Since ‘Avatar’ proved that there was money to be made in 3D cinema, studios have been scrambling over themselves to get as much 3D content into theatres as possible. In most cases, this resulted in hurried and badly-conceived post-conversion of uninteresting action films, but in perhaps the smartest move by a studio since this format took off, Disney has consistently turned to their back catalogue with tremendous critical and financial success. Their conversion of ‘The Lion King’ was a massive hit, and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ might be the most beautiful 3D film yet. As well as their traditional classics, their partnership with Pixar resulted in the conversion of the original ‘Toy Story’ films, and now they continue that venture with ‘Finding Nemo’, one of the most financially and critically successful animated films ever made.
There isn’t much left to say about ‘Nemo’, arguably Pixar’s first masterpiece. This simple story of a a clownfish trying to find his lost son is filled with rich characters and rich visuals, executed to perfection by then first-time director Andrew Stanton. It was the first Pixar film to secure the Best Animated Film Oscar and their biggest box-office success, as well as the most successful animated film of all time at that point. Superlatives cannot do it justice - there is a tenderness to ‘Nemo’, a refusal to talk down to its young audience, a fearlessness in the face of difficult and serious themes that has become a defining characteristic of Pixar’s storytelling. The voice cast is exceptional, filled with the most unexpected talent, but none that detract from the storytelling, with Ellen Degeneres delivering one of the finest vocal performances in an animated film, as the lovable and tragic Dory, cursed with short-term memory. Her contribution was so significant, that there was even discussion around her receiving an Oscar nomination. ‘Nemo’ is one of those rare examples of a perfect piece of filmmaking, storytelling and artistry demonstrating just how effective and affecting cinema can be.
But does ‘Finding Nemo’ survive its 3D conversion?
The answer is an unequivocal "yes". The work that has been done on the film is first-rate and highly respectful. The spectacular undersea world Pixar created back in 2003 is only enhanced in 3D, especially the texture and depth of the ocean landscapes. One element that always leant a level of authenticity to ‘Nemo’ was Pixar’s observation that the ocean was full of dust and dirt, and in the conversion, this is handled with delicacy and care.
The world of ‘Nemo’ has been opened up and expanded in 3D, but without changing anything of the original film. There are no enhanced effects, no new scenes, no tinkering. Similar to Disney’s approach to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, the integrity of the original film has been maintained, and as it should be. ‘Nemo’ was never a film that needed to be fixed in any way, and Disney/Pixar have wisely used the conversion to simply enhance the visual cinematic experience of the film. There are no tricks, nothing distracting, and after a while (as with all great uses of the format), you no longer notice the 3D. Pixar has always asserted that no technical skill can truly pay off without a great story, and though it has been brought into a new format, ‘Nemo’ is still all about its story and its characters.
There is a tenderness to ‘Nemo’, a refusal to talk down to its young audience.
If anything, it's worth returning to ‘Finding Nemo’ in 3D just to see it again on the big screen, as it really should be seen. Every Pixar film is an event, and even after nearly ten years, ‘Nemo’ has lost none of its charm or its power. With every second film being released in 3D, the advantages of the format have become muddied behind the novelty. ‘Nemo’ in 3D might give you an exciting reminder of just what the format is capable of.