Disney/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 96 mins .
G . PAL
I’m havin’ fish tonight. And chips. And considering my choice of viewing, I’m feeling rather guilty. Sob. Those poor, helpless potatoes…
Anyway, the name Pixar needs no introduction to animation fans, and after the massive successes of basically everything their computer mice have touched over the past near-decade, they really need no introduction to Joe and Josephine Public, either. Mastering the art of computer animation like nobody else, this latest offering is a continuation of their uncanny knack of making beautiful, heart warming and genuinely funny films which appeal to broad audiences, and keep the Disney bigwigs all gleefully bouncing up and down, left and right and in all manner of diagonal directions in their money bins.
They call him Bruce...
Our story begins with a clown fish couple delightedly checking out their soon to be born flotilla of 400 or so kiddiewinks, before the arrival of a nasty old barracuda and major changes to future plans. Left a widower, Marlin (Albert Brooks) discovers one remaining egg, which he zealously nurtures until it eventually hatches, when out pops Nemo (Alexander Gould), gammy fin and all. A natural born homebody to begin with, and understandably fiercely protective of young Nemo considering recent events, Marlin has trouble adjusting to his only son’s foray into the unexplored territory of schooling. These fears are leant considerable weight when a diver snatches Nemo as he rebels against his dad’s overprotective nature, leaving Marlin with only one option, to find his son - despite his innumerable fears. He soon happens upon the delightful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who helps Marlin on his quest, despite her rather ditzy problems with short term memory loss. She proves a useful and true companion in many ways however, through encounters with sharks, jellyfish, turtles, whales, pelicans and a whole lot more.
Meanwhile, Nemo has been spirited away to life in a fish tank within a dentist’s office in Sydney. Soon making friends with his various cohabitants, assorted plots are hatched to make good an escape, especially when the spectre of Mr Whiny Drill’s hell-spawn niece Darla looms large over proceedings as Nemo’s future owner.
Aah ooh wah hee ha ho ho ho!
Even a particularly dim-witted piece of flotsam could work out what happens in the end, but like a classic (albeit rather waterlogged) road movie it’s the trip which matters in Finding Nemo. Filled to overflowing point with delightful characters – and a few genuinely scary ones – this is a father/son tale in many way similar to ones we’ve seen before, but as the stars are all kind of fishy and stuff one which we’ve never quite seen the likes of at the same time. Despite being a Pixar creation, many Disney-esque themes abound – family, friendship, believe in yourself, ya ya ya – yet they’re here in pleasingly palatable form, going down smoothly rather than sticking in the craw like a misshaped hunk of calamari.
Besides the simply mesmerising visuals, it’s the casting which really gives Nemo its life. While Albert Brooks’ obsessive father act teeters regularly on the tightrope between affectionately convincing and having you reaching for the beer batter recipes, everybody else simply shines. DeGeneres as Dory is enchanting in every respect, and how wonderful is it to hear REAL Australian accents (from the likes of Barry Humphries, Bruce Spence, Eric Bana and Bill Hunter amongst others) rather than crappy American take-offs?
Yeah sure, we all know what to expect from Pixar DVDs by now – a straight from computer to little shiny disc transfer that looks insanely beautiful. However, this isn’t to say that Finding Nemo doesn’t manage to stun regardless, as the continual advances those clever boffin-types make never fail to amaze. Quite simply, if our review ratings were like Spinal Tap’s amps, this baby’s would go up to 11.
Cropped ever so slightly from its cinematic outing ratio of 1.85:1 to a black bar-free, 16:9 display friendly 1.78:1, you could plunder an entire Thesaurus and not find words suitably equipped to sum up the gorgeousness of this transfer. With no obvious glitchy things at all save for a layer change which some may find mildly incursive, it is a veritable feast for the eyes. And we’ll leave it that.
Hey, this little baby’s mostly ocean-bound, so we expect an immersive soundtrack, right? (Pause for groans to subside…) Well good news everyone, we certainly get one. The Dolby Digital 5.1 option sounds simply amazing, with all manner of gloomfy underwater sounds enveloping the room, and things going rather ape (ooh, I hope it doesn’t drown) to match such events on screen. Ah, but this is nothing, just click on over to the DTS 5.1 mix (well, assuming your receiver supports it, of course) and the treat becomes even more treaty (yeah… now…), with an added depth (pun actually not intended, just this once) and what I’ll call ‘awesomeness’ for lack of a more readily authentic adjective. The subwoofwoof goes nuts at certain junctures, most notably during the whale scene where many inanimate inhabitants of my poor little flat literally started rattling, shaking and in one case going “clunk!” onto the floor. This one will seriously piss those neighbours off, should that be your shtick.
The all important music arrives courtesy of the baton of Thomas Newman, and it’s suitably dramatic when called upon, schmaltzy at other times and upbeat when appropriate. We can’t ask for much more really. There's also a Robbie Williams song for those who worship at his altar. Meanwhile, synch almost defies the animation rule, as so much work has been put into matching the characters’ mouth movements to the actors’ speech that they actually appear to be saying the stuff they do. These Pixar peoples are clever little puppies…
With two discs on offer, there’s plenty of space for extra stuff to swim about. A decent collection that has plenty to offer both kids and adults has been assembled, starting with some lovely oceanic menus; the first disc’s in particular offering a few chuckles if you leave it hanging around long enough. As to the whole catch, well here goes…
Getting past the terror that is the THX Optimizer, the first cutesy addition here is the existence of seven Virtual Aquariums. These are backgrounds to menus which can have all the wordy stuff switched off, so you too can turn that expensive display into a glass box filled with fishy stuff.
