How Jewish Guilt Helped Find Nemo

I’m a Pixar junkie. Shamelessly so. Besides all the razzle-dazzle, I think the writing is very tight, very smart; a friend of mine who, thanks to her three-year-old son, has seen Up dozens of times, put it best: “There isn’t an ounce of fat on that film.”

And the commentaries for their films are a real education in economical screenwriting. In this minute-long example from the Finding Nemo commentary, the filmmakers explain how they found inspiration—and discipline—in, of all places, the comic stylings of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. They’re referring to the character development of two very minor characters, a pair of pelicans named Gerald and Nigel:

And here’s that “touchstone line”:

It made me wonder, “What if all fillmakers applied this discipline to their storytelling—not just animators, but for all films—how much tighter and stronger films could be.” And then I had an inner-Gollum moment and countered with: “Oh, come on. I’m sure most screenwriters have similar habits to make sure their scripts are efficient and fat-free.”

Then I saw Avatar.

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8 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Film

8 responses to “How Jewish Guilt Helped Find Nemo

  1. Nice. I was going to type in a rim shot here, but you saved me the trouble.

  2. illy c

    ok, I thought if I read your post about Finding Nemo, it would inspire me to see all those damn animated movies you are trying to get me to watch… but it just makes me want to see more Nichols and May! more more more!

    And not having seen Avatar, I don’t know what that last line means.

    • “but it just makes me want to see more Nichols and May!”
      Gratefully, YouTube is crawling with clips of them. The did A LOT of TV that’s been archived, thank God.

      “And not having seen Avatar, I don’t know what that last line means.”
      Well, if I had written this post a few years ago–and if James Cameron had read it–that bloated movie of his might be half as long and (possibly) watchable. When it comes to screenwriting, he’s the anti-Nichols and May.

      • He did write Strange Days. That’s a really tight film. Then again, that may have more to do with Kathryn Bigelow’s direction. And the editing, obviously.

  3. I need to see Strange Days, but, it’s sweet the way you defend Cameron. But is there anything to defend in the Avatar script? I mean on the terms discussed here?

  4. illy c

    I found Strange Days, if I recall, to be an interesting attempt, but a total mess. I didn’t think it was very tidy at all…

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