Two-disc `Finding Nemo' is in stores

New on DVD

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

November 06, 2003|By Omar L. Gallaga | Omar L. Gallaga,COX NEWS SERVICE

If you're a parent, it's likely that the disc you'll have sitting in your DVD player for at least the next month will be Finding Nemo, a two-DVD set that hit stores Tuesday.

The good news is that the film (and its multitude of shimmery DVD extras) is a joy. The Pixar fish film has become, since its summer release, the highest-grossing animated film in history and garnered some of the best critical cartoon hosannas since ... well, since Pixar's last film, Monsters, Inc.

At the box office, Finding Nemo surpassed The Lion King, which reached DVD shelves last month. The two releases probably won't just be stocking stuffers at Christmas: They're likely to be on constant rotation on family TV screens from now till New Year's.

Like The Lion King and other Disney DVD releases (Pixar made the film but it bears the stamp of the Mouse House), Finding Nemo is front-loaded with ads. Lots of ads. Ads for new big-screen animated films. Ads for films coming to video. Ads for next year's Pixar release (the hilarious trailer for The Incredibles).

If the commercials don't wear you out, you'll finally make it to the DVD's main menu, where funny fish Marlin and Dory (Albert Brooks and the great Ellen DeGeneres) chide you to make a selection: "Just keep watching, just keep watching," Dory sings if you don't hurry and pick an option.

The two-disc set features widescreen and full-screen presentations of the film, and both look gorgeous. The film was transferred digitally to DVD (live-action movies can lose quality going from film to DVD) and its watery look is saturated with rich colors and seamless, detailed animation, even on the lowliest of TV sets. While widescreen is definitely the way to go, prickly viewers with an aversion to black bars can go for the full-screen edition on Disc 2, which was re-edited by the Pixar computer wizards to keep slicing and dicing of the image to a minimum.

Extras include a very funny and brief documentary on marine life featuring Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of the late Jacques), who cries, "Upstaged by fish! This would have never happened to Papa!" when his lecture is continually interrupted by Dory and friends.

A half-hour documentary gives a behind-the-scenes tour of Pixar's creative process. Lighting technicians, animators and the film's personable director Andrew Stanton (who also voices the surfer dude turtle Crush) detail the painstaking process it takes to make the computer-generated Great Barrier Reef look real. (But not too real, they reveal: Photorealism wasn't the goal - entertainment was.)

Other extras are an educational look at sea creatures presented by Mr. Ray (the film's sea ray teacher), the short film Knick Knack (it ran with Nemo in theaters), "Fisharades" (an interactive guessing game) and a video storybook featuring the film's characters.

The considerable artistic talent behind the film is put on display in "The Art of Nemo," which shows conceptual drawings and character sketches.

Also included in lieu of traditional DVD commentary is a "visual commentary" that can be watched apart from the film or set to pop up throughout - these include making-of vignettes, deleted scenes (in storyboard form), tidbits and trivia.

Every menu and submenu on the DVDs also has a "virtual aquarium" setting that gets rid of the pesky words on screen to display a screensaver of fish tanks, ocean scenes and other visuals.

You could forget all the extras, and the DVD presentations of the film itself would be more than worth the price of the set. Finding Nemo is perhaps the wittiest film of the year, a smartly crafted endeavor that uses an impressive array of technological talent to create a wholly human experience. Every frame of Nemo demands attention (and as the behind-the-scenes featurette tells it, every frame meant many hours of work).

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