Finding Nemo (2003)
26th October 2003
Marlin and Coral are two happily married clown fish with 400 children on the way. Their home is on the best part of the reef and the only problem they are expecting to have is naming all of their off spring (although naming half Marlin junior and the other Coral junior is a bit of a cop-out). However, that is all about the change when their home is attacked by a hungry barracuda. Trying to defend his family Marlin is knocked unconscious and awakes to find Coral and his pending family missing. Desperately searching for Coral and the eggs, Marlin comes across a solitary surviving egg. Naming the egg Nemo, Marlin vows never to let him out of his sight or allow any harm to come to him.
Fast forward to a few years later and Nemo's first day of school. Whilst Nemo is excited about his big adventure, Marlin is fretting about letting Nemo out of his sight. Never the less, Marlin takes Nemo to school and after meeting other parents his realises that even though Nemo has one fin bigger than the other he needs to become more independent. Waving Nemo and his class mates off on a school trip Marlin is alarmed to learn from the other parents that the class is heading to the reefs drop-off point. Chasing after the class Marlin reaches the drop off point to see Nemo and his new friends daring each other to touch a boat anchored off the reef. After being chastised by his father Nemo heads out to a boat and touches it. However, on the way back to the reef a diver appears and captures Nemo.
Chasing after the boat Marlin bumps into Dory the blue tang fish. Asking for her assistance Dory and Marlin set off on an epic journey to find Nemo. Along the way they encounter deadly jelly fish, a hungry angler fish, three sharks attempting to give up eating fish and a rather stoned sounding turtle. Meanwhile, Nemo has been taken to a Sydney dentists waiting room and placed in its fish tank. Meeting its occupants Nemo discovers that he is due to be given to the dentists fish killing niece Darla as a birthday present. As word spreads of Marlin and Dory's journey, and with time fast running out, Nemo and his friends need to escape the tank and return to the ocean.
With the film stock contained entirely in the digital domain it becomes relatively easy to reframe the film for different aspect ratios. As a result this two disc special edition contains both a widescreen and full frame version of the film. However, what makes this more special is that the full frame version has been reformatted to ensure that information from the widescreen version is not lost. Naturally, with this being a direct digital transfer both versions of the film offer the same picture qualities.
Picture wise, it is simply stunning. The colours and sheer complexity of the reef depth and detail is so realistic that it makes it hard to believe that what is before your eyes is from a computer. The caustic lighting effects on the sea floor and the floating plankton particles make the underwater scenes so realistic you could almost be there diving amongst the reef. The only downside, if it can be classed as a downside, is that the wave and spray animation is still not quite top draw. It's nearly there, but the shear complexity and unpredictably of water makes it the final frontier of computer graphics. But to Pixar's credit, they are fast approaching warp speed.
However, just because its computer animation it doesn't mean that everything is perfect. Whilst the colours, black levels and detail are near pixel perfect there are quite a few occasions where over colour saturation can be a bit of problem. This was especially a problem when Marlin and Dory were against dark backgrounds and there was a definite colour banding around Marlin. But to be fair, I did actually notice the same problem whilst watching the film at the cinema. With an above average bit-rate and a pristine transfer there's no doubt, even with the minor picture quibbles, that the truly remarkable visuals justifies the purchase of this disc.
Although the soundtrack would have benefited from a DTS soundtrack, the Dolby Digital EX soundtrack is certainly no slouch. This THX certified disc offers one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard on DVD and I don't think there was ever a moment during the film that the surround channels were ever idle. As the fish swim around the soundstage the dialogue other ambient sounds follow them around the soundstage perfectly. The dialogue is equally impressive with crisp and clear audio in the centre channel along with some superb stereo steerage in the front. The only time I struggled to understand what was being said was when Squirt was talking Marlin and Dory (mind you, I think that was suppose to be the case!). Another bonus of having a THX certified disc are the two wonderful THX fanfares which accompany each version of the film.
With a film of this genre it would have been quite easy to neglect the LFE channel. Fortunately, Pixar have provided a soundtrack which is more than capable of removing any loose plaster from your ceilings and walls. Just remember to keep a handy eye on the volume level and ensure any children watching the disc with you don't have any loose teeth. Failure to do so may result in an expensive visit from the tooth fairy!
