et me confess that American-made animation is not the type
of thing I go out of my way to see, since most movies always seem to be
adaptations of other Disney movies, only with different characters and different
songs. I hate singing cartoon characters. Then Disney surprised me with
"Lilo and Stitch",
which I adore completely. And now there's "Finding Nemo", made by
Pixar Studios, the same people who gave us "Toy Story" and "Monsters
Inc.", to help further change my mind about American animation. It can
be said that Pixar is the next generation of animators; besides their use of
computers, they also shun the singing and dancing animals. While Pixar Studios
is a branch of Disney, they aren't Disney, if you know what I mean.
"Finding Nemo" is set in an ocean off the coast
of Australia, with fish as characters. Like some recent American animation, the
story has gotten a bit more serious, with mature themes for adults to ponder
mixed in with harmless stuff for the kiddies. Albert Brooks ("The
In-Laws") provides the voice of Marlin, a clown fish who cares for his
only son Nemo (Alexander Gould) after his wife and the rest of their brood
becomes snack food to a big fish. Being that Nemo is his only offspring, Marlin
has become neurotic (which makes the casting of the always neurotic Brooks pitch
perfect) about his son's safety, leading him to smother the boy.
Marlin's worst fears come true when, during a school trip
(on the back of an eel, no less) Nemo is snatched away by human divers. Marlin
pursues, abandoning the safety of the reef in search of Nemo, and encountering
the sometimes helpful but other times not so helpful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres)
along the way. Dory is a fish with short-term memory. And yes, she is as funny
as the description sounds. While Marlin maneuvers the dangerous seas to get to
Nemo, the clown fish tyke finds himself in a dentist office's fist tank. Here,
the veteran fish Gill (Willem Dafoe) plots to escape, a goal that takes on
greater urgency with knowledge that the dentist plans on giving Nemo to his
precocious young niece who has already killed one fish!
The animation in "Finding Nemo" is, not
unexpectedly for the fine folks at Pixar, just brilliant. The movie is
constantly awash (har har) in a sea of colors and flawless renderings of various
sea life. Everything is done with great attention to detail, from the way the
animal's eyes are rendered to the way they move. This is the type of film that
really shows the loving devotion lavished on it by its animators. I've said it
already and I don't mind saying it again -- "Finding Nemo's" computer
animation is flawless.
The most thrilling moments of "Nemo" involves
Marlin navigating his way through the strange world of the ocean. While Marlin
via Brooks mumbles neurotically, Ellen DeGeneres provides the laughs. The gifted
comedian is on the mark, and nearly every single line of dialogue that comes out
of her fish's mouth is hilarious. The scenes where Nemo plots his escape from
the dentists' fish tank is not altogether that interesting, which is probably
why there is so little of it. Oh sure, the notion of the other fishes in the
tank going, literally, crazy from having been locked away in the tank for so
long (i.e. prison) is worth some chuckles, but there's only so much you can do
within the confined spaces of a fish tank.
While "Finding Nemo" is not "Jin-Roh"
parents should nevertheless be warned that there is some mature stuff present.
In the first 4 minutes, a fish wipes out Marlin's entire family, leaving just
him and Nemo. Of course we don't see the actual "killing", but the
point is made. Later, a shark suffering from blood-frenzy tries to eat Marlin
and Dory. It's a vicious scene, very beautifully rendered, but potentially very
frightening to younger viewers. (My own niece was scared.) Also, there are
numerous scenes where young Nemo is put into harm's way, risking everything from
being eaten to being dump in the trash to being chewed up by the fist tank's
While American animation still has a lot of catching up to
do with their Japanese counterparts, you can already see the changes happening,
and all for the better. The Japanese realized long ago that animation was not
just for kids, and while adult-themed animation in America have been box-office
disasters (which is the primary reason you don't see that many, they just don't
sell here), one gets the sense that American animators are starting to slowly
but surely change attitudes toward animation. The future is very bright indeed.