Before Toy Story 3 came along, Pixar's Finding Nemo was not only the studio's most successful film, but one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time. This undersea adventure doesn't stray far from the proven Disney formula: you've got an underdog with less than two surviving parents, a dangerous journey, wacky sidekicks and a generally happy ending. In the Pixar tradition, there's no barrage of sing-along songs...but other than that, Finding Nemo's guts aren't much different than Disney's own Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and at least half a dozen others. It's far from a carbon copy, of course, but there's a comfortably familiarity about Finding Nemo that makes it easy to get sucked into. As a total package, it's top-tier family entertainment that will undoubtedly remain popular for decades.
Our title character (Alexander Gould) is the only child of Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clownfish whose "wife" and other "kids" were killed by barracudas. Not surprisingly, Marlin is quite the overprotective father and their relationship is strained because of this...but it doesn't matter, because Nemo is eventually captured by scuba divers. Marlin swims to Nemo's rescue; along the way, he meets a few colorful characters including Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a good-natured blue tang with memory impairment. Meanwhile, Nemo has ended up in a tank near Sydney Harbour, Australia, where he and the other "indoor fish" try their best to hatch an escape plan. As a slight twist on the usual formula, Nemo's balance of age perspectives gives it a leg up on more traditional family fare. Like the best animated films, it doesn't pander to the audience and frequently lets parents join the party. In short, Finding Nemo wasn't popular by accident.
Disney's new Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack arrives several months after Finding Nemo's theatrical 3D re-release, available in that format or the more conventional 2D presentation that most audiences are more familiar with. Either way, the flawless technical presentation and wealth of bonus features make Finding Nemo even more enjoyable than previous releases, as the crisp visuals and stunning sound will help audiences appreciate Pixar's attention to detail even more. It's a top-notch effort that fans will enjoy, whether they've grown up a bit since seeing it theatrically or finally want to show it to the little ones. For obvious reasons, Finding Nemo will be a mighty popular gift this holiday season, and all but a few cantankerous grinches would be more than happy to unwrap it. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Flawless, but you already knew that. This 1.78:1, 1080p transfer is absolutely stuffed with color, texture and detail, largely due to the top-notch source material Disney had at their fingertips. Of course, this wonderful presentation is also due to careful treatment by the studio: in lesser hands, we'd have to deal with excessive banding, artifacts and/or edge enhancement, but such problems are virtually absent from start to finish. Finding Nemo is an exceedingly lush film with colorful characters, crisp locales and tons of little background details, and this Blu-Ray gets everything just right. Short of the 3D version (available separately), I doubt you'll find a more perfect presentation of Finding Nemo anytime soon.
HEADS UP: This images in this review are taken from promotional outlets and do not represent Blu-Ray's 1080p resolution.
The audio is even better, if that's possible. Presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Finding Nemo's undersea atmosphere is rendered perfectly from top to bottom. Rear channel activity is extremely strong and well balanced, the dialogue sounds crisp, the music is dynamic and the low end is given plenty to do on many occasions. It's more enveloping than most Hollywood action blockbusters, so your neighbors may actually think they're in a flood zone. Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks are also provided in English, French and Spanish, while optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included during the film and supplements.
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
The basic interface (above) is smooth and functional, with all of the bonus features and setup options organized smartly. After slogging through noisy, cluttered menus like Disney's Beauty and the Beast Blu-Ray, the Zen-like atmosphere of this underwater-themed interface is a welcome alternative. This three-disc release arrives in a hinged keepcase; a handsome embossed slipcover and two promotional inserts are also tucked inside. The Blu-Rays are unlocked for region-free viewing but the DVD was untested.
Plenty of good stuff here. The new extras (presented in 1080p) begin with "Cinexplore Mode"
, a feature-length hybrid of the original DVD commentary and behind-the-scenes goodies like promo material, concept art, and video interviews. A Filmmakers' Roundtable
(17:39) gathers director Andrew Stanton and key crew members to discuss the film's impact since 2003. "Reinventing the Submarine Voyage"
(15:04) looks at the popular Disneyland attraction and the updates made to it following Finding Nemo
's success. "A Lesson in Flashbacks"
(7:58) shows Stanton discussing his reasons for avoiding them during the film, and an Alternate Opening
(3:03) pairs an early version of the intro with comments from the director.
Most of the goodies from Disney's excellent Special Edition DVD release make their return here, and a few segments have also been given a nice bump to HD. These recycled extras include the Knick Knack theatrical short (3:38), a few Aquarium Screen Savers for your HDTV, a nice selection of Concept Art, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (25:33), a quasi-documentary called "Exploring the Reef" (7:01), four brief voice acting Outtakes (1:45 total), a light-hearted Pixar Studio Tour (5:25), an "Old School" collection of odds and ends (8 clips, 11:46 total), seven rough Deleted Scenes, a selection of Marketing Material and the funny-slash-informative "Mr. Ray's Encyclopedia" of sea life featured during Finding Nemo.
As mentioned earlier, all bonus features are presented in a mixture of HD and SD with varying aspect ratios, but even the older supplements look pretty good. Optional subtitles are included when applicable.
Almost any Pixar release on Blu-Ray is a worthy investment, but Finding Nemo is basically a no-brainer. It's the studio's second most popular production to date (bested only by Toy Story 3), thanks to top-notch visuals, an accessible story, great voice work, a terrific score and schools of colorful characters. Disney celebrates Finding Nemo's almost-10th anniversary with a wonderful Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (also available in 3D) that features a reference quality A/V presentation and a generous amount of old and new supplements. Plain and simple, Finding Nemo should already be wrapped and under the tree... unless you're buying it for yourself, of course. It's one of the year's best releases in every conceivable category and earns our highest rating: DVD Talk Collector's Series. Enjoy it from top to bottom!
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two in his spare time. Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD-DVDs and writing stuff in third person.