Finding Nemo is the fifth feature film created and released by Pixar in association with Disney Studios. It is the first Pixar film not to be directed by John Lasseter, with Andrew Stanton taking over the helm as well as writing it. Like all Pixar films, the cast and crew researched the topic of Finding Nemo in great depth, including learning to scuba dive so as to better appreciate the movement of creatures in the sea. This approach paid dividends as the film took over $867m from a budget of $94m, making it Pixar’s biggest box office success at the time of release.
Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a clown fish who suffers tragedy when his mate and all but one of children are eaten after moving into a new sea anemone home. The surviving child, Nemo (Alexander Gould) is born with an underdeveloped fin and is protected by Marlin from the dangers of the sea. On the way to his first day at school, Nemo, tired of being overprotected, swims out into the ocean to prove he can swim and is caught by a scuba diver. Marlin, distraught at these events swims out after him on a seemingly hopeless quest to find his son, accompanied by a forgetful Pacific Regal Blue Tang called Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).
At its core, Finding Nemo is a ‘buddy road trip’ movie similar to Toy Story and in fact Toy Story 2. It’s a narrative that appeals to all ages and is clearly a money-spinner for Pixar, so it makes sense when pushing the technical boundaries by having a film almost entirely set under water, that they would stick to what they know in terms of story. What is impressive is how unique it feels, which probably has something to do with the design.
Every scene is carefully constructed with the now classic Pixar sense of humour. The artists and designers excel more than in the previous films by texturing and even over-texturing the underwater environment, this gives an almost cartoon edge to the recreations of real fish and sea animals. The animation is only half of the achievement in this dazzling example of family film-making, the rest of the praise must be reserved for the voice actors.
As you’d expect from a Pixar film Finding Nemo’s voice cast is superb with Ellen DeGeneres the standout as the slightly dim-witted Dory who plays perfectly opposed to sensible and terrified Marlin. Supported by a cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, John Ratzenberger and Eric Bana to name a few and Finding Nemo probably boasts the strongest line-up in Pixar history.
All these elements fuse together to create an superb film that appeals to audiences of all ages and puts Finding Nemo at the top of most people’s favourite animated film lists. While lacking the historical punch of a Toy Story or Snow White, it has enough quality and charm without dripping sentimentality to be considered an instant classic. Just remember to “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”