Weathering a Perfect Storm for Finding Nemo 3D
Finding Nemo was tailor made for 3-D, even nine years ago. In fact, during the making of Pixar's first best animated feature Oscar winner and the fourth highest grossing animated movie of all time, co-director Lee Unkrich remarked how great it would be if it were in 3-D. Well, the new stereoscopic rendition (screening theatrically Sept. 14) is truly more immersive. Textures of coral and other sea life jump out more because of 3-D. We're seeing that dimensionality: the pockets on the tongue, or the scales on a fish's body in 3-D space receding from you. Higher resolution (133%) also brings out more detail.
It's all about bringing greater intensity to the staging and depth and heightening everything in 3-D, particularly the particulate matter, which was so essential to the authentic look of the movie in the first place.
Sure, Dory looks funkier and Bruce the shark looks more terrifying, and the chase through the submarine is more thrilling, and the ride on the Great Barrier Reef is trippier, but it's the quieter moments that most impress Unkrich, who's prepping his Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) feature.
"Moving through the coral reef when Marlin is taking Nemo to school on the first day reminds me of when I was scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef," Unkrich admits. "What we were always trying to straddle with Nemo was the beauty and danger of the ocean and how you can't separate one from the other. It was a technical and artistic challenge to create the illusion of being underwater, and [director] Andrew [Stanton] wanted the film to feel very real but not photoreal. So what does that mean? If you look at the ocean, it's very chaotic. Any one item might have a symmetry to it or a sense of design, but when you look at everything -- all the different coral, all the different fish, all the different plants -- it just becomes a cacophony of color and design and we needed to find a way to capture the feeling of the ocean but have some rules still, to contain it somehow to some basic shapes and colors."
Meanwhile, the Pixar stereoscopic team headed by Josh Hollander (director of 3-D production) and Bob Whitehill (stereoscopic supervisor) honed its craft on Nemo, which provided a perfect storm of obstacle and opportunity. In fact, both Stanton and Unkrich were very hands-off and only provided some minor notes. (Stanton's reportedly busy with the Nemo sequel for 2016, which has yet to be officially announced.)
"There's an interesting balance in catalog titles because the older the film, the simpler the [3-D] complexity," Hollander explains, "but the harder it is to convert the software files to the latest technology. Nemo seems to be this interesting worst of both worlds in that it is old enough that the technology isn't readily accessible but new enough that it's actually a very complex film. We're also working on Monsters, Inc. [alongside the Monsters University prequel], so the complexity is a notch easier.