A while ago, Marlin the clown fish (voiced by Albert Brooks) was looking forward to raising a family with his partner Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), they had picked out an anemone to live in and their four hundred eggs were getting ready to hatch in a small cave in the Great Barrier Reef. But Coral was sceptical that they were in quite the right location: sure, the neighbourhood was a good, friendly one, but were they not too close to the open ocean? Marlin wanted a nice view, but what he had not counted on was the presence of larger predators, and to his horror a carnivorous barracuda spotted their eggs and made a beeline for them. He tried his best, but it was too late, he was knocked out and when he came to all that was left of his brood was a solitary egg...
Pixar had been doing very well for themselves since the release of Toy Story back in 1995, with every one of their releases a hit, but nobody was prepared for the huge success of Finding Nemo eight years later, which went on to beat The Lion King as the biggest animated movie of all time (a title taken by Pixar once again with Toy Story 3 some time after). Not only that, but it also became the biggest selling DVD of all time, a distinction unlikely to be beaten now, so it's safe to say there were millions of people familiar with the adventures of Marlin and Nemo, which led to the inevitable sequel in 2016 when their friend Dory was awarded the chief focus, but the original was difficult to surpass.
As far as affection across the world for these characters went, at least, as Pixar ably demonstrated their ability with combining laughs and a warm, generous heart with an adventure yarn that was ingeniously worked out. This took an impossible situation - no, not that fish could talk - and proved that it was possible to manage, even overcome it, which after all was at the centre of such tales reaching back to ancient times, so when Nemo is scooped up by a diver to be kept in the aquarium of his dentist's surgery, the mere idea that Marlin could ever find his son, never mind get him back, is presented as an insurmountable task, and it is only his parental drive to look after the little guy that helps him to harness his ingenuity.
Little was important in this scenario, as time and again Marlin, Nemo and Dory are depicted as tiny in the great scheme of the Pacific Ocean, emphasising their uselessness in the seascape when there are so many bigger, more dangerous animals around. Marlin was an overprotective father, certainly, but he is shown to be utterly justified as over and over the worst occurs, and the parallels between his dilemmas and those of the human world, where things seemed hostile to kids never mind their worried parents, were subtly but emphatically underlined. But there was another side to that, for just as there are sharks who will snap up a small fish (even ones dedicated to vegetarianism) and seagulls which are monomaniacal in their obsession with eating you thanks to an overabundance of entitlement, there was good here too.
Yes, the danger was there, but Dory wasn't dangerous and Marlin would never have met what becomes his finest ally in his search if he had not taken chances. As voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, she is a forgetful soul who sees an improvement in her mental capacity when she has a goal to achieve, in this case assisting new pal Marlin, and so the message that it is a big bad world but contains plenty of decent folks to help you get by was what we should take away, perhaps even more than the parental concerns that there was only so much a doting father could do for their child before having to trust them and what he has instilled in them to allow them to make it alone, or at least accepting the assistance of others. Cutting between the quest Marlin and Dory are on and Nemo stuck in the fish tank with some other captives, we could perceive his father's terror of letting his son down was keeping the little guy as much a prisoner of emotion as the dentist kept him in his office, quite a bit to take in but sweetened by some excellent jokes and beautifully conceived imagery. A deserved success. Music by Thomas Newman.