BLU REVIEW: Finding Nemo Collector’s Edition

THE SET-UP
A clownfish named Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) goes on a desperate search for his son Nemo (voice of Alexander Gould) when he is taken from the ocean by a human to become a pet. A fish named Dory (voice of Ellen Degeneres) aids him on his quest.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton 

THE DELIVERY
An absolute instant classic upon its release in 2003, Finding Nemo charmed audiences with the perfect balance of heart and laughs. The film manages to move from one visual gag to the next with ease, with a number of dramatic points mixed in. The tone is just right, and even when it gets silly or sad, the underlying theme of a love between father and son keeps the film emotionally grounded and moving in the right direction.

In truth, neither Brooks’ Marlin or Gould’s Nemo are interesting-enough characters individually to make the film worthwhile. They are merely the straight men for a wonderful assortment of odd and hilarious characters that they encounter. That is a real testament to the clever script that delivers the jokes at breakneck speed, as well as a number of actors who make the jokes even better. 

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Ellen Degeneres absolutely steals the show as Dory, a fish with short term memory loss. Without her, the film just does not work. We are also treated to a slew of great voice actors in smaller roles, including Bruce Spence, Willem Defoe, Brad Garrett, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush, and Allison Janney. Each provides a memorable performance, and the ensemble elevates Finding Nemo to modern classic status.

The film manages to run through every major fish and sea joke you could think of, and makes it all seem fresh and original. The production design is absolutely breathtaking, presenting a colorful seascape that looks dazzling in high definition. 

If there is a drawback to the film, it is the downer opening. In fact, the scene is dicussed several times in the special features, and even the filmmakers admit it can be traumatizing to young viewers. Thankfully, the film maintains a lighter tone after that, even when it goes a bit dark in the more dramatic points. The ending is satisfying and, in true Pixar fashion, will bring a tear to your eye. Few animated films are good enough to warrant repeat viewings and still entertain. Finding Nemo is one of the films.

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VIDEO AND AUDIO
The incredible attention to detail is evident in the high definition image presented on the Blu-ray. It is nothing short of fantastic. Colors pop off the screen, even when the environment is dark, which happens often in a deep-sea movie. I constantly caught myself enjoying the environment, where even the sand grains get sharp detail. Even the CineExplore option, which plays the film with audio and video commentary as well as concept art, is presented in high definition. Some of the special features are not high-def, especially the older extras from previous editions. The DVD even features a video transfer that seems improved from my 2003 release. 

The audio choices are numerous and impressive. The new 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is excellent, providing a little more “oomph” on the low end over the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack, which is also included. A descriptive video service track is included for the blind, as well as 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes in French and Spanish. 

SPECIAL FEATURES
An incredible amount of special features are packed in this set, including those featured on the original 2003 DVD release. Many are featured on Disc 1, which includes the film, but a number of extras, including many new ones, are packed on a second disc.

DISC 1
Easily the best special feature on Disc 1 is the CineExplore feature, which shows the film (in high def) with an audio, video, and “pop up” commentary. It’s great to watch, and concept art is often shown with its corresponding scene.

One of Pixar’s earliest shorts, “Knick Knack,” is included, and will likely remind you of Toy Story’s look and feel, which would be made six years later. A “virtual aquarium,” which is basically a really nice animated screensaver, is included. “Finding Nemo: A Filmmaker’s Roundtable,” is a new feature in which director Andrew Stanton, the producers, writers, and other filmmakers discuss the making of the film, almost 10 years removed. It is quite entertaining to watch.

“Reinventing the Submarine Voyage” is an excellent featurette that details the reimagining of the “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” rise at Disneyland to a “Finding Nemo” theme. There is a ton of old footage of the original ride that is great to watch.

In another extra, director Stanton presents the storyboards and temporary audio to an alternate opening to the film, which focused on Marlin’s fear of protecting Nemo. It’s interesting to watch, especially since the opening they did go with was much darker and had a much deeper emotional impact.

“A Lesson in Flashbacks” is a featurette about Stanton’s approach to the use of flashbacks in the film. The flashbacks were eventually dropped, but it is interesting to see the storyboards to them and how Stanton eventually worked some of the themes into the storyline.

DISC 2
Six nicely done virtual aquariums (Anemone, Jellyfish, Plate Coral, Reef, Sandy Reef, School of Fish) are included, and they are different from the one on Disc 1. Unfortunately, there is no “Play All” option; you’ll have to select each separately. The “Art Direction” featurette is a discussion by Ralph Eggleson (Production Designer), Ricky Nierva (Character Art Director), and Robin Cooper (Shading Art Director), who all review pre-production art for the film and discuss how it was integrated into the final film. It is fascinating, and the quality of the art – which the public rarely sees – is fantastic. 

The “Making Nemo” documentary shows how the Pixar team built an underwater world, from scratch. The logic behind the colors of the sea, and how the plot remains entertaining when it goes dark and serious, are discussed at length. Interesting tidbit: eyebrows were played up in all the fish character models to give them more natural facial expressions. 

The “Exploring the Reef” feature is hosted by Jean-Michel Cousteau and shows amazing footage of the real Great Barrier Reef, with the movie’s animated characters joining in as co-hosts. It’s actually very funny, but also extremely informative. The “Studio Tour” featurette is hosted by Alexander Gould (Nemo’s voice) as he goes around Pixar to see how the film was made. It’s corny, but it also provides an interesting look at how the studio operates.

The “Old School” section features what appears to be odds and ends of behind-the scenes material. Most are only a minute long and include in-movie jokes, animation tests, and an explanation of how water is animated. There is even a touching tribute to an animator who passed after the film was made, Glenn McQueen. The “Outtakes” section includes four snippets from actor recording sessions (non-animated) of lines and jokes that didn’t make it into the final film. It would have been better to combine them into one clip, instead of four different short clips you have to navigate through, however.

Seven deleted scenes are included, told in storyboard form with early temp voices. The “Promotional Pieces” section includes four trailers and ten promotional featurettes and stunts (basically animated segways for TV and the original DVD release). Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia is a series of short facts about the fish and marine life shown in the film. A “Play All” option allows you to watch them all without having to click each one.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?

Ratings: (1-10 scale)

Movie: 9

Video: 10

Audio: 10

Extras: 9

Overall grade: 9.5

An exceptional animated film gets its definitive Blu-ray release. Finding Nemo is a fantastic film, and it gets a technically perfect audio and video presention. The picture couldn’t look better, and a new 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is fantastic. The extras give you more than you could ever want to know about the film’s creation. The only drawback is the lack of easier navigation. It’s nice to have everything separated, but more “Play All” options would have been much better.  However, it doesn’t mean you should pass over this release. You should absolutely go out and grab it. It’s one of Disney/Pixar’s best. A definite BUY recommendation here.

BLU-RAY SPECS

Release Date: December 4, 2012

Rating: G

Running time: 100 minutes

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Descriptive Video Service

Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish

Special Features: See “Special Features” section for a full breakdown of the numerous extras.

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