Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Pixar Project: Finding Nemo

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a little barnicle blog on the bottom of the big old internet butt.

Er, boat. Internet boat. 

I've Dave-El and you're a little squishy and you will be mine and I will name you Squishy. 

Today's is another installment of my series of posts I call The Pixar Project as my family does a re-watch of Pixar films in chronological order. Today brings us to Finding Nemo.

It's been a month since my last Pixar post and in that time, we've seen the Nemo sequel, Finding Dory. So re-watching the 1st film after seeing the 2nd one made for a very interesting experience. While Dory dominates the sequel, Marlin and Nemo are far more front and center in the original movie. Also, compared to Dory, Nemo is a darker film.  

Pixar’s progression towards more mature storytelling moves forward considerably with Finding Nemo. Oh, there’s still stuff there for the kids. The child-fish Nemo, the wonkily goofy Dory and a whole sea of wacky characters populate this beautifully animated adventure. 

But this is a movie that starts off with tragedy, a savage attack that leaves Marlin a widow and all his children destroyed except little Nemo. There’s the frantic fear that fills Marlin as Nemo is taken away by the diver. Then there are the sharks which even when they’re trying to be non-threatening are still frightening, a fear made manifest when Bruce sniffs blood and “Fish are friends, not food” goes down the drain. Not to mention the angler fish and the eerie floating jellyfish with their shocking tendrils. And Nemo nearly gets ground up in some gears in the fish tank filter system. And Marlin thinks Nemo’s dead and that whole thing with that net full of fish at the end….

There is A LOT to be scared of in this movie.

But not just surface fears of scary creatures and frightening events are at work here. Finding Nemo plays on fears born of insecurity, loss and mortality. Heavy stuff for a cartoon about talking fish.

Marlin's paranoia about the dangers of the ocean is indelibly embedded in him by the horrific act that decimates his family. It is a paranoia that feeds his devotion to his son but it also serves as the catalyst to losing him. There isn't a semi-decent parent who hasn't struggled with the urge to protect a child while watching them challenge the limits of what they can do.  Marlin leans too heavily towards being protective, safe and in control and it not only endangers Nemo but Dory and Marlin himself as well. It is a hard lesson that all parents must face and some of us try to hold on too tightly when we need to let go and trust. 

Not all of us can be as cool as Crush, the 150 year old (and still young!) sea turtle who imparts the wisdom of seeing how far his little son can go solo. ("Dude!")  

 But Nemo is still a child and needs some degree of protection and comfort which he finds in the decidedly warped denizens of the fish tank in finds himself in. Well, there's Gill who first sees Nemo as a cog in his complicated plan to escape the tank. But even Gill becomes protective of Nemo, even to the point of self-sacrifice to save the little clownfish from Darla.  

A lot of the comedy in Finding Nemo comes from Dory, the blue tang with a memory problem. But even she has moments of pathos. When Marlin, shattered beyond words when he thinks Nemo is dead, wants to swim away from Dory and forget everything, Dory's pleas for Marlin to stay are heartbreaking. 

Earlier, after having just met Marlin, Dory has a throwaway line about how she thinks memory loss runs in her family: "Where are they?" Having seen Finding Dory before hand, this line carries unexpected weight.  

One thing about Finding Nemo that I liked a lot was the score from composer Thomas Newman. Nemo was the first Pixar movie not scored by Randy Newman (no relation) whose grounded, more traditional style fit perfectly with the tone of the first four movies from Pixar. Thomas Newman, on the other hand, employs an almost ethereal approach to his compositions that complements the otherworldly surroundings of undersea life. 

As we watched Finding Nemo, I was struck by how many lines that I still quote on a frequent basis. 

  • "Hello! My name is Bruce." (With an impeccable Australian accent, of course)
  • "Ess-Cah-Pay! That's spelled just like 'escape'."  
  • "Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills."  
  • "Not on the shell, dude! Just waxed it."  
  • "Bubbles! Bubble! Bubbles!" 
  • "Follow me." (French accent, perfectly executed)  
  • "THE RING OF FIRE!!!" 

And naturally, an inordinate amount of loud bellowing to speak "whale". 

Finding Nemo has long been regarded as a masterpiece of the Pixar catalog and for a very good reason. It is a perfect melding of the colorful worlds that Pixar's computers can create with the heart and soul of the finely hone characters brought to life in those images. It speaks to the heart and the soul, even as it makes you laugh, smile and hold your loved ones just a little more closely. 

OK, that's that for today's post. What's up for tomorrow? That's a secret not just from you but also from me because right now, I have no idea. 

But until then, remember to be good to one another. 

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