Finding Nemo (2003), I think, was the first animated movie I responded to emotionally. To be more honest, I can't think of any film prior where I have had that kind of emotional reaction or feeling while watching a film. It's amazing to look at and is truly breathtaking.
Essentially, I was in favor of more "pop-culture"-related CGI films like Shrek and Shark Tale at the time of their release. The Incredibles, released in 2004 (the same year as the latter film, as well as the former's record-breaking sequel), was, for sure, a completely different direction for Pixar, in terms of branching out and not merely "staying the course" with success like so many other films, franchises, or studios do. Although, Nemo broke new ground in terms of mature storytelling while progressing in the use of computer technology. More importantly, the story and tone of The Incredibles was arguable something that was outside the usual "kiddie" fare. But as I look back on it, the exact reasons for the film's uniqueness and branching out are the exact same reasons it stands above the other animated films released in 2004.
But it was 2007's Ratatouille that made me appreciate the animation medium as an adult, in addition to showcasing director Brad Bird as one of the most unique, visionary, and important filmmakers working in animation and in Hollywood today. (It will be interesting to see what he does with the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, whcih he's currently directing, and will be released later this year.)
It was also during this same period up to the present that Pixar films really became something special while coming of age. 2009, for me, was a redeeming year for many, many films, not to mention animated. That same year reignited a new love between myself and Disney, harkening back to the glory days of hand-drawn animation. Since the fall of 2009, I have been working on-and-off a favorite animated films list, which will not be released for another few months.
More information coming soon from yours truly,