- The Washington Times - Friday, November 18, 2016

An absent-minded, blue tang fish in search of her family led to yet another blockbuster for Pixar animation this year.

Finding Dory (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 97 minutes, 1.77:1 aspect ratio, $39.99), the sequel to mega-popular “Finding Nemo,” now arrives on Blu-ray to offer home-theater owners a beautifully crafted, high-energy adventure under the seas and packed with extras.

In the surprisingly emotional tale from director Andrew Stanton, it’s been a year since the rescue of Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence) from a dentist’s office aquarium by his dad Marlin (Albert Brooks) and new friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).

After Dory has flashbacks of her parents (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton), she and her pals, with help from the speedy sea turtle Crush (Mr. Stanton), embark on a quest to California to help find her kin.

Along the way, dangers and shenanigans abound as Dora gets caught and imprisoned at a marine research facility; Nemo almost gets devoured by a squid; sea creatures are forced to deal with human hands in a touching pond; and a curmudgeonly octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill) shows up to strike a bargain with Dory to help fulfill the reunion.

Strong voice-over work by Miss DeGeneres, Mr. Brooks and Mr. O’Neil — combined with a screen-filling, impeccable animation style — will have family members riveted to their seats as the watery action unfolds.

It’s worth noting that flashbacks often show Dory in a state of despair over the loss of her parents, especially when she was a young fish. Mom and dad should be aware that this might rattle children.

High-def moments: Viewing the Blu-ray image upscaled through a 4K UHD television and player with high-dynamic range results in an outrageously colorful and crisp, near ultra high-definition, experience.

Pixar’s ability to bring a myriad of florescent hues of blues, oranges, yellows, pinks, greens, purples to an undersea coral reef will cause jaws to drop, and the child version of Dory is so three-dimensional that she practically bulges from a home entertainment screen.

An even better example of the stunning visuals came to light with Hank the octopus. His gelatinous suckers, glistening maroon skin, undulating back of head and tentacled abilities to swing like a monkey or camouflage over a brick wall and cat poster are gorgeous achievements in the modern-day animation.

Extras: Let’s begin with an optional commentary track led by Mr. Stanton with co-director Angus MacLane and producer Lindsey Collins that offers a well-rounded and detailed discussion on the process of making a sequel to an animated blockbuster.

They touch on why they created a new fish tale 13 years later; the introduction of new characters; adapting the story as creators’ ideas evolve; themes of family, loss and friendship; memories from “Finding Nemo”; the plight of real fish; and character motivations.

Next, and pretty impressive, viewers will enjoy the stunning, 6-minute-long, computer-animated short “Piper.” Written and directed Alan Barillaro, it explores a baby sandpiper leaving its nest.

The bird creation is certainly impressive, but the detail of sand grains and sea foam are just as amazing.

Moving on, about 50 minutes of featurettes also exist and are spread out over two Blu-rays. The best of the bunch includes:

• A 7-minute look at the connection between voice-over actors and the animation process. Segments highlight many of the stars reading dialogue in the booth and present quick interview snippets with all of the principals including Miss DeGeneres, Mr. Levy, Mr. O’Neil and Miss Keaton.

• Roughly 9 minutes with about a dozen animators and Mr. O’Neil talking about Hank the octopus, the most complex character ever crafted by Pixar. It took over two years to get Hank ready for the production and the segment explores the team observing real octopi, the art of digital puppet making and what it takes to manipulate the character using 4,000 animation controls.

In the above and beyond category, viewers find over 50 minutes of deleted scenes, all explained by Mr. Stanton, of the not-often-fully-animated sequences (often presented in a storyboard format).

Viewers also get to watch a series of varied prologues for the movie revealing the evolution of the story as creators altered the ideas. Mr. Stanton even professed to feeling guilty for some of the scenes that were completed but not included.

And if that were not enough, home theater owners get a quartet of “Living Aquariums” that offers over six hours worth of animated imagery to display — perfect for a party background.

Well, it sounds like a great idea until you realize that the shots are composed of short, looped sequences of the same fish moving. For example, the stingray migration sequence is especially obvious and disappointing. Couldn’t they have used a program to randomize the fish patterns?

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