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Finding Nemo on DVD

Finding Nemo on DVD

Disney has released another terrific DVD with this two disc set of the Disney/Pixar computer animated film that was such a big hit in summer 2003.

As is usual with their recent releases of animated films, Finding Nemo is a direct-digital-to-digital transfer from Pixar’s computers to the DVD medium - and as usual it shows. Video and audio quality of this THX-certified release are superb; we expect you’ll be seeing “Nemo” in the TV/video stores as demo material for their high tech digital TV’s - and they’ve made a good choice.

While Nemo isn’t Pixar’s best, story wise (though it’s still highly entertaining), it appears to be their most ambitious technologically as they create an undersea world teeming with life that, while obviously cartoon, moves realistically and in numbers apparently in the hundreds.

We were dragged to Finding Nemo in the theater during its run and couldn’t wait for it to appear on DVD, where the picture quality is far superior to what they inflict on audiences in the movie houses. Some would argue that film has a higher resolution, and maybe it does, but there’s nothing like a good DVD displayed on a good widescreen big screen TV to do a movie justice, and these digital-to-digital transfers are just what the video doctor ordered.

And so when Nemo arrived at our offices we couldn’t wait to slide it into our reference home theater - and, as we expected, we were delighted. The video quality is superb, far better than at our local theater, and the audio is also outstanding.

Finding Nemo, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is the story of Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a clownfish living on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef whose son Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould) gets snagged by a diver and taken off to an aquarium in Sydney, where he’s earmarked (finmarked?) to be given as a birthday gift to a poisonous little girl.

The movie follows Marlin’s adventures on his journey to Sydney to rescue Nemo, accompanied by forgetful fish friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). They run into, around, and through such challenges as sharks, some deep sea horror, jellyfish etc. They also run into good guys such as a school of laid back tortoise dudes who help steer them through the currents toward their goal.

Meanwhile, Nemo is having an adventure of his own trying to escape from the tank, aided by new friends and fellow prisoners led by Gill (Willem Dafoe).

It’s a charming adventure for the most part, though as mentioned, we didn't think it was their most charming - although it's definitely their most ambitious.

It’d be tough for us to say which Pixar is the best; we’d have to waffle between the two Toy Storys and Monsters Inc, with Nemo and Bug’s Life in runner up positions. That said, we love every one of these movies, so while we may have been a tad disappointed in Nemo, it’s only a tad.

Anyway, the voice casting is, as usual, first rate, the production design is wonderful and they’re really pulled out all the stops here to come up with an ocean setting that looks like an ocean setting - though cartoonized. It’s totally believable yet fantasy at the same time. Okay, that sounds like it doesn't make any sense; watch the movie to find out what we mean.

On the whole, a real tour de force.

The video is presented in both anamorphic widescreen (the original theatrical aspect ratio), 16x9 TV compatible, and a “specially cropped” “full frame” version that’s optimized for 4x3 TV’s. We, being video snobs with the appropriate hardware, prefer the former, and it looks truly spectacular on our 57 inch 16x9 screen. The images are razor sharp, colors are terrific, and the whole thing has a nice 3D feel to it that makes for a spectacular home theater experience.

Audio is also excellent, though the audio snob part of us would have loved to see a dts choice added to the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. That said, the soundtrack makes great use of all five point one channels, with sound effects filling the room and nice, tight bass when they decide it’s time to kick in the subwoofer and overall it's terrific.

And as is typical of Disney DVD releases, they’ve piled on the extras as well.

Disc one, which they label as “Plunge into the Filmmakers’ World,” boasts the better version of the film (the widescreen one), along with some nice added attraction stuff.

First up is the Filmmakers’ visual commentary track, which includes deleted scenes and recording sessions. This is pretty neat. You get writer/director Andrew Stanton, co-director Lee Unkrich, and co-writer Bob Peterson doing a play by play narration of the film and, as the movie plays, they illustrate their words by using visual clips. And if you don’t want to ruin the movie, you can access the clips separately.

There’s also “Making Nemo: a Special Documentary” featuring Pixar’s executive producer John Lasseter, writer/director Andrew Stanton and members of the Pixar team.

