Analysis: Finding Nemo


OVERVIEW

Fun, exciting, and altogether heart-warming, at less than 15-years-old, Finding Nemo has already solidified itself as a true animated classic.

DIRECTING

Although the directing in an animated film is sometimes overlooked, Andrew Stanton crafts an almost perfect film about a lost fish of all things. Stanton is able to utilize his given tools (score, plot, characters, etc.) to not only create an emotionally moving film, but also bring up topics such as the importance of family and finding connections in people who are different from you. Although it is a clownfish who loses his son, there is such a personification of the marine characters that empathizing with them comes as second nature. Finally, Stanton keeps this film short and concise with every scene being memorable and necessary, which can be observed through its superb pacing.

MUSIC

Thomas Newman creates simply a magical soundtrack to produce one of my favorite scores of all time. Despite the unique challenge of having all but one major character as an animal, Newman is able to build a score that perfectly complements the personification of the animal characters. Newman pairs a risky and uneasy score for the scenes with Bruce and the other sharks to help the audience feel as uncomfortable as Marlin does swimming up to the submarine. In a completely different direction, we feel the joy and wonderment of being free while Nemo takes the ride with Mr. Ray. A bouncy and light song, this helps us empathize with Nemo when he first sees all the new creatures in the reef. And of course, who can forget the “Nemo Egg (Main Title)”. This simple song contains the Marlin-Nemo relationship motif and is played at the very beginning of the movie. The beauty is that the piano melody is raw and unfiltered, which allows the audience to distill the amazing theme and feel the power that it carries. I am so fond of the emotional power this song carries, that it is actually my favorite song of all time – over all genres and eras.

ACTING

Like directing, acting is often underappreciated in animated films since you’re unable to see the actual actors or actresses themselves. Although, if you don’t notice anything while watching the movie, then the acting is probably fantastic – only when the casting and acting is bad does it really stand out. Albert Brooks is a fantastic Marlin as he plays a concerned and loyal dad without coming across as hysterical. And if you didn’t know, Andrew Stanton is actually the voice of Crush the turtle. Although their characters may not be fully in the spotlight, their actors are certainly notable as Gill is voiced by Willem Dafoe and Geoffrey Rush is Nigel. But of course, the most prominent voice in the entire movie is Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen’s acting really brings to life her character Dory. Enthusiastic, sincere, and maybe a little forgetful, Dory brings a great balance to the story as well as Marlin and his personality.

P.S. We can’t omit John Ratzenberger’s appearance as the school of fish!

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Although this section usually highlights impressive physical sets, Pixar’s achievements in animation are no less noteworthy. Whether an animated or live-action film is more difficult to create depends on who you ask, but it is undeniable that Finding Nemo is a visual masterpiece. In today’s digital and graphic-drowned world, many people fail to recognize the craft and the effort put in to achieve spectacular films such as this. Animating only a few minutes of the movie can take weeks or even months and require the coordination of multiple teams and departments. The movie doesn’t start off with natural lighting and physically real water movement, but rather an idea which is then jotted down on paper. For example, the scene where Nemo is on his way to the Drop Off started as just an idea. But what we see in the movie is a beautiful journey of Nemo, his classmates, and Mr. Ray past hundreds of animals of all shapes and colors that portray what our coral reefs truly look like. If you’re interested more on how all of this is created, I highly recommend browsing YouTube for before and after videos – they’re remarkable. Simply put, Pixar is amazing and is the gold standard.

STORY

What if I told you they would make a full-blown Hollywood movie about a tiny fish trying to find his son (or more scientifically, fry)? Then what if I told you that the blue tang accompanying the blue fish has short-term memory loss? Pretty ridiculous, right? Well what if I told you “they” was Pixar? As we have all learned, don’t doubt Pixar. What’s unbelievable is that Pixar was able to sculpt this story into one that was logical, though-provoking, and exciting. It flows from a heart-warming heart-to-heart between Marlin and Dory, into a thrilling escape attempt by Nemo, and then back in Marlin and Dory trying to survive in a whale. Stanton does a wonderful job of balancing the story of Nemo and his tankmates with Marlin and Dory’s adventure to Sydney. One may assume that eventually Marlin and Nemo will reunite, however, there are so many twists and turns along the way that keep both Nemo and Marlin’s adventures intriguing. Not only does this story get points for being told in a fantastic way, but it also scores major points for being about as original as you can get.

EMOTION

The other factors may help explain fundamentally why Finding Nemo is an amazing film, however, emotion and the impact the film has on its audience is truly why the movie has become and still remains one of my favorites. At the beginning, Marlin and Coral have numerous eggs, but then we quickly see Coral and all but one egg taken away from Marlin. That egg of course is Nemo. These few minutes at the beginning really tell us how valuable Nemo is to Marlin and how lucky he is that he even has a son. As the film progresses, it’s easy to see their relationship strain, however, once they are separated it’s obvious how important the relationship truly is. Everyone has a had a relationship that stretches and bends just like in the movie. In addition, we all know someone or have known someone like Dory. Sometimes she’s helpful, sometimes she’s a hindrance, but she’s always sincere and has positive intent. Stanton invites us to go on this wild and crazy adventure, and just like Marlin and Dory, we have no idea what’s coming which is why we can relate so well to the characters.

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