”) is directing the film and “How to Train Your Dragon” co-producer Karen Foster will produce. Aury Wallington, creator of the Netflix series, is writing the feature film.
“The Bad Guys,” adapted from Aaron Blabey’s best-selling book series, centers on legendary heist masterminds who, after a career of crime, take a stab at the virtuous life. Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder,” “Get Hard”) wrote the script, which will be directed by Pierre Perifel in his feature directing debut.
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Since acquiring DreamWorks in 2016, Universal has focused on backing modestly priced family-friendly films. The first DreamWorks title that Universal distributed was 2019’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” The conclusion to the animated “Dragon” trilogy earned $519 million worldwide. Complementing lower production fees, the studio also benefits from ancillary goods — toys, apparel, accessories and more — that come from making a movie geared toward younger audiences.
DreamWorks’ 2021 slate also includes “The Boss Baby 2,” a sequel to the 2017 movie that grossed $528 million at the global box office and scored an Oscar nom.