Once More Into the Sea… ‘Finding Nemo: Collector’s Edition’

My favorite Pixar films are the ones that offer rip-roaring adventures aimed at kids while hitting parents in the heart along the way. That’s why I hold the Toy Story trilogy, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo in such high esteem. With that in mind, I looked forward to revisiting this film with my younger kids, ten years after originally seeing it with my oldest, who’s now off at college.

Watching Finding Nemo again, I was struck by how well it holds up, from both a storytelling and technical point-of-view. This Blu-ray disc offers a stunning picture, an accomplishment that had to be tricky given the film’s ocean environments, artificial aquarium decor, harbor location, and deepwater spots full of dark blacks free of mosquito noise and other imperfections. My kids may not have cared about it, but I was appreciative.

On the storytelling side, well, call me Mr. Schmaltz if you want, but I remain deeply touched by this tale of a brave clownfish desperately seeking his lost son. All parents fear losing their children and know they would do anything to get them back. It’s a powerful, primal emotion, and Finding Nemo perfectly captures Marlin’s desperation. Pairing him with short-term-memory-impaired Dory helps soften his sharp edges — without her, Marlin could easily become an irritating character, no matter how much we might sympathize with his plight.

On the flip side, we all know how defiant children can be, and how they’ll drive you crazy even while you love them so much, and Nemo is the embodiment of that. He didn’t need a buddy to help us appreciate his character, but the inhabitants of the aquarium he ends up in serve as surrogate parents who guide Nemo until he can be reunited with his father.

Indeed, all of the characters’ interactions in the film demonstrate how well Pixar understands the relationship between character building and story design. This is a movie full of cool set pieces and moments of wonder but also low-key spots that hit your heart — for me, the moment when Nigel the pelican tells Nemo of Marlin’s amazing adventures always makes me a little misty-eyed. (Shut up, I just have something in my eye.)

This Blu-ray+DVD combo pack is filled to the brim with bonus features, starting with the Cine-Explore Mode, which showcases how to effectively use Blu-ray’s picture-in-picture capabilities for commentary tracks. Director Andrew Stanton, co-director Lee Unkrich, and co-writer Bob Peterson gather to present promo materials, concept art, storyboards, and more; much of the commentary track from the original Special Edition DVD is also preserved.

Other bonus features also ported from the earlier DVD release include the Knick Knack short, aquarium screen savers, a collection of concept art, acting outtakes, a Pixar Studio tour, several deleted scenes, marketing materials, and “Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia,” which covers much of the sea life shown in the film. In addition, the original behind-the-scenes featurette and the brief “Exploring the Reef” piece were brought over, too.

All of that would probably be plenty, but a classic film that has hit the decade mark deserves a little better treatment, and Disney has come through with some additional bonus materials. They’re led off by a filmmakers’ roundtable that brings together Stanton, Unkrich, Peterson, and a few others who worked on the film to reminisce. While that may not seem very interesting, the participants offer some intriguing recollections, including how they solved various technical problems and what they did to streamline the story.

Storytelling lessons also highlight a brief piece in which Stanton talks about why he avoided flashbacks in the film and an alternate opening with an introduction by him. Finally, we have “Reinventing the Submarine Voyage”, which I guess is where someone in the room used the word “synergy” when planning this home video release. Sure, it’s fun to hear about the Disneyland submarine ride’s roots and how it was updated to incorporate elements from Finding Nemo, but overall it feels more like a commercial. Given the value in all the other bonus materials in this set, though, that’s not bad.

The film and some of the bonus features take up the first Blu-ray disc while a second high-def platter serves up everything else. There’s also a standard-def DVD, so you can get rid of the old DVD set and know you’ll still be able to watch the film just about anywhere, unless you’re one of the few who has Blu-ray capability everywhere in your home.

RATING 9 / 10