A tale of a fish ... actually, an ocean full of fish and a watery menagerie of other sea creatures ... is the delightful new family feature film from Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Alan Silverman has a look at Finding Nemo.
Nemo is a young clownfish, bright orange with broad white stripes, eager to see life beyond the anemone fronds where he grew up.
Little does Nemo's over-protective dad Marlon realize that he'll get the chance to do those things and more. When a scuba diving human kidnaps the adventurous youngster, Marlon sets off on an oceanic odyssey: Finding Nemo.
Pixar set the standard for the computer animation genre with such hits as Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monsters, Inc. Finding Nemo writer and director Andrew Stanton says he'd been thinking about an undersea story for some time.
"I remember in 1992 or '93 I had gone to 'Marine World' up in Northern California and there was this exhibition that had this glass wall about (5m) 15 feet high and (4m) 12 feet wide," he recalls. "You could stand up close to it and lose all peripheral vision and feel what it would be like looking at a gorgeous reef of fantastical fish. I remember even then, 10 years ago, going 'wow, our medium could do this. We could really capture what this looks like and feels like.' So that setting was always on the back burner and we slowly came up with an idea for a story."
The story, like the other Pixar hits, is a gentle comedy wrapped around a sweet message with themes of family love, friendship and perseverance.
Albert Brooks heads the finny cast as the voice of timid clownfish dad Marlon; but the scene-stealer is Dory, his traveling companion on the Finding Nemo journey: a wide-eyed, eternally optimistic blue tang voiced by comic actress Ellen Degeneres.
"I feel like kids relate to Dory because she is so childlike. I don't know how old she's supposed to be in the film, but she's got every single quality that kids should have . . . n-o-t that they necessarily do, because I think that kids are growing up too fast now, but she is innocent and she is optimistic," she says. " There is n-o-t even a thought in her head that a shark would hurt her or that being swallowed by a whale is a bad thing. She's just happy and optimistic and positive about everything."
Meanwhile, captive Nemo finds himself in an aquarium decorating an office overlooking Sydney Harbor.
Presiding over the tank community of tropical fish and mastermind of an outrageous escape plan, is a grizzled Moorish Idol named Gill, voiced by Willem Dafoe, an actor usually associated with tough, edgy, shady characters.
"It's true and I think that's played with because certainly this Gill character has this ominous entrance and there's a slight tension about what his motives are," he says. " There are parallels to a movie called Animal Factory which is a prison movie that Steve Buscemi directed. I made it just before I started voicing this character, so it was always in my head a little bit."
The Finding Nemo voice cast also includes Barry Humphries as a shark trying to break the habit of eating fish ("fish are friends, n-o-t food" is his new mantra); Geoffrey Rush is the voice of a helpful pelican; and child actor Alexander Gould plays young Nemo.