In this collector's edition the extras are spread over the two discs and are presented in two sections. The first disc contains information on the creation of the film whilst the second is more family oriented with games and fun featurettes for all of the family to enjoy. Both discs have wonderfully animated and scored menus and, if you are slow to select a menu option, include comments from Marlin and Dory which were specially created for the DVD release. Both discs also offer the wonderful novelty of turning your television into a virtual fish tank. By selecting the fish icon on each of the animated icons the menu text will disappear an you can then be soothed by a various underwater scenes. It's simple but remarkably effective.
The main extra on disc one is the Visual Commentary feature. This allows you to watch the film whilst automatically branching off at certain points in the film to little snippets of behind the scenes footage. Fortunately, if you don't want to be interrupted by all of this you can watch all of these features in one go. Mind you, by taking this approach there is no real flow to the information. It's a tough one to call, but I guess you could watch the film interrupted and then again with the visual commentary enabled. At least it gives you an excuse to watch the film without the kids!
With the technical stuff out of the way on disc one the fun, and the superbly animated menus, can start on disc two. Things start off with a number of trailers for forthcoming Disney DVD releases plus a sneak peak at the next, and amazing looking, Pixar project The Incredibles. Highlight of disc two has to be the Exploring the Reef feature presented by Jean-Michel Cousteau. Whilst this sounds a little on the boring side it quickly turns into a side splittingly funny documentary all the while informing the viewer about the coral reef and how mankind is doing its level best to destroy it all. It's just a pity it's so short.
Next up is the interactive Learning Fun With Mr. Ray's Encyclopedia where you can learn something about the various species seen in the film. There's also a number of featurettes including a short studio tour and a rather annoying "interview" with the characters. Also included is the remarkable Pixar animated short Knick Knack. Created some six years before Toy Story it just goes to show how promising, and talented, Pixar were in those early days of computer animation. Naturally, with this being a children's film (yeah, right!) it also includes a read-along story and game. It's all rounded off with a couple of teaser trailers and film artwork.
Whilst there's no doubt that Finding Nemo is a children's film it is far darker than Pixar's other offerings Toy Story and Monsters Inc. It's also interesting to see that Pixar have taken a bit of a politically correct stance with Nemo and his small fin, Dory with her short term memory loss and (shock horror) a single parent, and just the father too. Then there is the shark rehabilitation group and their "fish are friends, not food" motto. Mind you, they fail to mention just what the heck they are suppose to eat instead. But, hey, quit complaining. When was the last time you saw a talking fish?
My only concern with this film is that it will make the unfortunate clown fish extremely popular with children and the remaining coral reefs will be decimated by illegal fishermen with a quick and easy buck on their mind. Finding Nemo even managed to make me feel guilty about eating fish, and lets not go into the guilt of wanting to own a tropical fish tank. So, do yourself a favour and leave the fish in the sea and make do with a soft toy.
Thanks to the bizarre cinema release schedule at the time of writing this review Finding Nemo has only been on general release in the UK for two weeks. If film companies want to make any inroads into reducing film piracy then releasing a highly popular film in the UK nearly six months after the states is hardly the way to go about it. However, at least owners of this region one edition can drop a few hints that they already own a genuine copy.
The storyline is not one of Pixar's best (Toy Story is still my favourite), but with the amazing computer animation and superb DVD package, you'd be mad to miss this one out of your collection. Highly recommended, and even if you don't have any children!
- Visual commentary with Deleted Scenes and Recording Sessions
- Making Nemo - Documentary Featuring Footage on the Creation of the Film
- The Art of Nemo - Narrated by the Artists
- Virtual Aquariums
- Exploring the Reef - Short Film with Jean-Michel Cousteau
- Learning Fun with Mr. Ray's Encyclopaedia
- Pixar Short Knick Knack with Commentary
- A Sneak Peek at the Next Pixar film The Incredibles
- Fisharades Game
- Read-along Storytime
- A Behind-the-scenes Tour of the Pixar Studios Hosted by Voice of the Nemo, Alexander Gould
- Publicity Material including Trailers and Posters More