I have soiled myself... how embarrassing.
A 1:16 introduction to the DVD from Pixar peoples Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich serves as bait for those who can’t be bothered reading the DVD case to see what’s in store, however the fleshy bit of this first disc is most definitely the visual commentary. Smelling quite a lot like a standard commentary which had the visual bit added as an afterthought, it’s still good entertainment, with the film veering off at regular intervals into outbreaks of deleted scenes, outtakes, voice recording and examples of specific actors at work plus a whole lot more, including a heartfelt tribute to animator Glenn McQueen. In all this adds more than half an hour to the film’s running time. The standard commentary stuff, meanwhile, adheres to the usual rules for such things; however with three at the helm – Stanton, Ulkrich and Bob Peterson – things bounce along at a rather frenetic pace, and are filled with juicy morsels of useful info, useless info and out and out goss kind of stuff.
Here’s where the bulk of the bonuses are milling about, although the steadfast adherence to a lack of 16:9-ness throughout is incredibly disappointing. All these extras appear in Dolby Digital stereo, save for the teaser and three regular trailers which are treated to DD5.1. Annoyingly, no options for subtitles pop up at any juncture.
Again we’re given an introduction, again it’s just a rather “duh!”-inducing rundown of what’s on the disc. We also get another four Virtual Aquariums, but here’s where the repetitive Doryism stops.
Anybody who experienced Finding Nemo at the cinema should have borne witness to the 1989 short filmKnick Knack, as featured here. While animation nerds will have seen it a zillion times at festivals over the years, it’s still a delight to revisit, a brief but fun tale of a snow dome imprisoned snowman and the lengths he’ll go to in order to satisfy his all-controlling, lusty hormones. This also features an optional commentary from creators John Lassiter and Eben Ostby.
A seven-minute featurette entitled Exploring the Reef is next. What begins as an apparent yawn-inducing nature doco hosted by Jean-Michel Cousteau (yes, Jacques’ son) soon gives way to a bit of a riot when Dory, Marlin and Nemo pop by. An increasingly stressed Cousteau still manages to show us lots of creepy stuff about coral reefs and delivers an important ecology message, despite constant interruptions from our piscine pals.
Some kiddie fodder fills the menu next with Mr Ray’s Encyclopaedia. This offers a chance to find out a bit more about 13 of the species’ of ocean-going thingies as featured in the film. An interactive game in the form of Fisharades is a simple shape guessing game, hosted by a somewhat dodgy sounding Crush. It’s well put together, but becomes yawny rather quickly. Finishing up with things for the tadpoles is Storytime, a sweet enough tale entitled Nemo Goes to School which is available in read-along or read-by-self formats, the first offering up more interaction as it progresses.
The bulk of the bonus booty is beneath the ‘Behind the Scenes’ menu. First up is a making-of documentary simply entitled Making Nemo. Clocking in at 25:35, this delivers all manner of insights into the production process for such an involved undertaking, balancing technical stuff with an air of the fun that’s inextricably linked to creating something which will ultimately make so many so happy.
A collection of design galleries ensues, manna for those of a more technical bent. Art Review is 8:34 of pre-production drawings available with or without a commentary; Characters gives us views of 22 uncoloured character models on sticks; Environments is three sections of sketches of same, divided up into ‘Reef’, ‘Ocean’ and ‘Harbour’, where random moving about with the directional controls rewards greatly; and finally there’s Colour Script, oodles and oodles of pages demonstrating the importance of hue-like things in Nemo.
Moving right along, we come to the fluffier than the fluffiest of fluffy things featurette, Studio Tour. Featuring the voice of Nemo, Alexander Gould, running amok in Pixar, it’s 5:13 of silliness most will find more annoying than a potato-free potato cake.
The Publicity section is a treat for those into such things, featuring a teaser trailer (2:04), three theatrical trailers (2.08, 1.26, 2.11 – the latter including Men at Work’s Down Under, Colin Hay says “Kerching!”) and three more promotional trailers in the shape of ‘Fishy Facts’ on Bruce, Crush and Nigel, each running for 1.03. There is also a print campaign gallery which displays five posters, three billboards, eight lobby cards and two bus shelter ads.
Finally, there are many Easter eggs to be discovered here, there and almost everywhere. To get the scoop on how to hook them just sail on over to our googies section.
While we miss out on a selection of trailers for other films compared to fellow DVD fans in the U.S., the only really sad omission is the one for The Incredibles, an upcoming Pixar feature. Some may mourn the absence of a small leaflet, but will just as likely forget all about it when realising that, unlike Region 1, we get a DTS soundtrack. Bwahahaha! As for the full frame version we don’t receive, get with the Noughties – sheesh!
On first watch, Finding Nemo’s visual beauty can almost overwhelm, much as it did this particular reviewy-type upon plonking herself down at the Rivoli a few months back – and that was despite an absolutely shithouse print. Subsequent viewings unravel the magic and extra depths the tale has to offer, in one of those special, rare films which can be painlessly viewed again and again and again. The only possible word of warning, as neatly inferred in the rating on the package, is that a couple of scenes may frighten the dickens out of younger viewers. Hell, one of them had me more freaked out than when Charlotte died in that film about her web!
As to the DVD presentation, the video and audio are absolutely faultless, although the extras package may ultimately prove a little light-on, despite its initial appearance of being quite stuffed to the gills.
In all, this is a turtley awesome experience for young and the young at heart, plus it may even melt the icy facades of a few jaded old fuddy-duddies as well. Destined to be one of the releases of 2004, our advice is tromp into your preferred vendor of DVDs, point at Finding Nemo’s sparkly slipcover and simply say “Mine!”.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "