In the Hollywood battle for lucrative animated theatrical releases, it's clear that one studio stands far, far above the rest Pixar, the small outfit that brought computer animation to cineplexes worldwide. The company currently operating in partnership with Disney has not only proved that all-digital movies can look cuddly enough to appeal to young people, but they also can be filled with enough jokes to amuse anyone from eight to 80, as well as be visually impressive enough to dazzle even the most robust of gearheads. And we're not talking about chump-change the steep budgets (and attendant high risks) that can accompany animated features has kept many studios out of the market. Finding Nemo, on the other hand, earned $338 million during 2003, making it the year's highest-grossing release. The story of Nemo concerns a widower clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) who looks after his only son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), who is now old enough to start school. But when a class trip goes awry, Nemo is captured by a human diver. He's soon transported to a dentist's tropical fish tank in Sydney, Australia, where he meets an oddball collection of residents, including the mysterious boss Gill (Willem Dafoe). Meanwhile, Marlin meets Dory (Ellen Degeneres), a tropical fish with a short-term memory problem. Together they follow the clues that they hope will lead them to the wayward youth. One would have to be an entrenched curmudgeon not to enjoy Finding Nemo, although as with all films, there simply will be some people who will find the story saccharine, the jokes flat, and the audio cacophonous. They are best advised to go back to watching whatever they had in their player yesterday. However, Nemo has already demonstrated its vast appeal at the box-office, and it's certain to be played over and over again on home video. The seascapes created by Pixar's animators are detailed and impressive with their blend of liquid, light, and particulate matter, while the many oceangoing characters are a reasonable cross between accurate physiology and cartoon excess (which is to say the fish move around like fish, they just happen to talk). Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres, and Willem Dafoe headline the vocal talent, and animation fans will want to keep an eye open for several in-jokes. Yes, the seagulls ("mine mine ") are modeled directly on birds found in Aardman's "Wallace & Grommit" series, and various other Pixar props and gadgets from films past and present can be glimpsed in various places. It's just the sort of thing that always happens when it takes nearly four years to make a movie that runs one hour and 40 minutes.
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Buena Vista's two-disc release of Finding Nemo features both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame (1.33:1) transfers on separate discs. Disc One offers the anamorphic transfer with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Features include a brief introduction from director Andrew Stanton and co-director Lee Unkrich; a "visual commentary" from the directors, who demonstrate how some animation effects were achieved; the behind-the-scenes documentary "Making Nemo" (25 min.); four "Design Galleries" with various collections of concept and still art; and a collection of "Virtual Aquariums" that allow you to display various seascapes from the film as an aquarium on your television screen (this function is also available on the fly from most menu screens on both discs). Disc Two features the full-frame transfer, which we are assured is an expanded image rather than a cropped one. Directors Stanton and Unkrich offer another brief introduction, while other items include the documentary "Exploring the Reef" with Jean-Michel Cousteau (7 min.); the 1989 Pixar animated short "Knick-Knack," featuring music by Bobby McFerrin (3 min.); a "Fish-charades" game; a read-along story for the kids; a brief video dictionary of the various exotic fish portrayed in the film; various behind-the-scenes materials, including character interviews, a studio tour, and a collection of posters and trailers; and another collection of virtual aquariums, this time from the actual aquarium seen in the dentist's office. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.