June 2, 2003

Nemo: Star-Persona, Digital Technology and Killing Parents

Two Cinecultist correspondents watched Finding Nemo this weekend, then they had an IM chat about it.
Karen: so, then. Finding Nemo? Whatíd you think?
Jordan: I really liked it.
Jordan: a nice fluffy response, surely the kind you were looking for.
Karen: yeah, that basically says it all.
Jordan: I wish Pixar was around when I was watching all those Disney movies when I was a kid, their animation is amazing.
Karen: Word.
Karen: but itís not just the animation, itís the story and the characters and the voices. Itís all so amazing.
Jordan: yeah, I like that the characters actually have different facial expressions, not just stock expressions. And they actually resemble the actors who are voicing them.
Karen: I like that about it as well. Although, do you think we read more into that because we can identify the voice's star persona?
Jordan: as opposed to people who don't know either who Albert Brooks is or that he's doing the voice?
Karen: right. But more so, I thought, with Ellen DeGeneres's voice and that her standup has such a distinctive, innocent point of view that translated so well into that character of Dory.
Jordan: yes, I agree. I think the connections that one can -- but doesn't necessarily have to- make between character and actor worked to the film's advantage. I agree that ED's star persona was a perfect match for Dory.

Karen: a review I read, said that they thought Albert Brooks played a similar character of Marlin to the one he has in the In-Laws only Finding Nemo's version was better. Why do you think that happens? Wouldnít you think a less diluted version would be played out by the actor's real face? Or does that just show that Pixar had a better script, editor, etc?
Jordan: I think that in Nemo, and in any well-animated film, the voice/face isn't the only thing that carries a character. I think in this case, In-Laws vs. Nemo, that Pixar was able to integrate Brooks' voice into their visual landscape, so that his voice helped to strengthen what we saw, and vice versa, rather than in a live-action film like In-Laws where Brooks' face and voice had to do all the work.
Karen: how do you feel about digital animation versus hand-drawn? Do you think the difference can be measured, or deemed pejorative? ĎCause Iím torn on the topic.
Jordan: me too. On the one hand, Iím amazed at what can be done with digital animation, how 'real' it looks. But I suppose Iím a bit old-fashioned too, since I like to think of animation as something that literally comes from pen and paper (or animation cell, whatever) But Iím not against digital animation either, as contradictory as that may seem.
Karen: some examples of hand drawn animation that I thought were quite evocative were last summer's Lilo and Stitch and the Iron Giant. There, the style was in the hyper drawn look of the figures.
Karen: but what Pixar does is really beautiful too, its style is distinctive and pleasing.
Jordan: Iíd say then that the difference need not be pejorative, merely different, since I loved Lilo and Stitch.
Karen: I think what makes Lilo and Nemo both so great (besides their rhyming names) is that they both had a sense of an artistic vision. A cohesive concept behind the story, images and characterization that helped the whole thing along.
Jordan: yes, I agree. I also think what set them apart was the fact that they were smart. I know, ironically, that sounds dumb. But I think they were much more multi-layered than the standard Disney fare, and, since we both liked them, appealed to a wider age range than just grade-schoolers
Karen: but that's interesting that you grouped together "Disney fare" as a demarcation of bad animation when Lilo was made by Disney and Pixar is also a subsidiary of Disney. I think the mouse has become an evil force too, but then again they have the funding...
Jordan: yes, but I don't think that L&S or Nemo are examples of 'Disney fare'. I think the upcoming Sinbad or Brother Bear are more along the lines of the cookie-cutter Disney product. But it's true that the mouse does have the money...such a dilemma
Jordan: even though L&S and Nemo are made under the banner of 'Disney'.
Karen: yeah, itís problematic. I group animation this way too, Disney v. non-Disney but I don't think it can be too easy. Maybe itís about the producers. Because Titan A.E. stank and that wasn't a Disney, it was Don Bleuth and 20th Century Fox that put it out.
Karen: so, what else did you like about Nemo? Any dislikes?
Jordan: I liked all the little side characters. They had such personality. I especially enjoyed the sea gulls and the little French cleaning crab in the tank.
Karen: yeah, the gulls were great. They do sound like they say "mine, mine, mine..."
Karen: Iím not sure how I feel about so many animated movies killing parents. Do they really have to do that?
Karen: I imagine it must be traumatic for certain 4 foot viewers.
Jordan: it does seem to be a common theme in animated films to kill off mommy or daddy. but it seems to happen in a great deal of kids films in general, not just animated ones.
Karen: yes, I can understand with movies about teenagers that they can't really do anything with the parents there, but for little kid films it just seems sort of mean.
Jordan: And it seems more common to kill off both parents rather than just one.
Karen: I know my brother (age 6) is very sensitive to this kind of thing. But animation always has an inherent sense of violence in it, the slapstick element, but real bodily harm to the characters we like seems to be around every corner in Nemo.
Jordan: yes, my Mother kept whispering to me "what if Marlin dies too? What if Nemo dies?"
Karen: you could sort of imagine that it might happen in this movie. But then again, I worried that the main guy character in Amelie might die the first time I saw it. Maybe itís just the sign of a film that's really working on us.
Jordan: yeah, I think that's probably it.
Karen: shall we wrap this up? Anything else you want to comment on?
Jordan: no, I think Iíve commented to my heart's content. Just an overall thumbs up.
Karen: from me as well. Good little movie.
Jordan: quite so.

Posted by karen at June 2, 2003 4:13 PM