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Adding a new dimension to Nemo
Nemo and Marlin in Finding Nemo 3-D. Picture: Disney/Pixar.

Albert Brooks remembers clearly taking his four-year-old boy to see Finding Nemo when it was first released - although it wasn't the father-son outing he had envisaged.

The acting veteran voices Marlin, Nemo the clownfish's protective father, in the hit Disney Pixar animation but when the film premiered back in 2003, Jacob Brooks struggled to understand it.

"My son was so young when the film came out that he got scared when I started yelling at Nemo," recalls 65-year-old Brooks over the phone from Los Angeles.

"He got mixed up at hearing my voice inside a fish because he thought I was yelling at him and he actually ran up the aisle." Now 13, Brooks Jr will be able to revisit the film with his dad when it is re-released in 3-D this week, nine years after winning the Academy Award for best animation.

"Hopefully this time he'll be old enough to enjoy it," Brooks Sr laughs.

Former stand-up comedian Brooks, who made his acting debut in Martin Scorcese's 1976 classic Taxi Driver, has appeared in numerous films during his career, including Private Benjamin, Unfaithfully Yours and Critical Care and earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Broadcast News.

More recently he starred as the villain Bernie Rose in last year's neo-noir crime drama film Drive, which garnered him a Golden Globe nomination and 17 best supporting actor wins from major critics groups in the US.

However, Finding Nemo, which centres on Marlin's quest to find his abducted son in Sydney Harbour, remains Brooks' highest-grossing film.

"It's a good question, I don't know," says Brooks when asked why Nemo, which grossed $102.4 million at the box office, was such a hit. "You never know what makes one thing rise to the top. Perhaps it's the father-son story.

"All I know is when they asked me to voice Marlin I just said to myself 'Pixar underwater'. "Nobody had ever portrayed a world like that. It was a combination of the visuals, the story, the humour. It just worked." Brooks, who interestingly was born Albert Lawrence Einstein, spent two years working on Nemo, going into the studio for various stints while the animators worked on his character.

Other stars who lent their voices to the characters include Alexander Gould as the eponymous Nemo and Ellen DeGeneres (his friend Dory), along with Australians Barry Humphries (Bruce the Great White shark on a fish-free diet), Geoffrey Rush (Nigel the gossipy pelican), Eric Bana (Anchor the dolphin-hating hammerhead) Bill Hunter (the Sydney dentist) and Rove McManus (a crab).

Brooks says, as a father of two, he didn't find it hard to put himself in the shoes - or should that be gills - of Marlin.

"All parents tend to be over-protective and worried," says Brooks, who also has a 12-year-old daughter Claire with his artist wife Kimberly Shlain.

"It wasn't much of a stretch to imagine what Marlin was going through. I understand how to worry."

Finding Nemo 3-D opens tomorrow.