1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Muppets
Jason Segal shares the screen with "The Muppets" in one of fall's kid-aimed flicks.
TODAY contributor
updated 9/12/2011 4:26:11 PM ET 2011-09-12T20:26:11

For Hollywood, the recipe for success in kids movies this fall is straightforward. Animals and animation are the buzzwords, with the five big titles coming out between now and Thanksgiving all featuring one or the other.

Slideshow: A mom's look at recent kid flicks (on this page)

An injured dolphin, a swashbuckling cat, a rhythm-less penguin, a hapless younger son of Santa Claus, and the Muppets are the stars that the studios help will captivate kids into cajoling their parents to take them to the multiplex. It’s a mix of the familiar and the new, but only one of them is in theatres before November. So parents, you’re on your own in October.

Story: Fall movies offer some very familiar faces

'Dolphin Tale' (Sept. 23)
If you haven’t seen this trailer before, it must be because you don’t own a television or ever go to the movies because this has been the most hyped dolphin since Dan Marino. The inspirational story of an injured dolphin getting healed ’ and in the process, helping to heal others — is the feel-good movie of the season. It’s rated PG, but given the subject matter and the ending (spoiler alert: the dolphin in question plays herself in the movie, so you can pretty much guess how it ends), is a safe bet to appeal to kids, and moms and dads should enjoy it as well.

Video: Watch the 'Dolphin Tale' trailer (on this page)

'Puss in Boots' (Nov. 4)
This isn’t quite a "Shrek" sequel, but rather the backstory of one of the prominent characters. If you’ve ever wondered what the cat with the fancy hat and sword did before meeting up with the distinctive green ogre in “Shrek 2,” you’re in luck, because that’s what this movie does. It isn’t something for littler kids — Jack and Jill are violent outlaws who are trying to get the power to destroy the world, which is a heavy topic for the average preschooler, and there’s some cartoon swordfighting violence to worry about. But older kids, especially those who like the other films in the Shrek franchise, should enjoy this one.

Video: Watch the 'Puss in Boots' trailer (on this page)

'Happy Feet 2' (Nov. 18)
Everyone loves penguins who sing and dance. But what about a penguin who doesn’t want to move to the music? That’s the plot of the “Happy Feet” sequel, which features Mumble the penguin dealing with a son who hasn’t caught dance fever yet. The original was a huge hit, winning the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2006, and it’s hard to imagine this one not having similar success. The downside is that you’ll have to fend off questions from your kids about why they aren’t allowed to have a pet penguin of their own.

Video: Watch the trailer for 'Happy Feet 2 in 3D' (on this page) Video: Where’s Happy Feet? (on this page)

'Arthur Christmas' (Nov. 23)
First things first: This isn’t a movie version of the PBS series about the cartoon aardvark and his animal friends. Parents of preschoolers in particular should be aware of that, since this film may be too sophisticated for younger viewers. It is the animated story of a different Arthur, a son of Santa Claus who must deliver a missing present to a little girl before the sun rises Christmas morning. James McAvoy voices the title character, and if he sounds familiar it’s because you probably heard him in the title role in “Gnomeo and Juliet” earlier this year. You can really confuse your children by arranging to screen those two films back to back.

Video: Watch the 'Arthur Christmas' trailer (on this page)

'The Muppets' (Nov. 23)
If you liked the Muppets as a kid, take your own children to see this, because it’s the last best hope of reviving the franchise. Jason Segal, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper are the human stars playing alongside the Muppets, with the central plot an attempt to save the Muppet Theater from being acquired by Cooper so he can dig for oil there. If you think the point about tearing down the theater is a representation of the threat faced by the Muppet franchise, you probably paid attention in high school English and are certainly correct. Unlike the classic Muppet films, this one is rated PG because of mild rude humor, but odds are good that the kids of today will still love Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear as much as you did. And adults will love seeing what their favorite characters are up to now — who doesn’t want to see Fozzie Bear in a Muppets tribute band called the Moopets, or Miss Piggy as a plus-size fashion editor?

