I love to watch movies with my kids. We like going to the theater as much as staying home and watching something on the couch (though these days, the couch option is much more affordable). My kids are still learning the trick of asking questions after the movie vs. during the movie, but otherwise it's always a great time. Popcorn, usually the younger child ends up in someone's lap and a warm feeling of having gone on a trip when it's over. One thing about this ritual that I love much more now, with my own kids, than I did when I was a kid and I went to movies with my parents, is the content.
I remember going to see movies like Benji and Fantasia with my parents. For both films, my dad was asleep 20 minutes in. There was no conversation before or after or even during the movie. Just a basic, "Did you like it? Good, let's go home." The films themselves, while good kid-aged fare, were nothing that broke the mold. Yes, everyone knows the sequence in Fantasia with Micky Mouse called The Sorcerer's Apprentice. I liked it then, I like it now, but I'm ok with not seeing it again anytime soon. Live action kid movies from my childhood, while they appear dated (it was the 80's, come on), hold up fairly well: The Goonies, ET, Never Ending Story etc. Cartoon movies, not so much. I can think of only 2 that stand out - The Land Before Time (1st one, not the many, many direct-to-video releases) and An American Tail. But animated movies were not in the same quantity that they are in today.
We live in the Pixar age. I seriously believe that the guys over at Pixar could take any half-finished computer-generated cartoon movie and turn it into a work of art. My husband disagrees with me on this one, but I have enjoyed every release they've put out. Yes, even A Bug's Life. Yes, even The Incredibles. Every one of them. My kids even have favorites that I wouldn't have expected. My son is currently in love with Ratatouille. A movie about a rat that can cook is the favorite of a 4-year-old boy obsessed with trains and tackling people for fun. How cool is that?
One of my more favorite scenes from the Pixar movies is the ending of Ratatouille. I watched the movie with my kids expecting a funny movie about a rat in Paris who can cook - ironic circumstances leading to laughs. It was deeper than I expected and the ending hit me right in the chest. I watched one of the obstacle characters, a renowned food critic known for his scathing reviews named Anton Ego, become transformed by one bite of the main dish served to him - ratatouille, a "peasant dish" as another character calls it.
Aside from breaking my heart as I remembered my own comfort food from childhood, my brain was screaming, "Awesome!" It was like the food was just talking to Ego. "Hey, so you're a badass food critic? Check this out - we're serving you a peasant dish. A gourmet peasant dish. The same one served to you by your mother to feel better after your bike kicked your ass. Remember that? See how badass we are?"
At the end of the day, who is anyone to say what is art and what isn't? It all comes back to a feeling, a connection that the artist had with the resultant work which is carried over to the person experiencing the art. The food was so good, he had a flashback to childhood. The food was so good, he believed that a rat had cooked it. The food was so good, it made him question everything about who he was and what he was doing in his career as a food critic. I adore the review he writes for the restaurant - "But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new." The choice of Peter O'Toole to bring Ego to life was exemplary casting. I also love that the movie had another small twist ending - that despite the excellent review, the restaurant was still shut down because there were rats in the kitchen.
I love the unique messages that Pixar movies have - it's not always Good vs. Evil, not always Do Your Best and Be Rewarded. The endings feel true, feel like struggles that we average people deal with. An ant who leads his colony to a better life they didn't know existed, a rat who proves that art can come from anywhere, a toy who just wants to be appreciated but knows his purpose is to make a child happy. These are the New Fairy Tales. In a Pixar movie, you can aspire to and be anything, even if it's not what you originally planned. The little guy can be great and the big guy can step aside and let someone else shine. There are other computer animated movies that we love, but no company has been as consistent for us as Pixar has, parents and kids.
So while I look back at my childhood movie experiences and grimace a bit, I really hope that the excitement and entertainment that my kids have with my husband and I (and occasionally, Grandma) stays just as exciting when they're older with children. Hopefully, they'll live in a Pixar world, too.