As far as Pixar environments go, one of my all-time favourites is the oceanic world of 'Finding Nemo' (and 'Finding Dory' for that matter). The year was 2003, so all in all, this was pretty impressive in its showing off of what CG animation could do for the time. Everything Pixar creates certainly touches on providing varying environments, but there's something massively impressive about the detail of this underwater world, right down to being able to see blurry distortions and light ripples in the water, among other details.
As the film opens, we are introduced to Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), who are just starting a family, and keeping a loving eye on their eggs. They've recently relocated themselves to a new sea anemone home on the Great Barrier Reef, and life is good. However, in true Pixar fashion, we learn that life isn't all sunshine and rainbows just because this is a cartoon. The nest is attacked by a barracuda, and Marlin loses Coral in the struggle. All is lost except for one lone egg, housing a fish with a deformed fin, decidedly named "Nemo", based on a name Coral liked. That's right folks, for as much praise as we give 'Up' for its heart-wrenching opener, 'Finding Nemo' certainly did the attention-grabbing tragic beginning first.
As time passes, Nemo (Alexander Gould) grows to be a young boy, eager to start school. Marlin takes him to school where, unbeknownst to him, Nemo is to go on a field trip to "The Drop Off" - where the reef ends and the dangerous deep blue ocean begins. When Marlin finds out where they're going, his overprotective manner makes him chase down the class, as he knows first hand how dangerous the Drop Off can be. This embarrasses Nemo to the point of frustration, and just to show up his Dad, Nemo swims towards a nearby boat just so he can touch the bottom of it and prove to his Dad that he worries too much. However, this leads to Nemo's capture from a scuba diver (Bill Hunter) who brings him to a fish tank at his dentist office, under the impression he's rescuing him on account of his deformed fin.
Now, Marlin must overcome his fears of the dangers of the ocean, and begin a journey to find his son. He's soon accompanied by everyone's favourite, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres); a royal blue tang fish, suffering from short term memory loss. Meanwhile, Nemo meets a variety of fish in his new tank home; Bloat the puffer fish (Brad Garrett); Peach the starfish (Allison Janney); Gurgle the royal gramma fish (Austin Pendleton); Bubbles the yellow tang fish (Stephen Root); Deb the black & white humbug fish (Vicki Lewis); Jacques the skunk cleaner shrimp (Joe Ranft); a visiting pelican named Nigel (Geoffrey Rush) and Gill the moorish idol fish (Willem Dafoe), who is plans to use Nemo's size for an elaborate escape plan that should get them all back into the ocean. Between Gill's plan and Marlin's long journey with Dory, the father and son do everything in their ability to find each other and reunite.
One thing I appreciated this time around that I didn't fully take in before was that it's cool that they decided to go with two very different extremes of underwater environments for the film. This gives the CG I've always admired here an extra boost. On one hand, you have a fish tank, where the water is a little more crystal clear, and you can see what's going on outside of the tank. It lends itself to various types of distortion, the atmosphere is altogether bright and this is where a lot of the comedy relief comes from when Dory isn't on screen. On the other hand, you have the deep, dark ocean, where everything Marlin and Dory run into is something new and uniquely animate when you really think about it. Things like the jellyfish swarm, riding the current with the sea turtles, and the deep dark trench with the lanternfish offer quite a lot of variety. I never gave it any thought before, but they really played with the animation in this movie, making it, as far as Pixar films go, easily one of the most beautiful to look at.
I had to admit so much to myself upon this viewing that I took for granted the several times I've watched before. When I really think about it, this movie actually has everything I like about Pixar within it, but for some reason, I never picked up on it before. It provides the viewer with beautiful CG environments, a lot of likable characters done with solid voice acting (and yes, John Ratzenberger comes back again, keeping his ongoing track record), it gauges every emotion (especially with its opening), and it's a solid family adventure that manages to providing morals for both kids and adults. The film is thoroughly good enough that it would win Pixar its first Oscar for Best Animated Feature, beating Disney's other big entry that year, 'Brother Bear'. But this was only the beginning for Pixar. From here, as most of us know, they would eventually become the epitome of Oscar bait animation.
Writers and Directors