We Had Children Choose the Best Pixar Movies, and Kids Think They’re Better Than Ever

Arts, entertainment, and more.
June 28 2013 5:54 PM

The Best Pixar Movies

As chosen by children.

Your favorite Pixar characters.

Courtesy of Pixar/Disney/Getty Images

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.

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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.

130628_criticsPixarRatings
130628_kidsPixarRatings

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%

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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.”

7. Cars 2 (2011)
Critics’ Rating: 39%
Kids’ Rating: 82%

While it was panned by critics, Cars 2 was mostly beloved among our children, who declared that it was even “better than Cars” (Lizey, 9). Our youngest critics loved it most, noting “I love racing things!” (Graham, 7), “Race cars are funny” (Wilson, 4), and, “Because there’s bad guys, and Mater, and Lightning McQueen, and SPIES!” (Max, 5). Noa, 12, provided a counterpoint: “The thing about the Cars movies is that they are geared to a specific audience and that audience does not include 12-year-old girls.”

8. Ratatouille (2007)
Critics’ Rating: 96%
Kids’ Rating: 79%

The most controversial issue with Ratatouille, universally acclaimed by professional critics, was the rats. Miriam, 10, “liked that it was about a rat that could cook,” while Elliot, 4, disagreed, saying, “I didn’t like it, because it has rats, and I don’t like rats.” Noa, 12, explained, “I like how it is symbolic of real life. And I like rats.”

9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Critics’ Rating: 100%
Kids’ Rating: 71%

Toy Story 2 earned a rare perfect rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but younger viewers were all over the map. Nell, 12, liked “how it is sad” and appreciated the theme of “the cycle of toys and the loss they felt.” Eli, who’s the same age, dismissed the movie as “pointless.” “A bunch of people appeared and disappeared in 90 minutes, maybe less.” Max, 5, said it was one of his favorites, “Because Evil Emperor Zurg!”

10. WALL-E (2008)
Critics’ Rating: 96%
Kids’ Rating: 71%

Many children loved WALL-E, often naming the scene where WALL-E floats in particular. But a few disagreed. Nell, 12, offered the harshest take: “I don’t get it. I don’t think it is clever. There is no narrative. I don’t like the eco-ness of it. I thought it was boring.” 5-year-old Alex listed it among his favorites: “Wall-E floats in space and he meets a best friend. I love meeting best friends.” His twin, Max, agreed: “Wall-E can float! And he makes square stuff come out of his belly.”

11. Brave (2012)
Critics’ Rating: 78%
Kids’ Rating: 67%

Fans of Brave really liked the scene “when the bear was naked” (Franny, 8, and Gideon, 4). Jacob, 10, also “liked the Brave’s bravery.” But twins Max and Alex, 5, numbered it among their least favorites, explaining that they didn’t like the scary witch and “the very scary bear, MULDOON.” (His actual name is Mor’du.) At least one kid agreed with many critics, celebrating the fact that “for once the story has a female heroine” (Pearl, 9).

12. Finding Nemo (2003)
Critics’ Rating: 99%
Kids’ Rating: 57%

Nearly half of our child critics disliked Finding Nemo, complaining that it was “overhyped” and “very predictable” (Noa, 12), “a little weird” (Lizey, 9), and “went overboard with fantasy” (Jacob, 10). Nemo’s fans, on the other hand, explained that they liked it “because there’s a turtle that’s so funny, it swims away” (Lily, 6), and because they “liked the fish” (Franny, 8).

13. Cars (2006)
Critics’ Rating: 74%
Kids’ Rating: 54%

As with Ratatouille, the most controversial aspect of Cars was the subject matter. Pearl, 9, said, “Talking cars don’t appeal to me.” Jacob, 10, agreed: “Too many cars.” Some younger viewers took the opposite view, giving high ratings because “race cars are funny” (Wilson, 4), and “because they race” (Gideon, 4). Nell, 12, got to the heart of the matter: “They were just trying to appeal to a younger audience.”

14. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Critics’ Rating: 92%
Kids’ Rating: 43%

For those who remembered it—and many didn’t—A Bug’s Life seems to have aged poorly. While some liked it, praising its “good story” (Pearl, 9), another complained that it was “too scary” (Max, 5). Lizey, 9, gave it her lowest rating: “It was kind of stupid that they made a movie about insects.”