COLUMN: March 9, 2011

ARE you familiar with the film Finding Nemo? Let’s assume you are not, otherwise this column will be very short and I will have to fill up the space at the bottom with a cartoon.

It is about a pair of clown fish, father and son. The latter, Nemo, is captured by a collector of tropical fish. The rest of the film depicts his father’s attempts to find him – I believe this is the very action to which the title refers – and Nemo’s attempts to escape from the tank in which his captor, a Sydney dentist, has placed him.

This second thread amusingly uses the tropes of the prison movie to express the isolation and sense of imprisonment of the fish trapped in the aquarium. If the film has any sort of message, it is this: “Basically, fish don’t like being in tanks. It’s not nice for them. Stop it.”

So, I was surprised, when visiting a pet shop at the weekend, to discover that it sold an official Disney-licensed Finding Nemo fish tank, complete with a cheerful plastic Nemo figure. I know it is aimed at children, but the gap between the intent of the movie and the purpose of the licensed product is so wide James Corden and John Prescott could tandem parachute jump through it.

It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this disconnect. A much-missed auntie loved the music of John Lennon and wanted Imagine to be played at her Catholic funeral. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the resigned look on the face of the priest as the words “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . No hell below us. Above us only sky” rang around his church.

And, even in more recent times, our own dear Prime Minister, Dave “Dave” Cameron, has expressed appreciation of The Jam classic, Eton Rifles, presumably on the grounds that he is an Old Etonian and likes game shooting. “Sup up your beer and collect your fags” would have a different resonance, I suspect, to a man steeped in Slough Grammar mores.

Nevertheless, I wonder how this licence was given the green light. And here I am, wondering . . . 

THE LICENSING DEPARTMENT AT DISNEY

VP OF LICENSING:
What’s next, Ted?

TED:
You’ll have a good laugh at this one, VP. Right, listen. It’s a fish tank, yeah, and they want to license Finding Nemo! Ha, ha, ha!

VP OF LICENSING:
Yes, that’s absolutely fine. Next?

TED:
Hang on, VP. The whole film is saying fish tanks are bad. It’s saying fish would rather take their chances with barracuda than div about in a glass box with a tiny scuba diver and treasure chest.

VP OF LICENSING:
But they’re going to pay us a shedload of money?

TED:
Jeez, VP. We are so thorough we actually specify the size and shape of Mickey Mouse’s ears when companies license his image, but we’re going to let this one through?

VP OF LICENSING:
Well, it’s not like they’re real fish.

TED:
They ARE real fish!

VP OF LICENSING:
What, Nemo’s a real fish?

TED:
No! Hell’s teeth. This is just like the time they tried to slip that Toy Story 3 Melty-Toys Kiddie Furnace past us.

VP OF LICENSING:
I still don’t see what was wrong with that, people will always need to incinerate toys. Anyway, the fish tank is approved. What’s next?

TED:
The Snow White Poison-Your-Apple Kit . . . Never mind, I’ll just rubber-stamp it.

I imagine that is exactly how it happened, unless Disney’s lawyers are reading, in which case I imagine that is not how it happened and that it was all perfectly sensible and above board.

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