Video: Watch 'The Muppets' trailer (on this page)

Will you (with or without kids) see any of these movies? And who's your favorite Muppet? Discuss with us on Facebook.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Watch the 'Dolphin Tale' trailer

Photos: September movies

loading photos...
  1. 'Apollo 18'

    Stars: Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie

    Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    Think there wasn't an "Apollo 18" lunar mission? Think again. Decades-old found footage from the supposed secret expedition reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon. Hint: Didja see "Alien"? (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'The Debt'

    Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson

    Director: John Madden

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    "The Debt" begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Mirren) and Stefan (Wilkinson) about their former colleague David. The group supposedly tracked down a Nazi war criminal in 1966 -- or did they? (Miramax Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Shark Night 3D'

    Stars: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan and Alyssa Diaz

    Director: David R. Ellis

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    The title, "Sharl Night 3D," says it all. But sharks in a freshwater lake? Hollywood will do anything to get the blood, bikinis and severed limbs flying in 3-D. (Relativity Media) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy'

    Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb and Tyler Labine

    Directors: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    In "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," Jason Sudeikis and pals have partied for years at his dad's beach house. But when dad (Don Johnson) announces he's selling the place, his son decides it's time for the ultimate party. (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Contagion'

    Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law

    Director: Steven Soderbergh

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    Have your face masks ready -- you'll want one after seeing "Contagion." The action thriller follows people trying to survive a lethal virus. Big stars abound, and it sure looks like from promos that things don't go well for Gwyneth Paltrow. (Warner Bros) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star'

    Stars: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson and Christina Ricci

    Director: Tom Brady

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    "Bucky Larson" is a kid from the Midwest who moves out to Hollywood in order to follow in his parents footsteps -- which for him, means becoming a porn star. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Warrior'

    Stars: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton

    Director: Gavin O'Connor

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    In "Warrior," two estranged brothers face the fight of a lifetime. Nick Nolte plays their alcoholic dad, who trains one to eventually land in the ring against the other in a mixed martial-arts tournament. (Chuck Zlotnick) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Straw Dogs'

    Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard

    Director: Rod Lurie

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "Straw Dogs" is a remake of the 1971 Dustin Hoffman thriller, infamous for its controversial rape scene. L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both. (Screen Gems) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'I Don't Know How She Does It'

    Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer

    Director: Douglas McGrath

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "I Don't Know How She Does It" is a comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy (Parker), a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids. Based on the best-selling novel. (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'Drive'

    Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston

    Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    In "Drive," Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman. After a heist goes wrong, he discovers that a contract has been put on his life. (Richard Foreman Jr Smpsp / FilmDistrict) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'Moneyball'

    Stars: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill

    Director: Bennett Miller

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball," based on Michael Lewis' book. The focus is on Beane's attempt to create a competitive team despite Oakland's unfavorable financial situation. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'Abduction'

    Stars: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina

    Director: John Singleton

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    In "Abduction," Taylor Lautner plays a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website. (Lionsgate) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'Dolphin Tale'

    Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.

    Director: Charles Martin Smith

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    IThe 3-D film "Dolphin Tale" is is inspired by the true story of a bottlenose dolphin named Winter who lost her tail in a crab trap. Her human friends work frantically to create a prosthetic so she can still swim. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Dream House'

    Stars: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    The beautiful home in "Dream House" is more of a nightmare. Soon after moving in, a family learns that a mother and her children were brutally murdered there. (Universal Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. '50/50'

    Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

    Director: Jonathan Levine

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "50/50" is a comedic account of a 27-year-old man's cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. (Summit Entertainment) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Killer Elite'

    Stars: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro

    Director: Gary McKendry

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    Action film "Killer Elite" focuses on a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) who is forced into action when his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader (Clive Owen). (Open Road Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'What's Your Number?'

    Stars: Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and Chris Evans

    Director: Mark Mylod

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "What's Your Number?" refers to the number of men a woman has slept with. Anna Faris plays Ally, a woman whose number is 20, as she looks back at those men wondering if any of them are her true love. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. The Weinstein Company
    Above: Slideshow (17) September movies
  2. Pixar
    Slideshow (57) A mom's look at recent kid flicks

More on TODAY.com

  1. @HillaryClinton/twitter

    Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans

    4/10/2015 3:58:42 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T15:58:42
  1. Courtesy Bryan Morseman

    Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida

    4/10/2015 5:54:50 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T17:54:50
  1. YouTube

    8 great celebrity impressions of other celebrities

    4/10/2015 6:44:22 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T18:44:22