Amid all the reports of Pixar’s sad decline, there’s one group whose voice has been underrepresented: that of our kids. So we interviewed more than two dozen children and relatives of Slate staffers, asking them to name their favorite and least favorite Pixar movies.
The results were surprising. Overall, children were more persnickety than critics, giving 11 out of 14 movies lower ratings than critics did. Moreover, their favorites frequently differed from those of the critics: Cars 2, for example, declared a stinker by critics, was among the most popular Pixar films with children, rating even higher than the original. But almost half of the kids hated Finding Nemo, a movie that achieved a near perfect rating (99 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) from critics.
And while many critics see the quality of Pixar movies falling off, children see Pixar movies as better than ever. To illustrate this, we’ve graphed the Rotten Tomatoes ratings of each Pixar film over the years, comparing critics’ ratings with the percentage of positive responses from children.
What explains the difference? Critics often judge whether the movies are also good for adults, but not a single child we spoke to expressed any concern for whether their parents enjoyed the movie. And kids love sequels, apparently, rating both Monsters University and Cars 2 much higher than the critics did. (Pixar may want to rethink its new plan to cut back on follow-ups.) There was one other thing that turned off younger reviewers: Again and again, movies ranging from Monsters, Inc. to A Bug’s Life were deemed “too scary.”
Herewith, the best Pixar movies, from best to worst, as chosen by our children.
1. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Kids’ Rating: 93%
Critics’ Rating: 96%
Monsters, Inc. was the undisputed champ, with kids praising “the message” (Nell, age 12), “its creativity” (Jacob, age 10), and, above all, its relatable characters. Gideon, age 4, gave it his highest rating “because I like Mike Wazowski,” while Franny, age 8, did the same “because I like Sully.” Pearl, age 9, also listed it among her favorites because “it gave me a reason to not be scared of monsters, which I had been when I was little.” The lone dissenter, 4-year old Harry, found it “too scary,” but 9-year-old Brandon summed it best: “It’s just a really good movie.”
2. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Critics’ Rating: 99%
Kids’ Rating: 91%
Our kids agreed that Toy Story 3 was “really funny” (Lizey, 9), “deep” (Noa, 12), and had “a very clear depiction of good and evil” (Nell, 12). Nell elaborated that “it touches on so many deep subjects, betrayal, loss.” Others, like Madison, 4, liked it for different reasons: “Because the day care. I like the day care parts.”
2. Up (2009)
Critics’ Rating: 98%
Kids’ Rating: 91%
Most children agreed that Up is “funny” (Pearl, 9),“beautiful” (Nell, 12), and “sad” (Lizey, 9), though sad “in a good way” (Noa, 12). Still, Nell worried that “for most children, there are not enough jokes to distract from the sadness,” while Jacob, 10, found it “boring.” Alex, 5, listed Up as his favorite, “Because Russell throws his GPS out the window and he’s so funny and he can make birds with his hands. He’s a wilderness explorer, you know.” Pearl added: “It was realistic down to minute details, like in 50 years maybe a collar could translate a dog’s thoughts into speech.”
4. Monsters University (2013)
Critics’ Rating: 77%
Kids’ Rating: 89%
Though it’s gotten disappointing reviews (by Pixar standards) from adult critics, many of our 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old respondents listed Monsters University among their favorites. Reasons included “Because Sully can really roar” (Max, 5), “Because Mike has braces in his teeth” (Alex, 5), and “Because it was funny and a monster fell off a bed” (Harry, 4). Liam, 6, agreed about the roaring, listing Monsters U as his favorite “because the part where Sully has the big roar and scares all the policemen.” Some older respondents “didn’t like it as much as Monsters, Inc.,” while one 4-year-old noted that it was “too scary for me.” (Dad adds: “We left about five minutes in.”)
5. The Incredibles (2004)
Critics’ Rating: 97%
Kids’ Rating: 85%
Most children who championed The Incredibles focused on one thing: the cool “powers” and “superpowers” (Lizey, 9, Jacob, 10, and Eli, 12). On the other hand, Pearl, 9, found it “too action-packed,” while Miriam, 10, judged that “the idea is interesting but not the story.” Franny, 6, gave it a high rating “because I like the dad.”
6. Toy Story (1995)
Critics’ Rating: 100%
Kids’ Rating: 82%
Most of our respondents liked Toy Story, noting that it was “funny” (Jameson, 6), “sweet” (Nell, 12), and “very realistic” (Noa, 12). Still, it had its detractors: Elliot, 4, said, “I didn’t like it, because Sid is mean and he smashes all the toys.” Harry, 4, also had complaints: “It’s just toys in it. Just a bunch of toys. I don’t like toys in movies.”