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FINDING NEMO

Production Design & Cinematography
Overseeing the production design for "Finding Nemo” was Ralph Eggleston, a Pixar veteran who had served in a similar capacity on the original "Toy Story” and had gone on to direct the Studio's Oscar®-winning short "For the Birds.” He prepped for his role on this film with several diving trips and a visit to Sydney Harbor to get the lay of the land and sea. The film's two directors of photography – Sharon Calahan and Jeremy Lasky – brought their expertise to the areas of lighting and layout, respectively, to help capture Stanton's vision for the film on screen. 

"The music, the color and the lighting, to me, are the things that really give the underlying emotion of every scene,” says John Lasseter. "And the lighting and color in ‘Nemo' is always used for storytelling. Ralph Eggleston is a master at that, and Sharon Calahan knows how to get that on the screen.” 

"One of the biggest decisions we had to make was how much to caricature reality,” recalls Eggleston. "Fish have an almost caricatured shape to begin with and Andrew was fairly adamant that he didn't want to overly anthropomorphize the characters. And so we actually had to go the other way and bring the world closer to the caricatured nature of the fish. If we put these fish in anything that looked even quasi-real, it wouldn't work. The characters and the world had to be on a parallel track. 

"One of our first priorities was to make the fish seem appealing,” he adds. "Fish are slimy, scaly things and we wanted the audience to love our characters. One way to make them more attractive was to make them luminous. We ultimately came up with three kinds of fish – gummy, velvety and metallic. The gummy variety, which includes Marlin and Nemo, has a density and warmth to it. We used backlighting and rim lights to add to their appeal and take the focus off their scaly surface quality. The velvety category, which includes Dory, has a soft texture to it. The metallic group was more of the typical scaly fish. We used this for the schools of fish.” 

Eggleston and Calahan shared a love for the soft, bright Technicolor films of the 1940s and had frequently discussed making a brand new CG animated film that looked like it was from that period of time. With "Nemo” they got their chance. The underwater setting lent itself to soft backgrounds and characters with a glow around them. 

Eggleston says, "‘Nemo' doesn't look like a three-strip Technicolor film, but rather a modern version of the quality you could achieve with this process. Another big inspiration for us was Disney's ‘Bambi.' It's a very impressionistic film. Things fall off in the backgrounds, and you focus on the characters. That's the approach we adopted. The film begins with an intense Garden of Eden coral reef. From there, the underwater backgrounds tend to become more impressionistic with just a mountain or sandy bottom in view.” 

Describing "Finding Nemo” as the most complex film Pixar has ever made from a lighting perspective, Calahan observes, "A big part of our job was creating believable underwater environments. And that took on many forms since we had clear water, super-murky water and even water in a fish tank.We had to figure out the common elements so that stylistically we could tie them all together.” 

Calahan credits Stanton with "having an amazing eye for forms and designs. Design themes and strong graphic elements are really important to him and he really gravitates towards them. Which is great because it creates a strong visual structure for the film. He's also a lot of fun to work with because he is willing to take some risks and experiment. Andrew also took a real interest in what lighting could do to plus the emotional content of the movie.” 

In the end, Pixar's technical team exceeded even their own expectations. Eggleston notes, "Seeing the coral reef up there on the big scr

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