A Little Birdie Told Me
The Numbers Game
Finding Nemo's Gil: An unlikely hero
Michael A. Ventrella · July 16, 2003 | The well-deserved success of Finding Nemo is taking many by surprise, among them pet store owners. Kids all want clown fish now as pets (What? Weren't they paying attention? The aquarium owner was the bad guy!) and stores can't keep them in stock fast enough. Just wait until the kids discover that flushing a fish down the toilet doesn't lead to freedom and the ocean.

Although I enjoyed Finding Nemo, I think it may have been the weakest Pixar offering. Although there were plenty of laughs and excitements, there were some story problems that bugged me once I left the theatre. As others have pointed out, there is no hero in the film. It isn't Marlin. He bravely goes to save his son but never rescues Nemo. It may be Nemo, but then why didn't the story spend more time with him instead of his dad? Is it Gil? He has escape plans for sure, but the hero should be the main character.

I was also disappointed by the ending. Compare Nemo to Toy Story 2 or Monsters, Inc., where just when you think the heroes have won, something else stands in their way! And the excitement builds and builds and the action keeps going ... Here, the fish pushed against a net for a few minutes and the exciting conclusion was over.

Still, I can't complain. Even Pixar at its worst is better than 99% of the other films out there, and I am including live action as well. In fact, this can be scientifically proven. A London University professor has broken the genetic code for the perfect film. Based on frame-by-frame examinations of recent box-office hits ranging from The Full Monty to Titanic, Sue Clayton came up with the E=mc² of cinema: The perfect motion picture has 30% action, 17% comedy, 13% good versus evil, 12% sex/romance, 10% special effects, 10% plot and 8% music. According to Clayton, the perfect movie is yet to be made. The closest to matching her formula is Toy Story 2. Well, I could have told you that! (Jay Leno commented on this a few days after this news report came out: "A professor at the University of London claims to have come up with the formula for making a hit movie. She actually breaks it down into percentages. Her formula is 30 percent action, 17 percent comedy and 0 percent Madonna.")

The success of Nemo has made Steve Jobs, president of Pixar, a very happy man indeed. He only has two films left in his contract with Disney and he is anxious to either get out of it or renegotiate.

Finding Nemo
Pixar/Walt Disney Pictures, 2003
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
100 minutes

Shop for Finding Nemo DVDs and more:
Anyway, some are predicting that if Nemo continues on its current path, it will become the highest-grossing animated film of all time. These kinds of statistics are always misleading because they rarely take into consideration the costs of tickets! There are inflation-adjusted lists available, but even then I am not sure they are completely accurate because of re-releases. Do they use some sort of formula for the year it was re-released or what? Anyway, just because we have room, below is a list of the top animated films adjusted for inflation, from boxofficemojo.com. The number in parentheses is the film's placement on the all-time list of all films (inflation adjusted). I've included partially animated films too (as you will see):
  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (10)
  2. 101 Dalmations (11)
  3. Fantasia (20)
  4. Mary Poppins (23)
  5. The Lion King (24)
  6. The Jungle Book (27)
  7. Sleeping Beauty (28)
  8. Bambi (31)
  9. Pinocchio (37)
  10. Lady and the Tramp (59)
  11. Aladdin (76)
  12. Toy Story 2 (86)
  13. Shrek (88)
  14. Peter Pan (93)
  15. Monsters, Inc. (97)
Assume for the sake of argument that Finding Nemo is able to earn $300 million (which is possible). On the all-time film chart, that would place it at #15. (The Lion King is at #9.) However, on the inflation-adjusted chart, it would be at number #78. That's impressive in that it beats Toy Story 2, but not quite as impressive as it would seem otherwise.

Oh, heck, since this is the Internet and we have lots of room, here is the chart that is unadjusted by inflation, with the number in parentheses being the number blah blah, etc., etc. It is current as of June 30, 2003:
  1. The Lion King (9)
  2. Shrek (18)
  3. Monsters, Inc. (23)
  4. Finding Nemo (24)
  5. Toy Story 2 (26)
  6. Aladdin (40)
  7. Toy Story (54)
  8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (58)
  9. Ice Age (74)
  10. Beauty and the Beast (81)
  11. Tarzan (82)
  12. A Bug's Life (92)
  13. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (100)
  14. Lilo and Stitch (113)
  15. 101 Dalmatians (115)
  16. The Jungle Book (121)
  17. Pocahontas (123)
  18. Dinosaur (134)
  19. Mulan (183)
  20. The Little Mermaid (215)
  21. Chicken Run (230)
  22. Bambi (248)
  23. Mary Poppins (254)
  24. The Prince of Egypt (258)
  25. The Rugrats Movie (268)
  26. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (273)

You know, this brings up another interesting issue: How do we classify animated films these days? Should I have listed Stuart Little or Scooby Doo? Casper? Is Attack of the Clones an animated film? It certainly has more animation than Mary Poppins. Does a film have to have a main character that is animated, like Roger Rabbit? How about The Hulk? I'll leave that issue for a future column. Send me your comments and I'll try to include them!
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