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Finding Nemo (DVD Packaging) (Blu-ray)
Disney/Buena Vista / 2003 / 100 Minutes / Rated G
Street Date: December 04, 2012
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Reviewed by Michael S. Palmer
Friday, November 30, 2012
NOTE: The DVD Packaging Edition of 'Finding Nemo' features the exact same content and number of discs as the 3-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray. Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Finding Nemo - 3D' (the 5-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition).
It is the human experience to know we will, most likely, outlive those we love most. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, best friends, husbands, and wives. And though we grieve when facing death, we persevere and live life knowing, thanks in some part to instinct, and maybe even a Disney film or two, that this is the natural order. Generations rise and fall as the next appear. That's the deal, right? But there is one thing much worse. A tragedy so terrible, unimaginable, and heartbreaking it shatters the natural order…
Losing a child.
'Finding Nemo', Pixar's fifth film, builds its dramatic spine from a parent's greatest fear. We've all been children faced with an overbearing parent who spoils the fun out of unnecessary paranoia; and many of us have been, or will be, the parent who would do anything to protect our children, like say spoil some fun. Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a clown fish who, after losing his wife and all but one single egg, is trying to be a good father to his young son, Nemo. Scarred by his traumatic experiences, Marlin becomes so over-protective that, in a moment of rebellion, Nemo wanders too far away from the coral reef where a human diver captures him.
Unable to stop the fish-napping, Marlin embarks on a quest to rescue his son, evading sharks and exploding WWII mines and jellyfish and whales and hungry birds. Along the way, he befriends Dory (Ellen Degeneres), a loyal blue tang fish with hysterical short-term memory problems. Through this journey, Marlin must not only face impossible odds and show more courage than he ever has, but he must grow and change as a father. The only way for him to be a great father is to trust that Nemo must do some things -- even really hard things -- on his own.
The Pixar universe is special because of the way they marry the essential visual qualities of fish (or toys or bugs or cars) with universal human emotions (and sight gags). But the heart of their more successful adventures -- 'Nemo' is number two not adjusted for inflation -- comes from the stories themselves. Everyday characters in extraordinary situations facing insurmountable odds. But through friendships and families, by changing and growing, our hero has a chance to find his son (or find their lost toy friends or save the colony or revitalize the town). Simple stories told through extremely unique and intricately detailed voices. Pixar filmmakers, especially in this earlier era, are the masters of subverting expectations, taking what audiences know and expect about genres, characters, and emotions, and then twisting them in a way that feels new. 'Finding Nemo' might not be my favorite Pixar movie, but in terms of story, character, and structure, I'd argue it's pretty flawless.
In addition to the universal story based on parental phobias, the film is also a visual delight. When director Andrew Stanton and his crew (Co-Director Lee Unkrich, Producer Graham Walters, Co-Writers Bob Peterson and David Reynolds) set out to put 'Nemo' together, Pixar's tech team wasn't even sure CGI set fully under water was even possible. Remember, this movie follows 'Monsters, Inc.', whose most complex animation, Sully, was hairy. Now the entire universe, with rolling waves and interactive jellyfish, needs to be rendered into a near lifelike existence. But, somehow, they pulled it off. As we'll discuss below, 'Nemo' is a gorgeous motion picture with so many moving parts and bold colors.
And don't get me started on composer Thomas Newman. You may know his work from 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'The Green Mile', 'Road to Perdition', or even the most recent James Bond, 'Skyfall', but his unique tones and orchestrations fit the movie perfectly. This makes extra sense when you learn Andrew Stanton did much of his 'Nemo' screenwriting while listening to Newman's previous scores. It's hard to describe Newman's music; it's not quite as melodic, or catchy, as something like a John Williams, but it's wondrous and emotional. 'Finding Nemo' works on so many levels, but Newman's music completes and elevates the experience.
I also love the way Pixar makes movies about personal passions. Toys and insects and cars and super heroes and monsters and fairy tales and, of course, fish. You can tell the 'Nemo' filmmakers love the ocean and all the miracles hiding within. When films are made like this, that passion is completely contagious. Or to put it another way, the passion put into Pixar pictures transforms into inspiration for children and adults in the real world to learn and care about real things.
