Sunday, January 1, 2017
Finding Nemo 2003
By 2003 Pixar had become the masters of doing the unexpected in terms of what they chose as subject material, and their 2003 release Finding Nemo was no exception.
They did actually give a little hint at the end of Monsters, Inc. with the clownfish doll in Boo's room, one of the few times they've done something like that, but I still don't think it prepared anyone for the visual feast of the senses that was Finding Nemo.
Those incredibly lush colourful underwater shots are on display right from the beginning and they continue throughout the film. I don't think I've ever seen anything as lushly animated.
Most of the action happens in waters close to Australia, so for me I got to see things that I was more familiar with.
The story is fairly simple. Bereaved clownfish Marlin dotes on his son Nemo, as he is the one thing Marlin has left after a barracuda attack takes his wife Coral and all of their eggs, bar the one containing Nemo. Even the name is a remembrance of Coral, she wanted to name all of the babies. Marlin suggested naming half of them Marlin and the other half Coral, but she wanted at least one to be called Nemo.
Marlin is the male equivalent of a 'smother'. The animators did do some research here, because generally the male clownfish is the one who cares for the eggs. He follows Nemo to school and is there when Nemo defies him and touches a boat, only to be taken by a diver and wind up in a fishtank in a dentist's office in Sydney. He must be a pretty decent dentist, too, because he looks after the Prime Minister's teeth.
Marlin predictably goes after his son and the journey takes him from his home on the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney Harbour. Most of the time he''s accompanied by a blue tang called Dory. Dory has major short term memory issues, but she's unfailingly cheerful and optimistic, and she can read, which means that she can work out from a lost diver's mark where Nemo has been taken.
Marlin will meet vegetarian sharks, escape from an old minefield, a terrifying lanternfish and ride the East Australian Current with a group of very cool seat turtles. Pretty much everything Nemo had never thought his father would do, Marlin does.
Nemo helps his fellow tank fish to escape, something they do with the assistance of a pelican named Nigel. The little clownfish with the damaged fin rides the drain from the dentist's drain (he plays dead and manages to escape down the bowl where patients rinse) to the harbour, and is luckily reunited with Marlin.
As often happens with Pixar films, everything in Finding Nemo seems to work, the animation especially and with that they conquered another obstacle that had confounded animators; water. The characters, the settings, the simple story with layers and it takes the viewer and sweeps them along with the characters just like the current they are swimming through.
Albert Brooks already had quite a body of work behind him when he did Finding Nemo, those credits included an Academy Award nomination for Network News in 1987. He had the right sort of voice and image for the cautious worried Marlin.
The makers of the film got the idea to cast Ellen Degeneres as Dory when they saw her do a sequence in her comedy series Ellen where she covered a large amount of topics in a very short space of time. That was pretty much how the comedienne did things, it was her schtick. I found it kind of annoying in Ellen, but endearing as Dory in Finding Nemo. She would later go on to host one of the biggest talk shows on the planet.
Willem Dafoe, better known for serious dark work voiced Gill, the cagy old, scarred cage fish determined to escape. He was surrounded by actors like Alison Janney and Brad Garrett.
One thing Finding Nemo did was cast Australian actors in roles. The sharks were played by Barry Humphries as Bruce, the great white shark, he was also the biggest and possibly the meanest when he smelled blood. It was interesting casting as Humphries, a talented actor, is best known for dressing up in female clothing and playing Dame Edna Everage housewife super star. His fellow sharks, a mako called Chum was played by Bruce Spence (best known as the gyro captain in Mad Max 2) and a hammerhead by the name of Anchor was Eric Bana, he'd already done Black Hawk Down by this stage so had quite a high overseas profile. Nigel was voiced by Geoffrey Rush and one of Australia's most beloved actors; Bill Hunter was the voice of the never seen dentist who captured Nemo.
Pixar managed to get their favourite John Ratzenberger in there as a school of fish.