"Ratatouille" is one of my favorite animated films with one of my favorite messages. It's just one variation of the "finding treasures in unexpected packages" premises. Like its protagonist, a great story can come from anywhere.
It's one thing to believe in a message, but another to put it into practice. Which is why it took me several years of ignoring "Avatar: The Last Airbender" for looking too much like other things I had no interest in. Eventually, after catching an episode late one night and recognizing a spark in it, I felt it was worth investigating it more. Now, I consider it a highlight right up there with Lord of the Rings in some ways in terms of its use of epic fantasy to convey some very mature (in the clean sense; get your minds out of the gutter!) human concepts, including familial strife as complex, triumphant and tragic as anything Shakespeare put to paper. It also contains one of the best "prodigal son" storylines I've seen put forward for public consumption.
In any case, lesson learned, in practice. (Following that, I even gave the new My Little Pony show a shot to see what all the hubub was about. Turns out that, personal opinion on that show here; the hubub can be over nothing - or at least something that isn't really as stand-out as one can be led to believe. It's a fine show for kids, but it never really transcends the all-ages barrier the way that the other shows I've name-dropped here, do.) So I'd been hearing good things about Gravity Falls on DisneyXD. Being an animation nerd, and still following that axiom, I gave it my time, and let me say, this show 'gets' me.
The show really is X-files meets "The Simpsons" with some Goonies-style adventures, but with characters that are more innocent and less cynical than the Simpsons while never taking itself as seriously as the X-FIles (though there are definitely moments of genuine peril). It has villains that are in equal measures hysterical and terrifying (and it works, making both sensations stand out all the better for the excellent contrast). The mysteries, unlike "The X-Files", actually feels like its building up to something that could be coherent, and better yet: meaningful. This is particularly unusual in that the supernatural elements in each episode are mostly stand-alone and don't directly connect, much like the X-Files. The connection between it all is done through a singular device (the journal, found by Dipper in the first episode) that catalogs all of the weirdness and provides a guide for the kids to help them navigate through it all while defending themselves against a number of the episodes' threats. Better yet, the supernatural elements are intertwined with the character development as each character's growth and the growth of their relationships end up coming as a direct result of their interactions with the paranormal.
Speaking of that, the relationships between the characters feel genuine, the characters rise above stereotypes (the smart one, the hammy one, the 'dumb' one, the huckster) and achieve a balance that is rare to find. The art style is a mix of the Simpsons with the color palette stolen from those old vacation postcards from national parks and cities you visited when your family took you on those cross country road trips as a child (like my parents did). Totally appropriate given the show's scenario of two preteens having a singularly unbelievable and extraordinary summer while staying with their great uncle at his tourist trap/shop in an out-of-the-way Oregon town. The town of Gravity Falls itself becomes a character all its own, with its inhabitants appearing regularly as the ones in the Simpsons do, but again, they all seem to play a role in the strangeness that surrounds the town, fully integrated into the mystery. In more recent episodes, we start to see even background characters start to play a more participatory role.
Oh, and did I mention the show kills it in the humor department? Because it does, and it all stems from who the characters are (like in Guardians of the Galaxy), not merely situational or scatological humor. It's incredibly hard to juggle all the elements the way a show like this does seemingly effortlessly without dropping any of them, but it succeeds. I'm invested.
The show is in the midst of its second season (Disney is really drawing these seasons out. The first season apparently began back in 2013), and it's got me more interested than I would have expected I would be in it's progression.
So yeah. If you haven't checked it out, do it.
And keep looking for gold in places you wouldn't think. Some of the best stuff out there is found in 'hole-in-the-wall' type places.