Simplicity of story.
If anyone ever questions why I love Pixar’s Finding Nemo so damn much, this is my answer.
The basic story is so simple. And they do so much with it.
When planning their short films, I used to tell students there are two ways to tell a story. You can ‘enjoy the journey’ or you can ‘lead up to a great finale’.
Finding Nemo is a terrific example of enjoying the journey. Do we really think it won’t be a happy ending? Of course not. In a story like this we can pretty much assume everything will turn out just fine.
That’s not the point
It’s what happens along the way that makes it so great.
So if you are planning your own short (or long) story, remember that. If you don’t have a super satisfying ending that will knock the socks off your audience, you can always make the journey one heck of a great ride.
I’m over-simplifying things a bit, but I hope you get what I mean.
Same deal as my other feature favorites. No story summary or anything, I’m just digging in to my favorite bits of Finding Nemo.
It’s gorgeous. Look at the image up top. The whole underwater world is so beautiful and believable. Makes you want to take up scuba diving (if I didn’t have such a nasty fear of suffocation).
Starting the film with a mass murder. Basically. Marlin’s wife and all but one of his little kid-eggs are eaten by a nasty barracuda within the first 5 minutes of the film. Horrible. And risky. But it worked…you now have our attention Finding Nemo.
Nice use of transitions. There are different kinds of transitions to get you from one scene to another. One of these is the cross-dissolve. One cool way of using a cross-dissolve is to dissolve between similar shot compositions.
We are on the close shot of Marlin holding the little cracked egg, which is the end of a very powerful sequence. We need a little time to absorb what has happened before continuing the story. It dissolves to the moon as seen from underwater, the circles are in the same position in the frame. Then it has the opening credits and touching music.
When it transitions yet again (to the sun) and a young Nemo waking up his father for school, we’re ready to be cheered up. Once you know about these techniques, you start to see them everywhere. Keep an eye out.
The introduction of ‘the mask’. The mask turns into a very important part of the story and we really need to see it. Not to mention we feel how scary this must look to little Nemo. Show the audience what it needs to see. Always.
When Marlin meets Dory. The whole sequence is a fun introduction to Dory and her short term memory loss. The line “Hmm…where are they?” still cracks me up. Great use of silence and pauses in this scene.
Our first look at Bruce the shark. Too awesome. Fantastic character design and detail on him.
When Dory says “Es-cap-eh”. (I’d type a accent but I don’t know how). This is our first glimpse that she can read. Very important to the story. Of course there’s no logical explanation of how she learned to read, but why get into all that crap? Spoils the fun.
Do not attempt this in 2D.
Creepiest. Alien-like-fish. Ever. To think things like this exist is real life, is too wild.
This double reflection shot. So real (and I assume a challenge to duplicate). Plus the aquarium scenes aren’t getting much attention. (Sorry about that Gill and company).
When Dory ‘speaks whale’. I saw this movie three or four times in the theatre and laughed out loud every single time at this sequence.
I think this single-handedly revived Ellen DeGeneres’ career. Not to mention the fantastic character animation and acting. Bravo.
The ‘trapped inside the whale’ sequence. For two great life lessons it teaches. When Marlin says he promised he wouldn’t let anything happen to Nemo. Dory (in her infinite wisdom) says that was a funny thing to promise because, “You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.” Love that.
Then when they are hanging from the whale’s tongue and Dory says they have to let go. Marlin says, “How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?”
Dory pauses and says, “I don’t!” This is where Marlin learns to ‘let go’ by letting go. Big moment in the story. And for us. What are you not doing because you’re afraid of what might happen?
Darla’s entrance. So perfect with the lighting and ‘Psycho’ music.
The seagull chase. Fun action sequence here.
Mine! Mine! Mine!
Darla’s maniacal laugh. Can’t quite capture it in a still shot, but oh-so-funny.
The dentist patient reaction shot. All the Darla screaming and chaos is going on in the office. Then this shot of them all leaning in, is great. How do you add comedy/action to a sequence that may not be written in the script? This is how.
When Dory says, “When I look at you…I’m home.” Makes me choke up every time. Great animation and voice acting. One of my favorite moments in the whole film.
NEMO!!! When Dory finally realizes she’s with Nemo and it goes into that fast, flashback clip sequence. It really drives it home (visually) that she remembers everything again.
When Dory kicks ass. And she holds the uncooperative crab out of the water to the hungry seagulls. Great scene and a turning point for Dory. No more Ms. Nice Fish!
The ‘keep swimming’ sequence. For the sole fact that in the commentary they said it was based on some old fisherman story this actually happened. I love that (and hope it’s true)!
The final shot. Movie is over. A few credits. Then the sequence of the aquarium fish finally escaping. It ends here with them all in bags and one of them says, “Now what?” Perfect. End credits.
Simplicity of story and being taken on a wonderful journey.
That is why I love Finding Nemo.
Thanks again, Pixar.
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