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The great animator Chuck Jones, who was responsible for many of the best Looney Tunes cartoons and created the Road Runner and Pepé LePew, was often asked about his intended audience. His cartoons were very mature in a lot of ways, and had jokes that young children never understood. But they also had a lot of general silliness that the youngsters loved. Whenever Chuck was asked if he was making his cartoons for the adults in the audience or the kids, he always replied "I was making them for me." That is the reason so many of the cartoons he worked on are considered classics. He wasn't trying to guess what his audience wanted. He just tried to make something that he found entertaining. And it worked.
I suspect that the creative forces at Pixar do the same thing. All of their movies are marketed for children, but there are a lot of elements that keep adults interested and entertained. Whatever their mindset, it works. Pixar has churned out movie after movie that has pleased youngsters and their parents. Meaningful movies that haven't insulted anyone's intelligence by hitting you over the head with the message, and are a lot of fun to watch.
Finding Nemo is no exception. Their most ambitious project yet, Nemo is the tale of Marlin, a clownfish living in an anemone. Soon before their brood of eggs are to hatch, Marlin's wife and all but one egg are eaten by a barracuda. Marlin promises this last egg that he will never allow anything to happen to him.
Time passes, and the egg hatches and grows up into a fine little fish, Nemo. On Nemo's first day of school he gets frustrated by the fact his father is so overprotective and swims away from the protection of the reef to see a boat. Nemo gets captured by a diver while his father watches. The rest of the film is Marlin's journey to find his son, aided by Dory who has a VERY short memory, and Nemo's attempts to escape from the aquarium he finds himself in.
This film is beautiful to watch. The underwater scenes look very natural, it feels as if you are on a coral reef. The sun filters through the water and plays on the sand a coral making highlights and shadows. The anemones sway with the movement of the water, the attention to detail is amazing. The fish and other sea creatures move in a very realistic fashion when swimming.
The story is excellent too. It is very humorous and also touching without being sappy. The narrative flows naturally and easily. There are a few edgy moments, but nothing too intense for small children.
There are several jokes that were put in just for the older audience members. From references to Beatles songs and The Shining to Dory asking "What is it about men an asking directions?" there are a lot of places where the adults will smile even if the children don't.
A great film for the whole family, or just the adults who want something light yet entertaining.
This THX certified two DVD set is the standard that other special edition DVDs should strive for. Excellent in every aspect.
As with the video, the audio quality is simply top rate. The only audio option for viewing the movie is Dolby Digital 5.1. (English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.) There is a commentary track, but you can not switch between the movie sound track and the commentary while watching the movie. (See the section on extras.) Unfortunately, there is not a DTS audio track. Though I would have liked one, the DD 5.1 does an excellent job, and I assume the DTS was left off for reasons of space. (This is one full disc.)
This movie has a wonderful sound to it, and the DVD reproduces this faithfully. You can clearly hear the crisp string section and the low deep tubas in the music. Your subwoofer gets a good workout in a few parts too. But not only are the loud parts impressive, but the more subtle sound effects and incidental music are too. The sound of Bruce the shark smiling is wonderfully menacing, and easy to discern.
The best part of the audio though, is that it immerses you in this undersea world. There is excellent use of the rear channels. They are at an appropriate level and blend seamlessly with the front speakers. From the whale songs, to the crashing of the waves and the incidental music, the sound envelopes you.
The movie is presented in widescreen on disc one and P&S on disc two. Both versions are gorgeous. The picture quality of this DVD is absolutely stunning. A reference quality disc. The edges are crisp and clean. The colors are bright and vivid. When Marlin and Nemo are swimming through the reef, you can see the myriad of colors of all the fish and coral as clear as day. Vibrant and flashy this is delightful eye candy. Later when Marlin swims out to the sunken submarine, the colors get darker. There are different hues of dark blue, brown, and dark green. They make everything look realistic and set the mood accurately. Throughout the movie, the blacks are dark black, and the transition form dark to light is made smoothly and cleanly without large differences in color as is often seen in animation.
Pixar paid a lot of attention to details too. If you look closely, there are numerous instances where they have taken the trouble to animate objects that they could have easily skipped. The seaweed growing on the mines floats and sways. When Dory is talking to Marlin, you can see his reflection dancing on her eyes. They even had light reflecting off of individual scales on the fish. It's little things that make you realize how much work was put into this production.
An absolutely beautiful transfer.
I usually don't talk about the menus on a DVD too much, but these deserve their own section. Pixar, again, whet to a lot of effort to make entertaining menus. On the first disc they are all animated scenes from the sea, and on the second discs they are from the aquarium in the dentist's office. The beautiful scenes have humorous voice overs by the characters from the movie. My kids were laughing so hard at the menus, they wanted to let the audio loop over so they could hear it again before we even started the movie.
When you make a selection, there is a very short animated sequence that takes you to the submenu. These interstitial sequences are often funny to, one of them including more of Mr. Ray's singing.
This set is simply packed with extras, hours worth of information about this movie.
Introduction: 1 minute intro to the movie buy the creators. Make sure you watch for John Lasseter in the background hamming it up.
Making Nemo: A 25 minute documentary that is much more than a fluff piece. Informative and entertaining documentary on different aspects of the movie's creation.
Commentary with video clips: This was very interesting. The commentary track was with directors Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich and writer Bob Peterson. At certain moments in the film, a video clip is inserted that illustrates how certain scenes were done or effects achieved. These clips total over 30 minutes of extra video, all of it informative. These clips talk about such things as how difficult it is to model underwater explosions, and show the progression of animation anemone tendrils.
The commentary itself is very entertaining and interesting, as all of Pixar's commentary's have been in the past. When the inevitable lull in the conversation arrives, they fill the time with a joke or two. At one point one of them opens a bag of chips and starts loudly munching on them, much to the chagrin of the other two participants. This is a nice way to breach the quite parts that most commentaries have.
Design Galleries: Four in all, with subsets for Art, Characters, Environment and Color Script. The first one has an optional commentary. The most impressive is the last gallery that contains over 300 images that were used to determine the colors and lighting for the movie. The images are shown automatically, so you don't have to press the "next" button on your remote. A very nice set.
Virtual Aquariums: Seven different ones are included on the first disc. These are animated scenes that loop so you can put them on your TV and it looks like a window onto the sea. There are sound effects and music playing over them through all five speakers, enveloping the watcher in sound. My only wish was that these were available on the disc as a screen savers for your PC. They look much better than any of the other aquarium savers I have seen.
Exploring the Reef: A seven minute documentary narrated by Jean-Michel Cousteau. And frequently interrupted by Dory. Very funny.
Knick Knack: A hilarious short that Pixar made in 1989. This was shown before Finding Nemo during Nemo's theatrical release.
Mr. Ray's Encyclopedia: A short, humorous look at the different types of fish that appear in Finding Nemo with the movie's own ichthyologist, Mr. Ray.
Fisharades: A game where a school of fish make a figure, and you have to guess what it is. Narrated by Crush, with occasional comments by Dory. It was a little long, but mildly entertaining.
Story Time: A read-a-long version of Nemo
Behind the Scenes: Two promotional videos and seven trailers.
Virtual Aquariums: Four more virtual aquariums with scenes from the dentist's office. As with the aquariums on the first disc, these are very nice.
All in all, great selection of extras.
Every aspect of this production is high class. Great sound and audio, wonderful menus and chocked full of extras. Add to that a very good movie, and you have a paradigm of how to put together a DVD.