I personally haven’t seen a single Pixar movie, except maybe two thirds of Toy Story which I saw when I was eleven. This is mainly because I come from something of an older-school mentality when it comes to "family movies" I.E. I think they suck, and the notion of someone over 10 going to one without being dragged by a kid just seems really strange to me.
This is largely in part because I am a grumpy person who hates kids and hates whimsy, and movies designed with the mentality of a child in mind do not interest me. I don't have any particular distain for Pixar, and I do think that if they're better than their peers they deserve credit, but the fact is that for all intents and purposed they remain kid's movies and as such are of no interest to me. I did watch about 30 minutes of Shrek on t.v., which I know isn't actually Pixar, but it most definitely fueled my cynicism regarding the critics who claim this new wave of animated films are genuinely great films for adult viewing independent of a need to give kids somthing to do.
Still every damn year another one of these things comes out, the critics start going crazy and I feel a little bit out of the loop. If someone would explain to me why someone over 10, who has no need to entertain children would enjoy one of these movies without the need to contextualize it and forgive it for being a children's movie, I'd be interested in that explanation because I've yet to hear one that’s made sense to me.
If you have a disdain for animated family films you should read up on Brad Bird's ideas on animation as a tool rather than a genre. He comes from a background of The Simpsons and the animated film Family Dog, a decidedly dark episode of Spielberg's series Amazing Stories. The main idea is that animated films need not be the domain of cheap entertainment for children who are easily amused. Instead they should be used to tell compelling stories about fascinating characters.
Ratatouille is almost the perfect example of this. It is a great story about interesting ideas, focused on great characters. It never panders to a child audience, instead respecting their intelligence, as well as the intelligence of the adult audience. And, of course, there's the fact that it's a story that could not be told in such form without the tool of animation. If you haven't seen any of Pixar's films, particularly the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, you are definitely missing out. I reccomend giving them a hearty, open-minded try. You may actually be surprised by how adult they are. And I don't mean adult in the sense of adult jokes. I mean in the sense of complex themes and truly developed characters.
Finding Nemo, for example, deals with of parental over-protectiveness, a child's feelings that their parents may not have faith in them, trust in the potential of others, and a child feeling ashamed of their parent. Those are ideas and themes that are far beyond even what most 'actual adult films' have to offer. They are ideas that appeal to adults, and on many levels children understand and relate to them as well.
I'm crazy for Pixar, but it's not because of some silly, misplaced nostalgia for child-like fun and wonder. What appeals to me about Pixar is that they are able to take ideas that would seem very child-like on the surface and inject them with humanity, care, and deep themes that go well above the standard for even the most beloved family films going back to the beginning of film. Sure, they're animated, but the artistry in the visuals, music, and most of all, in the storytelling puts the best Pixar films on the same plane as many of the best films ever made. Maybe not Citizen Kane or The Gofather, but certainly not way too far behind.
Hell, even the AFI saw fit to put Toy Story on their list of 100 best films of all time (though I got the feeling that it was mostly because it was a milestone in the history of film). But nonetheless, it fully deserved the recognition. It had beautiful animation, wonderful voice-acting work, fantastic direction, and a screenplay that I would say rivals any of the great screenplays ever written. It maybe about toys who come to life, but its not about
toys. It's true art. It's about the human condition, about friendships forged in the need for survival, about having what it takes to get past a vice as awful as jealousy, about facing those in the world that are only there to test us harm us, about recognizing who we truly are inside, whether that be greater or lesser person than we thought or hoped we knew. A film that can delve into those types of themes while also being incredibly funny, adventurous, and plain beautiful to look at is morth than worth the time it would take you to sit down and watch it.
I hope you do watch a couple of Pixar's body of work, and maybe you'll even check out Wall-E, which in my opinion looks to be one of the great films of this year.