Hello & welcome back to A Look at Disney World. Today, we are doing a special Disney World edition of Screen To Stage as I take a look at Animal Kingdom's Finding Nemo: The Musical. So please, join me for this very special edition of Screen To Stage. As a reminder, on Screen To Stage, I take a look at What's The Same in regards to the film, What's Different, what changes were made, New Music, normally, this would be where I go over music that was not originally part of the film seeing as the other two entries I looked already were musicals, I did not look at the stage version of the film songs but here we have a unique case in Finding Nemo was not a musical and thus all the songs are new. I'm really excited to talk about this one as ever since I came up with Screen To Stage, I've been dying to review it. So, with that out of the way, let's begin.
What's The Same
The story and the characters have remained the same. It's still the story of a father learning to be less worrisome while crossing the ocean looking for his son and coming across many colorful characters. All of your favorites such as Dory, Bruce, Crush (Best character in the entire movie), The Tank Gang, Nigel, and Mr. Ray are still here. And they performed as puppets. Here take a look at some of them...
There's Marlin & Dory and they did a great job capturing the look of the characters. Although, perhaps it's just the way, the performer is holing Marlin but the puppet looks like he has a lazy eye. Nemo along with Squirt are portrayed by women and that makes sense. It's a common practice to have females portray young boys in media because I believe it has something to do with them being able to do the voices better. For example on The Fairly Oddparents, Tara Strong voices Timmy Turner. I believe that they chose not to have children portray these roles because of safety concerns and it'd be hard to work around their schedule. Safety concerns are the big factor, I'm not sure a young child has the strength to work the Nemo puppet and as for Squirt, that'd be too dangerous.
As you see the actress portraying Squirt is harnessed in. So yeah, makes total sense to me.
Though in my opinion, the two most stunning puppets in this entire show are Mr. Ray & Crush.
Mr. Ray is one of the most unique things, I've seen as he is operated using a bicycle. That's clever. And as for Crush, it's mostly just his size that made me go Whoa!
In many respects, Finding Nemo: The Musical, when it comes to the performances reminds me of The Lion King on Broadway. In that as an audience, we have to be able to take the performers out of our mind and just focus on the characters. And it works, quite well. Now I did make mention yesterday that this show like the horrid thing I reviewed last time, also uses clips from the film. That is true, I give this show more leeway because they are scenes, I understand using as they'd be hard to pull off with this show. Mainly the stuff with Darla but unlike Voyage, this show uses the actors full time. So, I give them credit for that.
Honestly, not that much was changed. The only difference is that it's a musical. And unlike some other musicals based on non musicals, I've come across, the songs and song styles fit the characters. Such as Crush's song is a rather laid back and chilled number. Now, I read somewhere online that the song writers, Robert and Kristen-Anderson Lopez went through the film looking for lines that could work as songs and the two most prominent examples of this are Fish Are Friends, Not Food & Just Keep Swimming. By the way, do those names sound familiar? Well, they should as they wrote the music for Winnie The Pooh (2011). And they also have some Broadway background as they wrote the music for Ave. Q. So, I feel that aided in the songs being quite strong.
A few quick notes here, I could not find any good quality versions of the songs online. So armed with only Windows Movie Maker and my copy of the soundtrack, I had to make the videos for the songs for this review. So, they may not be perfect. And also, this soundtrack does something a lot of stage show soundtracks do, that I despise. It includes pieces of the characters talking that isn't actually songs. So, I had to go through and find the actual songs. Anyways, let's move on.
This is is an example of what I was talking about with the talking but I included it as it is good set up and I LOVE the opening music for this number. It actually includes instrumentals as some of the songs from the show such as the big number, In The Big Blue World. That opening piece alone makes me so happy that I own this soundtrack.
In The Big Blue World
This song is just adorable. Not my favorite number from the show and gotta love the Jaws reference. It perfectly captures the father/son relationship of Marlin and Nemo. In how Nemo is just so excited and Marlin is just such a big worry wart. Understandable after what we saw though. It's also a great introduction to the rest of the characters and their personalities are kept intact and they feel the same as they do in the film. As I stated above this is the big number from the show in that it is the song, they want you to think of, when you think of the play. Every show has this for Wicked, it's Defying Gravity and for RENT, it's Seasons of Love. Speaking of which, I once saw someone compare this show to RENT. Huh? Weird but to each their own. Moving on.
This is a perfect song for Dory as it introduces her and sets up that she is rather forgetful. Granted, it is one of the shorter songs that is not a reprise in the show. Still, a cute number.
