Animation is a very interesting thing. It's just another way to tell a story from a certain point of view, I should think, and it all goes without saying that it can do it quite well.
The problem... is that people don't know which audience animated movies should aim for. Some say it should only pander to the kids, and adults be damned; after all, it's the kids that are important, right? Others say the adults should be able to enjoy the movie, too, and there should be something for everyone in there.
Personally? I'm of the crowd that thinks you should aim for all audiences, because in the end you'll please everyone except the film critics that are incredible attention whores (Armond White, I'm looking at you). Kids will be entertained by anything you put in front of them; I remember I used to like Ferngully a lot before I realized how bad the songs in it were, as well as how obvious (and annoying) it is about its environmental message.
But adults aren't the same way. By that time, they'll have things they like and don't like. So why gear an animated family movie for the family? A few reasons:
1) The parent is buying the ticket. I don't think it'll be good for the parent if they buy a ticket to a movie they don't really like when everything is said and done.
2) It's good for the moviegoers that don't have kids, for similar reasons to the parent buying the kid the ticket.
3) Most of the time, animation is classified in family movies. If it's geared only to the kids, then the term 'family' is a bit of a misnomer since it implies the rest of the family should be able to enjoy it, no?
4) They age better if you leave elements for everyone. After all, those kids are going to grow up at one point or another. If you use only pandering kiddie humor, they'll grow out of it as they get older. If you leave a couple things for the adults to appreciate, they say 'oh, I never noticed this before'.
Why do I bring this up now?
Well... a funny thing happened on my way out of the screening of Legend of the Guardians I attended. There were these two ladies that were outside that were handing out surveys pertaining to the movie and to the use of 3D. So I decided to fill it out. (Yes, I saw it in 3D. I'll give my thoughts on LotG's 3D and some of my answers from the survey when I muse about 3D sometime.)
As I was filling it out on the wall of the Regal multiplex, I saw a father with his little kid. The father was filling out the survey on a pillar not too far from where I was, and I remember the kid was being all bouncy. The kid asked the father which character he liked the most.
The father proceeded to say that he thought it was a horrible movie. And yes, he used the word 'horrible'. When the kid pestered him to stay on topic, he eventually said he didn't like any of the characters.
The first thing that I remember thinking when I heard this conversation was "wow, what an asshole". I probably would've put it in gentler terms about how I disliked the movie. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it correlates to this whole issue of appeal in a family movie, and it got me thinking about why I think people should gear their family movies towards adults as well as children. (Plus, it's a little ironic, given that the other two movies Zach Snyder is really well known for are both ultra-violent R-rated affairs...)
In his review of Fantastic Mr. Fox (really good family movie, BTW; you guys should totally check it out), Roger Ebert left us with this quote:
"A good story for children should suggest a hidden dimension, and that dimension of course is the lifetime still ahead of them. Six is a little early for a movie to suggest to kids that the case is closed."
I can't think of a better quote to sum up why family movies should be geared a little towards adults as well as children.
And if they don't get something? They'll figure it out eventually.
This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.