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FINDING NEMO (article first published : 2003-12-10)

It has become the American box-office's biggest animated success in history, exceeding the previous record of $312.8 million scooped up by The Lion King. It's Finding Nemo, a feature that has not only been widely acclaimed as one of the most outstanding and enjoyable movies of the year, but also one of the finest animated features ever made. It goes without saying that it will be nominated for an Oscar next year.

One cannot rave loudly enough about Finding Nemo, the tale of a young clownfish (the voice of Alexander Gould), who is tired of his doting dad, Marlin (Albert Brooks), being so paranoid about him. In an effort to find some measure of freedom, young Nemo swims off to a place his father has forbidden him to visit - and winds up being scooped into a scuba-diver's net and plonked into a fish tank in a dental clinic overlooking the famous Sydney harbour bridge and Opera House.

It then becomes the perilous, eventful quest of Marlin, a creature afraid of the open sea, to find his son. En route he meets up with and gets help - and hinderance - from a cheerful, yet forgetful, blue tang called Dory, voiced hilariously by comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Nemo, meanwhile, assisted by a circus of colourful, comical creatures in the dentist's aquarium, also continually tries his fin at planning an escape. Gloriously animated in day-glo colours and with amazing attention to detail and texture, the movie bobs along on a script that's warm and witty, with well-defined characters.

The film is awash with classic moments. They include Nemo attending school, Marlin and Dory being sidelined by a group of butch sharks and forced to attend their self-help gatherings; and Nemo's rescuers being assisted by a team of like-wow-man-dude turtles who catch the current to Sydney.

However, don't expect song-and-dance routines. The only song in Finding Nemo comes when Robbie Williams performs Beyond the Sea over the closing credits - and that was deliberate, says the film's writer-director Andrew Stanton. "We were trying to create a believable world and the moment the fish broke into song that would have been completely shattered," he told a reporter. He added: "Everyone we used n the film was my first choice. I cannot believe we got them all! "We wanted them because they all perfectly fitted the characters they play. We never go after anyone just to get a name on a marquee."

Word is the hardest voice to cast was that of the title character and scores of children were considered before the producers went with nine-year-old Alexander Gould, who has been seen in small parts in Malcolm in the Middle and Ally McBeal. With much of the action taking place in and off the coast of Australia, it was inevitable many stars from Down Under were used. Listen out for the voice of Barry Humphries (better known in these parts as Dame Edna Everage), Eric (the Hulk) Bana and Bruce (Mad Max) Bruce Spence as the sharks. And note that Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, of Shine, Quills and Pirates of the Caribbean Fame, lends his vocal talents to Nigel, a helpful pelican. The cast includes another Aussie star, Bill Hunter, as the dentist. And Willem Dafoe’s voice is heard from the character of sea-wise angle fish Gill.

Director Stanton lends his voice to the hippie-like turtle, Crush. "I was always the stand-in voice for Crush all through the production. We tried all these actors for Crush and ran out of time, so when we had the first preview with me doing Crush, and it went down well, we decided just to keep it."

The idea for Finding Nemo came to Stanton three years before Toy Story, when he took his son to Marine World and his imagination ran riot. His ideas delighted everyone at Pixar and before long he'd started work on what has become a massive splash hit. Dive in and enjoy! Rating: 10/10 – Billy Suter.




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