VIDEO: Finding Nemo vs. Shark Tale

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The Animated Heroine goes under the sea for Disney and Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Dreamworks’ Shark Tale. Is there really even any point to calling out a winner? Watch this episode of Reel vs. Reel anyway!

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  • Muthsarah

    I’m actually tempted to watch Shark Tale one of these days. It looks like one of those trainwreck movies, like Battlefield Earth, or Master of Disguise, the ones with so many off-putting elements, you wonder how no one could see what was happening early enough to stop it. To put the production in visual form:

    I think the product placement and glaringly dated references do hint at the producers’ mindsets, and perhaps why the movie as a whole turned out so unlikeable (going by overwhelming public opinion). Shrek had pop culture references, and it was a hit, therefore, people can be expected to like pop culture references. Correlation = causation. And since you can predict that any movie with references in it will be popular, it doesn’t matter what else you do with it, you’ll have a hit. Sure, put in all the plot-irrelevant advertisements you want; you already feel you can lead your audience by the nose, so they’ll follow along. Anyone around the office suggesting the anthropomorphic fish are too close to the uncanny valley (SOMEONE had to have brought it up)? So what, you already know what the audience wants, who cares about such details. They’ll snap it up like chum.

    I could understand why the film could have turned out so horribly if it had a tight deadline and there simply wasn’t an option to change course once some of the flaws became obvious (especially as these films tend to be pretty expensive), but I notice it came out over a year after Finding Nemo, so even if you look at the films as typical Hollywood dueling productions, Shark Tale had plenty of time to gestate. If it really did turn out so badly, I must conclude that Dreamworks really did think that this is what audiences wanted.

    And they were right, sadly. Despite its horrible reputation, the film was a big hit. The fault lies in ourselves.

    • Misty

      I think the main reason why people are more forgiving about Shrek over Shark Tale is that, at it’s core, Shrek is still a fairy tale movie in a fairy tale world. Shark Tale is pretty much normal people, but as fish. Nobody would have noticed if they made it take place LA or New York City instead of…underwater fish city place. I figure they found out about Finding Nemo and went “Oh, we need a fish movie to compete with Finding Nemo, just like we did with A Bug’s Life”.

      • Muthsarah

        Well, I think Shrek’s a good movie all-around, not just a good movie despite bad pop-culture references, so for me at least, there’s nothing to forgive it for. References themselves aren’t bad, as long as A) they’re funny (obviously), B) they aren’t the only source of humor, which, even if they’re well-done, would get old fast, and C) they move quickly enough and are used sparingly enough that they don’t distract from the story. It’s not a pop-cultural reference comedy with a story attached (Family Guy), it’s, much as you say, a fractured fairy tale, a satire poking fun at genre tropes and Disney in particular, using pop cultural references to further add a postmodern spin to a very old formula. IMHO, everything about Shrek works (not every joke, just every facet of the movie). And, again, while I haven’t seen Shark Tale, I’ve seen enough clips and reviews of it that I feel pretty confident I wouldn’t like anything about it. Is there any sense of satire to these jokes? Do they mock these elements of pop culture? Cribs-like reality shows? Shallow and banal entertainment reporting in general? Unhealthy obsessions with media? Or do they just reference them and let the reference BE the joke, and it’s just supposed to be funny because it was funny that one time?

        But yeah, since puns are so ubiquitous in animated kids’ movies, the fish theme is, if anything, a crutch for the writers and artists (if not, given Finding Nemo, a raison d’etre). “Don’t have an interesting premise? Make it the same trite “young man learns to just be himself” story, but set it under the sea. Don’t know how to design unique characters? Turn recognizable celebrities into anthropomorphic mutant fish. Can’t come up with any funny jokes? Build whole scenes around fish puns. The audience’ll like it. Kids are stupid.”

        • Misty

          Well Dreamworks is well aware of the criticism that Shark Tale received because, to the best of my knowledge, they’ve never done another movie quite like it again. Especially the visuals.

      • Cristiona

        Well, it worked for Kip Addotta (and, to a lesser extent, Fish Police), but…

        • $36060516

          Whoa, dating yourself there (unless you just saw Fish Police on some retro round-up). I bought some of the black and white issues in the comic store back when it was new.

          • Cristiona

            No, dating myself, sadly.

          • $36060516

            Me too, of course (or I wouldn’t have gotten the reference)! The guy who did FIsh Police also published (not created, he just printed it for the creator) the first issue of “Sam and Max” which went on to be a TV cartoon and Lucasarts/Telltale games.

  • $36060516

    Is that sea water in the cup to get you in the mood?

  • The_Stig

    Finding Nemo vs Shark Tale? This is actually a debate? Nemo, my film forevermore.(extra cool points if you get that ref).

  • danbreunig

    Thank you so much, Animated, for not justifying the existence of Shark Tale. I need not say more.