I don’t usually do this because it dates me, but I still remember buying Finding Nemo on DVD, because it was one of the first films I ever bought. It was one of the first films I ever felt was worthy enough to spend my hard-earned birthday money on or whatever the case was.
Certainly, I jest, but I also say this to note just how impactful Nemo was for kids of my generation. Pixar, in general, has left an indelible mark on many folks, but Finding Nemo had it all, garnering inspiration from the vast underwater worlds of the great ocean blue. And as they always do Pixar is able to wholly animate, literally bring to life and attribute human characteristics to non-human subjects, whether they be toys, fish, monsters, cars and so on. But Nemo was near the top of the creative spectrum, and a lot of that sits squarely on the shoulders of its characters. It was the brainchild of Andrew Stanton and with the subject matter of a young clownfish and his overprotective father he found true narrative gold.
However, it was really the supporting characters that color all portions of the frame. First and foremost in\s Dory (Ellen Degeneres), the insanely positively and joyously scatterbrained blue tang who joins Marlin (Albert Brooks) in his quest to find his son. She is the perfect foil to bounce off his dour sensibilities. In time connecting him to a band of recovering sharks with a heavy fish addiction, a band of ultra chill sea turtles, and a silently charitable Blue Whale who propels our two heroes toward their final destination: P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way.
But of course, there are always two sides to every story and Finding Nemo does well to work from both angles. There’s the father who goes on this epic hero’s journey and the lore of the mighty clownfish searching for his lost son begins to take the ocean depths by storm. Meanwhile, Nemo has been placed in captivity against his will in the fish tank of an idiotic orthodontist but spurred on by news of his father, he gains a new resilience. He resolves to make his way back to his dad because he realizes just how much his father cares. It’s a galvanizing experience and he proves just how much he is capable of. Because he disregards any hint of inferiority and realizes his potential–the kind of potential that is not reserved for certain types of individuals, but really anyone who is willing to step out in courage. And that’s how Nemo concludes, by suggesting the importance of family and really pushing ever onward. Just keep swimming. Just keep persevering.
As we wait in exuberant expectation for Finding Dory, it’s nice to reevaluate this modern classic and be rewarded by the pleasant surprise that it truly does hold up even after all these years. The animation is still wonderfully immersive, the characters compelling and the script boasts not only master storytelling from Andrew Stanton but a remarkable melding of both humor and heart. In the modern generations, that’s an extraordinary precious combination and not something that we see all that often. That’s what makes Finding Nemo enduring, and it endures not only for children, but any demographic or audience really. Because Pixar never talks down to their audience or marginalizes certain groups with their humor or a very particular brand of storytelling. In fact, their storytelling is almost classical like the films of old, which were meant for the masses no matter age, beliefs or inclinations. It’s for everyone and it’s a wonderful gift in a century that so often is restrictive and exclusive, even despite its best efforts.