It's been a long time since I've seen 'Finding Nemo'; I missed the theatrical re-release and when you have a collection of 4-5 star Blu-ray discs ready to go, it's hard to pull out an aging DVD that now seems blurry. I'm happy to report 'Nemo' has aged well, remaining as funny and scary and thrilling of an adventure as ever. A huge hit in cinemas and on home video, it is now officially a sparkling classic ready for the next generation to love.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Walt Disney Home Entertainments presents 'Finding Nemo' as part of a 3-Disc Collector's Edition. That's one Blu-ray for the feature film and newer HD Bonus Features, one Blu-ray for the legacy Special Features (some now in HD), and one DVD copy of the film. Skippable trailers include 'Monsters, Inc. - 3D' (not in 3D) and 'Peter Pan'. Other editions of the movie include the 5-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray 3D + 2 Blu-rays + DVD + Digital Copy), 3D Digital Download, and HD Digital Download.
'Finding Nemo' swims (zing!) on Blu-ray with a gorgeous AVC MPEG-4 encode framed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
CGI computer animation has had so few picture-quality flops and, given the strengths of Pixar's other catalog releases, very few of you will be surprised to hear that 'Finding Nemo' features a reference quality high definition presentation. Macro-blocking and banding are toughest obstacles for any high definition image featuring so much dynamic range in the contrast (slow crawls from light to dark) as well screens filled with hundreds of moving fish. Some displays may not be able keep up, but 'Nemo' has no technical flaws (that I could see), even in sequences like the Angler Fish attack (the fish with the little light globe). If you see banding in that scene, you may need to calibrate, or replace, your display.
While Nemo may not have the textural complexities of Pixar's newer work, it's still better than most CGI films and is utterly jaw-dropping. Pastel tropical colors highlight the exotic, and incredibly detailed, locations that seem to go on forever, until the ocean's depth and darkness swallows all visible light. Movies like this are the reason we have HD displays. Another thing I love about Pixar films is how certain textures, particularly the rusty red metal buoy and the metal pulley on the fishing boat, appear as photo realistic.
Much to no one's surprise, 'Finding Nemo' makes one spectacular Blu-ray, the best it ever has looked in the home. But now that I've seen both, my only caveat is this -- if you haven't seen the movie, at least once, in three dimensions, you're not experiencing everything 'Nemo' has to offer.
If you thought the video looked great, hold on tight, because the 'Finding Nemo' 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is superb.
We home cinema enthusiasts spend a lot of money and time (a LOT of time) trying to perfect our gear -- speaker placement, calibration, crossover frequencies, room setup -- and when we have all these tweaks just right, we want proof our efforts were worth it. We want those aggressive mixes that show off dynamic range, immersion, and concussive LFE. Sometimes, we even make sacrifices to experience high caliber audio mixes by watching flicks we don't necessarily love (who hasn't said, "hey, the movie's kinda bad, but you HAVE to hear the surround sound"?). To be sure, 'Finding Nemo' displays all those qualities we love, but the true magic is this: because the story's so good, we'll actually want to watch, and hear this film, over and over. Demonstration highlights include the two sequences in and around the sunken submarine, the Angler Fish chase, the East Australian Current, inside the whale's mouth, and being caught in the fishing net.
However, despite these spectacle-infused moments, 'Finding Nemo' is so much more. It's one of those tracks where you actually stop thinking about what's happening around and simply fall into the world. Dialog is not only perfect, but the soundstage is so lifelike and wide -- only if a character is dead center on screen does his or her voice come out of the center channel; otherwise, the voices appear to come from your entire front wall. The various environments are sophisticated and subtle. Like you're really underwater. Thomas Newman's emotional score soars from every channel, sucking you into story and character.
'Finding Nemo' features a delicate, discrete, reference quality surround sound mix that beautifully compliments everything on screen and never steps on the action. Many incredible soundtracks are better than the movies to which they are attached, so it's a pleasure to have an audio mix this special on a worthwhile movie.
[NOTE: the Set Up menu appears to default on 5.1 audio, requiring a manual selection of 7.1. However, on my 7.1 system in both bitstream and PCM, the disc automatically played all 8 channels when selecting 7.1 or 5.1.]
Other than one HD Exclusive, 'Finding Nemo' and 'Finding Nemo - 3D' Special Features packages are identical and include most of the bonus content from the original 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD from 2003 as well as a couple new HD Exclusives (see below). The great thing here is that while much of the content remains in standard definition, a few of them -- most notably the various aquariums -- have been rendered in full High Definition. Missing from that DVD, however, are the "Fisherades" game, 'The Incredibles' Sneak Peek, "Storytime Fun for the Young", and (thankfully) the Full Frame version of the film.
Blu-ray Disc One
- Knick Knack (HD, 3:37) Made six years before 'Toy Story', 'Knick Knack' is an early Pixar short film about a snow glow Snowman who wants his freedom.
- Aquarium (HD) Turn your TV into an CGI aquarium modeled after Nemo's home at the edge of the reef (it's the same image as the film's main menu without the Thomas Newman score.