For this production, they took a cue from George Lucas and had a documentary filmmaker work alongside the crew to record the creation of the movie. There’s stuff on such topics as the challenges they faced designing and animating characters to be expressive without arms and legs, how to create a believable underwater experience and a world as vast as the ocean.

One interesting thing about this is that the documentary, though shot in 4x3, is presented in anamorphic widescreen, so they’ve added their own black bars to the sides of the picture. This is kind of neat, and though it doesn’t help the potential burn in situation with 16x9 TV’s, it does let you watch the program without having to stretch and/or zoom it (in fact, if you do, the black bars remain).

Both discs also include virtual aquaria, which turns your TV into a big tank. They’re interesting, but wear thin quickly.

Here are other features:
DESIGN GALLERIES - you can review The Art Of Nemo, narrated by the artists, and you can listen in as Pixar artists guide you through a collection of pre-production artwork that inspired the final computer-generated images.

You can also look at the maquettes (small statues used to guide the artists) and pre-production drawings used for each character.

“Color Script” - is a collection of over 300 images created by production designer Ralph Eggleston designed to inspire the film’s lighting by outlining the story’s colors, moods and time of day.

Disc two, which is subtitled “A Voyage of Family Fun” is more aimed at the kiddies. It includes the full frame version of the movie, specifically reframed by the filmmakers to minimize picture loss through cropping and, as with the widescreen version, digitally mastered from Pixar’s original source.

And there are plenty of extras here, too.

However, we were appalled at “Exploring the Reef with Jean-Michel Cousteau.” This short film, created exclusively for the DVD, sees famous undersea explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau harassed incessantly by Nemo characters as he supposedly “takes us on a dive into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the real-life setting for Finding Nemo.” According to the press blub: “All he wants to do is finish his documentary, but things get complicated by the surprise appearance of Dory, Marlin, and Nemo.”

Alas, things get even more complicated by a liberal agenda. What we get isn’t so much a dive onto the Great Barrier Reef as a piece of global warming propaganda that spouts unproven science as fact and made us want to throw something at the TV screen, except that then we would have had to buy a new one. We know Disney’s a liberal company, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised at his blatant attempt at trying to control the minds of kids by feeding them such dogma - but we still don’t like it and it's totally out of place here.

Andwe don’t really learn much of substance about the reef other than the fact that humans are destroying it. We might as well just watch the movie to find out about the wide variety of life there, even though it's cartoon life…

Of course, they could have just not included this “documentary” ( "documentary" in the Michael Moore vein where truth is irrelevant to the agenda) rather than beat kids over the heads with such dubious material, but I guess that would have cost them an opportunity to move their agenda forward.

Which is why we don’t mind taking time out from a straightforward DVD review to refute it.

At this point, where Disney abandoned all pretense of presenting objective science or of merely entertaining us, is where we abandoned all pretense of objectively going through the extra materials, rather than risk shattering our expensive big screen - so we’ll just list the rest of them, culled from the press material.

Except for one thing we must mention: we were delighted to see Disney/Pixar include the classic Pixar short “Knick Knack,” a wonderful toon we saw many years ago on its first release. It’s as funny today as it was then, and they’ve done it justice with an anamorphic widescreen release and very good sound.

The other material includes (as mentioned, this is copied from the media release):

Nemo’s very own teacher guides you through an encyclopedia that comes to life! Learn all about the real fish that inspired the characters of Finding Nemo.

Crush hosts a game of underwater charades with your favorite school of fish. As they form shapes, it’s your chance to guess what they are before they finish. This game lets you play alone, or with another player.

Enjoy an all-new, read-along adventure with Nemo. Meet all his fun teachers as he spends a day at school.

Studio Tour
Made especially for “future animators,” and hosted by the voice of Nemo, Alexander Gould, this hilarious behind-the-scenes tour journeys from story department to final film review and everywhere in-between!

Character Interviews
A comical interview with Nemo, Marlin, Dory and Bruce, featuring all-new animation.

See Finding Nemo trailers, special “Fishy Facts” trailers customized to Bruce, Crush and Nigel, and explore a Print Gallery of posters, billboards, lobby cards and bus shelter displays.

Finding Nemo, from Walt Disney Home Video
100 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Full Frame (4x3), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush
Produced by Graham Walters
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds, co-directed by Lee Unkrich, directed by Andrew Stanton


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