Netflix release poster
Directed by
Written by
Produced by
Edited by
  • Patrick Voetberg
  • Joseph Titone
Music by
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • November 21, 2023 (2023-11-21)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Leo is a 2023 animated musical comedy film directed by Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel and David Wachtenheim (in Marianetti and Wachtenheim's feature directorial debuts), written by Smigel, Adam Sandler, and Paul Sado, and produced by Sandler and Mireille Soria. The second animated feature from Sandler's production company Happy Madison Productions, coming 21 years after Eight Crazy Nights (2002), it stars Sandler, Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, and Jason Alexander with supporting roles done by Sadie Sandler, Sunny Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jo Koy, Allison Strong, Jackie Sandler, Heidi Gardner, Robert Smigel, and Nick Swardson. The film tells the story of a tuatara longing for the wild and worried about dying who is taken home by different students per the assignment of a strict substitute teacher, but gets himself caught up in the troubles of each student and offers life advice to each of them.

Leo was released by Netflix on November 21, 2023, to generally positive reviews by critics, who praised the animation, humor, vocal performances and musical numbers.


Longtime class pets Leo the tuatara and Squirtle the Florida box turtle live in a fifth-grade classroom at a Fort Myers elementary school. During a parent-teacher conference, the pregnant fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Salinas announces her maternity leave. As the parents come to express their displeasure with the substitute teacher whom Principal Spahn[a] has selected to cover for Mrs. Salinas, Leo overhears one of them say that tuataras live to be 75 years old and despairs when he realizes he is 74 and has not accomplished his dreams of going to the Everglades. The next day, the strict substitute Virginia Malkin[b] arrives and is quickly loathed by the students.

Leo is taken home for the weekend by Summer, an overly talkative girl. While trying to make his escape, Leo accidentally reveals to Summer that he can talk, and suggests to her that she ask more questions to improve her conversations with classmates. As a result, Summer becomes more popular. One by one, her fellow students Eli, Jayda, two boys both named Cole, Skyler, Logan, Mia, Kabir, TJ, Zane, and Anthony take Leo home each weekend, confiding in him with their own issues and concerns, to which he provides wisdom and support, improving each of their lives. However, Leo requests that each student keep his talking ability a secret from the others and doesn't tell any of them that the others know he can talk.

Jealous of the attention Leo is getting, Squirtle decides to expose him. Feeling betrayed, the class disregards Leo. Ms. Malkin takes Leo home when she discovers he talks and has been helping her students. Leo learns that she never accomplished her dream of being a real teacher, which is why she's always mean to the students, and he attempts to give her advice.

The next day, the students win the history fair with their historical figure reenactments, with their prize being a field trip to Magic Land Park. Wanting to take all the credit, Ms. Malkin abandons Leo at the Everglades. When the students wanted to apologize to Leo, Ms. Malkin tells them that Leo left them.

As the students travel to Magic Land Park, a guilt-ridden Squirtle uses Eli's drone to catch up with them and reveals that Ms. Malkin lied to which she confesses. The students and Ms. Malkin hijack the bus and head to the Everglades. Meanwhile, Leo learns from wild tuataras that he can live to be over 110 years old, reinvigorating him. Leo is threatened by a congregation of alligators, but is rescued by Ms. Malkin and the students.

On the final day of the school year, Leo tells the class to look out for one another as they enter middle school. Ms. Malkin is given a full-time job as a teacher by Principal Spahn and is promptly assigned to the kindergarteners, with Leo and Squirtle as the class pets.

Voice cast


In May 2016, it was reported that Adam Sandler would produce (under Happy Madison Productions), write and star in an animated film project. At that time STX Entertainment was attached.[3] Leo was animated by Netflix Animation's Animal Logic.[4] The film's score was composed by Geoff Zanelli.[5]


Leo film had a preview at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 14, 2023,[6] before its release by Netflix on November 21, 2023.[7]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 82% of 72 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's consensus reads: "Slick animation, catchy songs, and some winning voice work from a cast led by Adam Sandler help Leo strike an uneasy balance between satirical and sweet."[8] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 65 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[9]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
Annie Awards February 17, 2024 Outstanding Achievement for Editorial Patrick Voetberg, Joseph Titone, Darrian M. James, Danny Miller, and Brian Robinson Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 12, 2023 Best Animated Film Leo Nominated
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards July 13, 2024 Favorite Male Voice From An Animated Movie Adam Sandler Pending


  1. ^ a b Despite being called Principal Spahn in the film, he is listed in the credits as "Principal".
  2. ^ a b Despite her first name being revealed as Virginia, she is listed in the credits as "Ms. Malkin".
  3. ^ Despite being called Dr. Jay Wenger in the film, he is listed in the credits as "Jayda's dad".
  4. ^ Despite the closed captioning calling him Cole H. during the student group text scene, he is listed in the credits as "Cole".
  5. ^ Despite the closed captioning calling him Cole W. during the student group text scene, he is listed in the credits as "Cole #2".
  6. ^ Despite being referred to as the Child Safety Hovernator on the phone app owned by Eli's mom, it is listed in the credits as "Drone".


  1. ^ "Leo (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. September 12, 2023. Archived from the original on October 15, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  2. ^ Conan O'Brien (February 26, 2024). "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend: Adam Sandler Returns" (Podcast). Team Coco. Retrieved April 10, 2024.
  3. ^ Galuppo, Mia (May 24, 2016). "Adam Sandler Plans Animated Feature for STX". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 15, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  4. ^ Taylor, Drew (April 25, 2023). "New Netflix Animated Movies Include SpongeBob, Ultraman". TheWrap. Archived from the original on October 15, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  5. ^ "Geoff Zanelli Scoring Netflix's Leo". Film Music Reporter. August 23, 2023. Archived from the original on October 15, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  6. ^ Taylor, Drew (April 24, 2023). "Netflix to Debut Official First Looks at Nimona, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget at This Year's Annecy". TheWrap. Archived from the original on June 28, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  7. ^ White, Abbey (October 12, 2023). "Adam Sandler's Aging Animated Lizard Helps a School Class Navigate the Challenges of Growing Up in Leo Trailer". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 12, 2023. Retrieved October 12, 2023.
  8. ^ "Leo". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved December 9, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  9. ^ "Leo". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved December 9, 2023.