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For 2019, Big Sequels on Deck Look to Boost Oscar Race

Some of the year’s most-anticipated sequels dominate 2019’s animated feature release slate, and are already adding heat to the race for next year’s Oscars.

Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” and Disney’s “Frozen 2” are as close to sure-fire commercial hits as they come. Both franchises, however, bring with them the kind of sky-high expectations in which anything short of excellence will disappoint, putting pressure on each studio to deliver at the highest level.

And the competition is tough. Warner Bros. is surely looking to reverse a perceived snub when the Academy passed over “The Lego Movie” with “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” which has already won critics over but its less-than-blockbuster box office surprised observers.

Hot on its heels is DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which is earning writer and director Dean DeBlois praise for making the rare trilogy finale that delivers.

“Dragon” has already made more than $85 million overseas in less than two weeks of release. It opens Stateside March 22.

Further down the release sked is Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” now with 100% less Louis C.K., and Aardman looks to get its silent kids star back into the nom circle with “Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.”

Carrying the banner for original features is Portland, Ore.-based Laika, now backed by Annapurna Pictures and following up its hit “Kubo and the Two Strings” by searching its Pacific Northwest backyard for a legendary creature in “Missing Link,” starring the voice of Hugh Jackman.

Blue Sky recruits Will Smith and Tom Holland for the comic buddy movie “Spies in Disguise,“ and Paramount opens the doors this spring to “Wonder Park,” produced in conjunction with Spain’s Ilion Animation.

The indie contenders picture becomes more clear as major festivals such as Annecy and Ottawa make their selections, but “Weathering With You,” director Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the hit “Your Name,” is worth watching as an anime release with the potential to crash the party.

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