I am not sure if they were originally going to show the movie on TV, or if they decided to create the movie to just have something out in theaters to promote the show. But either way, yeah it is basically an intro to the cartoon series.
Being 18, I am definitely apart of the younger generation. And after getting heavily involved in other forums that are SW specific, I have seen how much interest in SW there really is in the younger generation. Amazingly enough to some people, the PT did create fans out of people that had never seen a SW film before.
And about the whiny Anakin thing. I admit that the sucky dialogue and bad delivery make it painful at times, but the whiny-ness itself I don’t have a problem with. He is a boy that was taken from his mom and raised by a what is basically a group of monks. He isn’t allowed to be normal or have normal relationships, so of course he will be whiny.
I will be the first to say the Lucas isn’t the best director or screenwriter, but we must remember that this is HIS story. There are plenty of writers out there that have done a good job expanding on it, but in the end it all goes back to Lucas. If he approves of something and says it is canon, it becomes a part of the story he created. If people don’t want to get involved with the EU or PT, that is fine, but you can’t hate Lucas for continuing the story he created. If it fits his vision, who are we to say he is screwing up his own story? It is like loving the LotR trilogy, then hating Tolkien for writing the other additions to the story. He felt that those things needed to be told, so he added them.