Vault Pixar #5 – Finding Nemo

Directed By: Andrew Stanton

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres, Alexander Gould and Willem Dafoe

Screenplay By: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds

Original Release: May 30, 2003

One of my biggest fatal flaws, of which I have several, is that I worry entirely too much. The “What if’s” often cloud my head and make me incapable of seeing the big picture. What if the train is late? What if I annoy someone? What if I end up in the wrong place at the wrong time? A constant cycle of these questions is always playing in the background of my head. So you can imagine that I felt quite at home while watching Finding Nemo, the next film on our list. Sure, this is a fun story about a father searching the entire ocean for his son and meeting a cast of zany characters along the way. Yet, look a little deeper and you will find a film about anxiety, worry, and the power to let go of all of it in hopes of a better tomorrow.

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Me! Pick me! I want to talk about anxiety! Me!!!!

In 1992, Andrew Stanton took his family to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. While wondering what was then called Marine World, he had a revelation. The underwater world would look amazing if digitally animated. The idea started to come to him of an adventure of a small fish across the wide ocean. Upon seeing a photo of two clown fish peaking out of an anemone, he was instantly taken with the idea of making one of these adorable fish his lead. In a film about over protection, it seemed perfect to make the fish that has the most to learn a species which spends most of its life in hiding. He also loved the colors of the clown fish. Stanton actually began writing Finding Nemo while he was still working on A Bug’s Life and as such, the film started production with a finished script which is pretty rare for an animated movie.

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Play dead!  Maybe he won’t tell us that knock knock joke…again.

Ellen Degeneres, who has quickly been recognized as the best part of this film was cast after Stanton watched an episode of Ellen in which she changed the subject no less than five times in the process of telling one story. She was perfect. Stanton actually overheard a tape of fellow director Brad Bird’s son, and loved his voice so much that he cast the youngster as Nemo, calling him this generation’s Thumper. Stanton himself provided the voice of the turtle Crush for test screenings and tested so well that they left his voice in for the final product.

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Thumper? Oh my God! I knew I’d heard this voice before.

Let’s just get this out of the way right quick and in a hurry. Finding Nemo is drop dead gorgeous. Everything about this film feels like a huge graphical improvement over its predecessors. The world is brimming with life and every character feels so meticulously animated in order to make sure that each and every one is as memorable as the last. Sure the water and coral reefs are great but even the above ground world of Sydney is stunning. It’s so easy to get absorbed into this world and it is easily the first of the Pixar canon that we’ve watched that doesn’t seem to have aged a day.

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Ohhhh, so pretty!

Marlin is a character I get. He and I have so much in common. The worry.  The concern that other’s can’t do things on their own without our help. I identify so much with this character. And for all of his telling people they can’t do things, he manages to put himself into harms way a lot.

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Theeeeeeeere’s nothing to see here…

What I think is so important about this character isn’t just that he learns to let go and live a little, but that he learns that those characters who he finds to be dangers to themselves, are actually the characters who he needs in his life the most. He needs Dory to just keep swimming and he needs his son to realize that there is good and hope in the world and every day doesn’t have to be an anxiety ridden heart attack.

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Hello, would you like to learn about how I can save you money on your car insurance? I’m suuuper trustworthy.

Oh and Dory! She gets a whole paragraph. This is the one right here. She is so funny and such a perfect foil to Marlin. I love that she doesn’t hold onto things or get worried about things in the past because she simply can’t remember them. It’s the exact opposite of Marlin. Yet, in her senile ways, she is actually a very happy fish and that’s a great lesson to take away. The less worries or doubts we have over our past, the more happy and free we can be in our present. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Disney go a little Zen, but it’s a good reminder. Also, just a side note, I chuckled every time she got Nemo’s name wrong. While anything could happen with Finding Dory, I have high hopes for this character knowing that Ellen will be back in the voice acting saddle.

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Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills.

I said this before but it bares repeating. I love that all the characters are so vital. No one feels like a throwaway. From the sharks to the turtles to the pelicans and seagulls and even the fish that live in the tank with Nemo, every one of them has so much personality and brings so much to the story. Sure these are all one note characters BUT they don’t feel one note. They feel vital. It’s hard to imagine the film without them. It’s a rare feat to have so many fantastic characters jam packed into one film.

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Do you have YOUR exit buddy?

As a little side note, I want to say that should you find yourself at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you owe it to yourself to check out the Finding Nemo musical. It is absolutely superb and once again elevates this story. While I love this film, I now correlate the songs from the musical with it and it almost seems strange to watch the movie without them. Check it out if you get a chance, you will not be disappointed.

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Here we have the chorus line from the musical.

There really isn’t a lot more to say. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love this film. Finding Nemo takes the idea that our fears and anxieties only hold us back and worse yet, they make us try to hold others back. It is only by letting go that we can move on to the great things that life has in store for us. In a way, Finding Nemo is about growing up, but not just a normal coming of age story. This is the kind of growing up that even adults do.

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This here is a metaphor of me reacting to having to grow up (The lantern fish is adulthood)

My partner Carl often tells me that once I turn 30 (which he did a few years back) I will stop worrying and caring so much about the little things. This film is a great reminder that good things come to those who learn to let go and enjoy the ride. From Sting Rays to turtles to whales and sharks, Finding Nemo is superb. Now get out there and find someone you’ve lost, or better yet, find yourself.

NEXT UP:  The Incredibles

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5 replies »

  1. Finding Nemo is one of my favourite films of all time, of any genre. I’ve watched it hundreds of times (my boys both love it), and it still makes me laugh every single time. An incredible piece of film-making 🙂

  2. I agree with Carl! I’m 34, and I remember when I turned 30, I came to the realization that it isn’t worth worrying over some things in life. Also, have you done Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot? I enjoy the heck out of it.

    Thanks again for another great article!

  3. Ohh I loved the Finding Nemo musical at Animal Kingdom. Disney does live shows so well. The Nemo stuff at The Seas in Epcot is pretty cool too.

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