Fish Are Friends, Not Food
This is one of my favorite numbers from the show. It starts out just so fun listening to the sharks singing about their goal to not eat fish. And as weird this sounds, whenever I listen to this number, I picture Bruce and the other sharks with a hat and cane. My imagation works in weird ways and then Bruce smells the blood and the song takes a turn and ups the tempo to be more rock like. The second half of this number very much reminds me of Chow Down from The Lion King stage show in how Bruce's plight to eat Marlin and Dory is very similar to they hyenas wanting to eat Simba and Nala. However Bruce is more sympathetic because he had been trying to fight this urge.
Where's My Dad
This is a good solo number for Nemo in expressing his fears of being separated from his father. He's scared and who can blame him. This is a rather short song again but this one always left an impact with me because even though Nemo was mad at his dad, he needs him. We've all been there.
We Swim Together
Okay, this song just reminds how awesome Gill is and why he is the second best character in this story after Crush. He challenges Nemo and doesn't hold him back. Admittedly, this Gill doesn't have the best singing voice but it works for the character of sounding determined and optimistic with years of tear on him.
Just Keep Swimming
I'm of two minds about this song. It's very good and captures the optimism of Dory perfectly but I do think it could've broken into two parts. But as a song, it is a very good number of hope and perseverance. This song to me is one of hope and not giving up in the face of danger but I just think it's too long to be one song. And it does one thing, I hate with show numbers, the sing, stop & talk, sing again. If your going to do that, you should've of just made the second half of the song, a reprise. The latter half has more of an impact when Dory gets hurt and you hear Marlin by her side, not giving up on her. The second half of this song in my opinion is quite inspirational. I'd probably say even with all the complaints, I have with this song, it's my favorite number from the show.
Not My Dad
This number while not bad is just too depressing for me. I get what they're going for, Nemo is down in the dumps and having his pity party. I also get that Nemo doesn't know what his dad has gone through and that is in a way used to reflect what Marlin has actually gone through but coming off the heels of Just Keep Swimming, this one is a downer.
Go With The Flow
This is probably my second favorite number from the show. It's just a nice relaxing number that fits the character of Crush quite well and captures the interaction of Crush and Marlin or Jelly Man, quite well. This to me is a reminder of how through Marlin's interaction with Crush, he learns to be a better dad.
That's My Dad
Okay, admittedly, I wanted to call BS on this song because not just a few songs ago, Nemo was singing about how his dad wouldn't come and save him. But then I thought about it again, these three Dad songs represent a different emotion. Where's My Dad is fear, Not My Dad, is hopelessness, and That's My Dad is joy and happiness. Also, I can't believe I forgot to go over Nigel. He's pretty big too.
And just a sight to look at.
We Swim Together (Reprise)
Cute song, I like it and it's nice to see that Marlin finally has confidence in his son. That line that this song opens with is from the beginning of the play, where Marlin says the same line but instead of can, it's can't. And even though, this is a reprise of We Swim Together, they also threw Just Keep Swimming and That's My Dad as well. One of the lines in this number that touches me is when Marlin says "That's my son" . That one line speaks to the pride, he has in Nemo and how much he loves his son. Also, I was amazed that they actually took the time to build the net for this scene.
Finale - In The Big Blue World (Reprise)
And we end, how we opened with a reprise of In The Big Blue World. Works for me, it's a good song. Which can also be heard in EPCOT in The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It's a cute way to close.
My Final Thoughts
This show is packed and I think it's running time aids in this being as good as it is. It is a 40 minute show, the right length to get everything across. Discounting the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo is often cited as the greatest Pixar movie and I would tend to agree that it's one of the best. I bring this up because this show is very respectful to it's source material. Turning Finding Nemo into a musical is not an easy feat, this could've easily ended being a disaster but it came out being a good quality show. I'll be honest, when I first learned of Finding Nemo: The Musical, my reaction was, "There's no way, this can be good. It's sound too stupid!" In order to lay my fears to rest, I ordered the CD off of the Disney store website before I saw the show and while I liked the music just fine, I still wasn't sold. It wasn't until I finally saw this, that I fell in love with it. I went into the show, when I saw it, I went in thinking, "The music is good, but it's probably going to look silly". I was wrong and I was very pleased to be wrong. Not counting the nighttime shows at the parks, I count this as the best show at Walt Disney World. This is a true theater experience, the only thing missing is a playbill. I highly recommend this show as it is one of the best at Disney World. I'd be willing to pay go see this in a theater. I seriously think Disney should consider a touring production of this show. Well, there you have it, my review of the excellent Finding Nemo: The Musical. Join me tomorrow as we head back to Magic Kingdom to take a look at the Dumbo Queue.