Ellen Degeneres (Dory) and Director Andrew Stanton
Simply put, Finding Nemo is one of the best animated features that any studio has ever made. It combines the gentleness of heart we usually associate with Disney with the artistry of computer animation to create their new worlds of fantasy and imagination. And you don't have to be 9 years old to enjoy it.
The world of Finding Nemo is the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia near the Great Barrier Reef. In the opening scene we find Marlin (voiced by Alan Brooks) and his wife as they prepare to have a new brood of clown fish offspring in their new home among the sea anemone. But that world is a harsh and dangerous place and disaster strikes. Marlin's wife and children are all eaten by a preditor (offscreen ala' Bambi) - all except one child, his son whom he names Nemo in accordance with his wife's wish.
Marlin teaches Nemo to be wary of the ocean outside the protection of the reef. Marlin is stifling in his attempt to protect Nemo from any potential danger, but this is a fairy tale adventure and you can't have an adventure without danger striking, so as you surely know by now, Nemo is "kidnapped" by a skin diver who takes him off in his powerful motorboat, leaving a horrified Marlin swimming helplessly behind.
Determined not to allow his son to be taken from him, Marlin goes on a quest after Nemo. He asks every fish he meets if they have seen the boat that took Nemo. One fish, a friendly-but-confused Tang fish named Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). Dory is more than willing to help, but she has this short-term memory problem, so she loses her place in the sea quite a bit. She starts in helping Marlin asking for directions, explaining that she's helping Marlin find his son, Fabio.
Together, Marlin and Dory meet a host of helpful sea critters, but they don't get very far until they meet a surf bum of a sea turtle named Crush (voiced by director Andrew Stanton who steals every scene he's in). Crush takes Marlin and Dory for a ride with his troop of sea turtles as they ride the powerful undersea current that takes them all the way to the harbor of Sidney where they know the boat that took Nemo came from.
Meanwhile, Nemo's captor turns out to be a dentist in Sidney who collects tropical fish for his office aquarium. Once in the tank, Nemo is introduced to his fellow prisoners, including the veteran Gil (voiced by Willem Defoe). Gil has tried several elaborate plots over the years to escape from the tank, but has obviously never been successful. But he sees in the small plucky Nemo an opportunity to try an ingenious, but very dangerous method of escaping that involves Nemo's swimming into the plumbing of the aquarium and gumming up the works so that the dentist will have to take them out.
As I said, its a fairy tale, but its also (in the words of Michael Palin) A Ripping Good Yarn. It has the things that make animated features memorable. A heart-warming story, guileless humor for kids and adults, and images that are so powerful that they can last for a lifetime. I've been saying for the past couple of years that the formula for a good animated film is "frolicking forrest creatures," and we certainly have that here (albeit fur-free frolicking forrest creatures).
Starting with their creative leader, John Lasseter, the folks at Pixar just "get it" when it comes to filmmaking. It all starts with the story. Its got to have compelling characters with a story that takes you along for the ride. Sprinkle it with a heavy dose of gags and throw in inspired casting for the voices, and you've got a picture that people will want to see again and again.