I've mentioned before that we are currently enjoying a true golden age of animated films, with unbounded artistic and dramatic creativity appealing to children and adults alike. Disney has been in the vanguard since 1989, when the new age began with The Little Mermaid. Since then the mouse has rediscovered the magic formula, though not without missteps (mostly in the late 1990s). Dreamworks and Pixar have made great contributions as well, though Disney is still the Goliath.
A great example is 2012's Wreck-It Ralph. The premise is fresh and original, melding the digital nostalgia of parents of our vintage with the fast-paced, slickly-packaged video gaming world of our children. Ralph is a dinosaur, like us, and yet he still has something to offer. He's pigeonholed as the bad guy, and yet he still dreams of heroism. Voiced by John C. Reilly in his highest and best use, Ralph is a soft-hearted giant, a lovable yet unloved oaf, the scripted loser, the New Jersey Generals to Fix-It Felix's Harlem Globetrotters. All he wants is to win once, to feel a medal on his chest for a change. It's hard not to sympathize.
Ralph goes rogue, wandering a game-scape familiar and lovingly depicted by filmmakers (including UNH alum Jennifer Lee, who would go on to write a little thing called Frozen). Who didn't chuckle at a down-on-his luck Q-Bert? (And whatever happened to Dig Dug?) Ralph finds himself immersed in the politics of Candy Land-esque Sugar Rush, finding his heroic calling as the champion of glitchy princess in exile Vanellope Von Schweetz. There's some wonderful banter between the two as they develop their alliance and friendship, with Reilly and Sarah Silverman turning in wonderfully kinetic and sympathetic performances.
The characters, Ralph in particular, connect with the audience to the extent that I'll admit to some dust in the room during the movie's climax. I won't describe the ending here. If you haven't seen it yet...well, I wouldn't want to wreck it.