Pixar made a name for itself with the Toy Story films, but Finding Nemo truly solidified it as the premier animation studio. DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and even Studio Ghibli can’t compare with the consistent high quality of Pixar, which has only had one real dud (Cars 2), but out of an abundance of hits, my personal favorite animated film has to be Finding Nemo, for multiple reasons.
First of all, as a kid, I always insisted I’d be a marine biologist, and though my goals have changed over time, I still harbor affection for the fascinating denizens of the deep. The film also holds the record for bringing me to tears the fastest. Sure, I was under twelve when I first saw it, but I was deeply touched and invested within the first five minutes, an example of loss from a parent’s perspective rather than the usual child’s point of view.
Despite the heartbreaking beginning, Finding Nemo is arguably Pixar’s funniest film too, thanks to Ellen DeGeneres’s hilariously scatterbrained Dory, who suffers from short-term memory loss. That speaking-whale scene cracks my family up every time. Albert Brooks as Marlin is the perfect straight man to Dory’s lunacy, as well as a loving father, whose overprotective concern is revealed as true devotion in his quest to find Nemo. One more reason for me to love this film: it’s a meet-‘em-and-move-on, as many “quest” movies are. The myriad fish that Marlin and Dory encounter range from misunderstood to genuinely helpful to downright frightening, and it’s amazing how many sea creatures Pixar packed into this film, many of them with unique and comical personalities. Pixar has always excelled at introducing a large number of memorable characters in a way that seems rich and prolific rather than overstuffed, whether the toys in Andy’s room, the residents of Radiator Springs, or the colorful inmates of P. Sherman’s fish tank. (Note how the fish sound off where they were each bought, just as Andy’s toys named their respective manufacturers in Toy Story; also, I noticed that both this film and Disney’s Brother Bear that same year featured a similar joke involving a very limited game of “I Spy.” In addition, I wonder if a SpongeBob reference was intended in the naming of Sandy Plankton or Sheldon.)
The characters truly are brought to life with some of the most visually beautiful animation I’ve seen. The world of the coral reef teems with life and color, and the expressive character designs display deeply felt emotions without making them into cartoony human-fish (like DreamWorks’ paltry Shark Tale, released the following year). Most animated films take for granted the air around the characters, but Pixar outdid themselves with the underwater environment. Everything is moving, from the plants and dust around the sea floor to the realistic light and shadows filtering down from above.
With the heartfelt father-son relationship at its core, Finding Nemo is among the best animated films ever. Rather than an undeveloped dictatorial patriarch, Marlin is given clear motivation to protect his son, as well as clear reason to let go of his extreme caution in favor of trust. Before Toy Story 3, it was Pixar’s highest-grossing masterpiece, of course earning the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. With exceptional visuals and humor, Finding Nemo finds a well-deserved spot in my top ten; I’ve got my fins crossed for Finding Dory next year.
Best line: (Crush the sea turtle, voiced by director Andrew Stanton, after Marlin’s escape from the jellyfish) “Saw the whole thing, dude. First, you were all like, “Whoa”, and then we were like, “WHOA” and then you were like, “whoa….” (It’s better heard than read.)Rank: 60 out of 60
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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