Blu-ray Disc Two
- Aquariums (HD) Six high-definition virtual aquariums will play for hours, uninterrupted on your HD display. Choices include: Anemone, Jellyfish, Plate Coral, Reef, Sandy Reef, and School of Fish.
- Art Review (HD, 8:32) Three of the film's character artists discuss the design of a few scenes over concept art. This was on the DVD before, but the concept art is now in an HD resolution.
- Making Nemo (SD, 25:35) The original making-of featurette found on the DVD. It's a nice look at making the movie, and perhaps even a little too brief.
- Exploring the Reef (SD, 7:01) 'Finding Nemo' cast members interrupt Jean-Michel Cousteau as he's trying to host an actual documentary about coral reefs. Would have loved to see this in HD!
- Studio Tour (SD, 5:24). A funny tour of Pixar Studios tells the audience how they make the film.
- Old School (SD). A collection of smaller pieces: "El Captitan Pitch Selects" (0:52) shows Andrew Stanton pitching the film. "School Progression" (0:38) follows a scene progression from storyboard to animatic. "MA Reference" (0:53) is all the Massachusetts references from Mr. Stanton's youth. "Whale Mouth" (2:19) explores animating CGI water for the sequence inside the whale. "International Mine" (0:22) showcases the Seagulls various language translations. "Pelican Animation" (0:52) examines how they made the movie's pelican look real while creating a unique character. "Glenn McQueen Tribute" (2:46) is about one of the Pixar Animators who passed away during the making of the film. And, "Aquascum 2003" (0:32) is a fake ad for the Aquascum 2003 tank filter.
- Outtakes (SD). There are four moments captured during voice recording: "Chickenfish" (0:28), "Dory Muttering" (0:27), "Rove McManus" (0:18), and "Albert Brooks Punch Lines" (0:20).
- Deleted Scenes (SD). There are seven deleted scenes presented in various rough forms: "Crush the Hippie" (1:10), "Shark Volleyball" (0:51), "Frantic Dad" (0:26), "Scent of Lavender" (0:23), "Sewage" (0:30), "Prologue Bedtime Story" (0:56), "and "Soap Opera / Gill Lies" (1:11).
- Publicity Pieces (SD). Here you'll find a collection of the film's promo material, including the Teaser Trailer; Trailers 1 - 3; "Fishy Facts - Bruce, Crush & Nigel"; "ABC Stunts - Guess, Pipe, Scatter"; and "DVD Stunts - Mammals, Staring, Tickles, Trapped". Really wish theses were in high definition.
- Mr. Ray's Encyclopedia (SD). A hilarious video encyclopedia about the real animals featured in the film. The Play All button is nice, but for whatever reason, my menu wouldn't navigate back to the menu after this page, so beware.
Disney and Pixar have created a few new special features for the film's Blu-ray debut that round out what was already a pretty nice collection.
Blu-ray Disc One
- CineExplore (HD) New for this Blu-ray, this takes the place of the Director's Visual Commentary from the DVD. It's essentially an audio commentary with concept work and video interviews laid in over certain scenes. A must watch for fans.
- Finding Nemo - A Filmmakers' Roundtable (HD, 17:37). A brand new special feature exclusive to the Blu-ray, Stanton and his filmmakers gather (around a table? yes!) to discuss the film nearly ten years later. Fans will definitely enjoy.
- Reinventing the Submarine Voyage (HD, 15:05). 'Finding Nemo' was so successful, Disney decided to update the Submarine ride at Disneyland in California. A really fun piece, with some history about the ride, and what they did to update it. Awesome!
- Deleted Scene: Alternate Opening (HD, 3:04) Director Andrew Stanton talks about, and then presents, the film's original opening.
- A Lesson in Flashbacks (HD, 8:00). Stanton talks about his decision to avoid flashbacks in the film's original structure. What's interesting, of course, is that he seems to have completely disregarded this lesson when making 'John Carter'.
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'Finding Nemo' is a classic adventure tale about an overbearing clown fish father who travels an entire ocean to rescue his son. Along the way, he meets new friends, survives impossible odds, and learns what it will take to become a better father. As a Blu-ray, 'Finding Nemo' features reference video, an outstanding 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio presentation (put this Blu on your demo rotation, like, yesterday), and Walt Disney Home Entertainment improved and added to what was already an impressive Special Features package from the original DVD release. The only question, dear Readers, is whether or not you personally enjoy 3D? If you do, then the 5-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition is the Must Own release. If you prefer your movies in two dimensions, and don't need a portable Digital Copy for iTunes or Windows Media Player, then this 3-Disc Collector's Edition is Must Own.
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