Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo is a 2003 American computer-animated adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed and co-written by Andrew Stanton with co-direction by Lee Unkrich, the screenplay was written by Bob Peterson, David Reynolds, and Stanton from a story by Stanton. The film stars the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, and Willem Dafoe. It tells the story of an overprotective clownfish named Marlin, who, along with a regal blue tang named Dory searches for his missing son Nemo. Along the way, Marlin learns to take risks and comes to terms with Nemo taking care of himself.

Finding Nemo
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Stanton
Produced byGraham Walters
Screenplay by
Story byAndrew Stanton
Music byThomas Newman
Edited byDavid Ian Salter
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • May 30, 2003 (2003-05-30)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$94 million[1]
Box office$871.0 million[1]

Released on May 30, 2003, Finding Nemo won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was also nominated in three more categories, including Best Original Screenplay. Finding Nemo became the highest-grossing animated film at the time and was the second-highest-grossing film of 2003, earning a total of $867 million worldwide by the end of its initial theatrical run.[2]

The film is the best-selling DVD title of all time, with over 40 million copies sold as of 2006,[3] and was the highest-grossing G-rated film of all time before Pixar's own Toy Story 3 overtook it. The film was re-released in 3D in 2012. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the 10th greatest animated film ever made as part of their 10 Top 10 lists.[4] In a 2016 poll of international critics conducted by BBC, Finding Nemo was voted one of the 100 greatest motion pictures since 2000.[5] A sequel, Finding Dory, was released on June 17, 2016 in the United States.


Nemo is a young clownfish who lives with his father Marlin in the Great Barrier Reef. Nemo, despite being hampered by a lame fin, is eager to explore life around the ocean. Marlin, however, is overprotective of him, having lost his wife Coral and all their other eggs in a barracuda attack, leaving Nemo as his only child. On Nemo's first day of school, Marlin embarrasses him, and while Marlin is distracted with the teacher, Mr. Ray, Nemo defiantly sneaks away from the reef toward a speedboat, where he is abducted by a scuba diver. Marlin tries to chase the boat and meets Dory, a blue tang who suffers from acute short term memory loss, who accompanies him. During an encounter with three sharks who have sworn to abstain from eating other fish, Marlin notices a diver's mask that fell from the boat that took Nemo. Marlin and Dory fight over the mask, giving Dory a nose bleed, which sends the sharks into a feeding frenzy, and Marlin and Dory narrowly escape, but are knocked unconscious when the sharks accidentally set off an old mine.

Meanwhile, Nemo is placed in an aquarium in a dentist's office in Sydney, Australia, where he meets the Tank Gang, including yellow tang Bubbles, sea star Peach, cleaner shrimp Jacques, blowfish Bloat, royal gramma Gurgle, and damselfish Deb, led by Gill, a Moorish idol. That night, Nemo learns he is to be given to the dentist's young niece, Darla, whose rough treatment has killed most of her previous fish. Gill devises a risky escape plan: Nemo, who can fit inside the aquarium's filter tube, will jam the filter with a pebble, forcing the dentist to put the fish into plastic bags while the tank is cleaned, giving them the opportunity to roll out the window and into the harbour. Nemo attempts the maneuver, but fails and is almost killed, leaving Gill guilt-ridden.

Marlin and Dory wake up unharmed, but the mask falls into a deep sea trench. Swimming after it, Marlin is chased by an anglerfish, while Dory reads the address and recites it repeatedly to commit it to memory. Dory and Marlin receive directions from a school of moonfish, but Marlin disregards their instructions to take what he believes is a safer route, leading them into a forest of jellyfish that nearly stings them to death. Marlin and Dory wake up to find themselves on the East Australian Current with a group of friendly sea turtles including Crush and his son Squirt. Marlin tells them about his quest, impressing them, and news spreads across the ocean, all the way to the dentist's office, where a pelican named Nigel tells the Tank Gang. Inspired by his father's bravery, Nemo makes another attempt to jam the filter, and succeeds, and soon the aquarium's contents are covered in green algae.

Marlin and Dory exit the East Australian Current and are engulfed by a blue whale. Dory communicates with the whale, who carries them to Sydney Harbour and expels them through his blowhole. There, they meet Nigel, who help the pair escape from a group of seagulls and takes them to the dentist's office. Meanwhile, the dentist has installed a new high-tech filter, the AquaScum 2003, foiling the Tank Gang's escape. Darla arrives, and the dentist prepares to give Nemo to her. Nemo plays dead to save himself as Nigel causes a disturbance, terrifying Darla and throwing the office into chaos. After the dentist throws Nigel out, Gill helps Nemo escape through a drain that leads to the ocean.

Thinking that Nemo is dead, Marlin abandons Dory and begins his journey home. Marlin's departure causes Dory to lose her memory. She meets Nemo as he reaches the ocean, but does not remember him. However, Dory's memory returns when she reads the word "Sydney" on a drainpipe. She reunites Nemo with Marlin, but is caught in a net with a school of grouper. Nemo enters the net and orders the fish to swim down in order to break the net so they can escape. After returning home to the reef, Marlin and Dory watch Mr. Ray take Nemo and his friends on a field trip.

Meanwhile, the dentist's new filter breaks, and the Tank Gang escape into the harbour unnoticed, realising only too late that they are still trapped in their plastic bags.

Voice cast


The inspiration for Nemo sprang from multiple experiences, going back to director Andrew Stanton's childhood, when he loved going to the dentist to see the fish tank, assuming that the fish were from the ocean and wanted to go home.[6] In 1992, shortly after his son was born, he and his family took a trip to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (which was called Marine World at the time). There, after seeing the shark tube and various exhibits, he felt that the underwater world could be done beautifully in computer animation.[7] Later, in 1997, he took his son for a walk in the park, but realized that he was overprotecting him and lost an opportunity to have a father-son experience that day.[6]

In an interview with National Geographic magazine, Stanton said that the idea for the characters of Marlin and Nemo came from a photograph of two clownfish peeking out of an anemone:

It was so arresting. I had no idea what kind of fish they were, but I couldn't take my eyes off them. And as an entertainer, the fact that they were called clownfish—it was perfect. There's almost nothing more appealing than these little fish that want to play peekaboo with you.[8]

In addition, clownfish are colourful, but do not tend to come out of an anemone often. For a character who has to go on a dangerous journey, Stanton felt a clownfish was the perfect type of fish for the character.[6] Pre-production of the film began in early 1997. Stanton began writing the screenplay during the post-production of A Bug's Life. As a result, Finding Nemo began production with a complete screenplay, something that co-director Lee Unkrich called "very unusual for an animated film".[6] The artists took scuba diving lessons to study the coral reef.[6]

Stanton originally planned to use flashbacks to reveal how Coral died, but realized that by the end of the film there would be nothing to reveal, deciding to show how she died at the beginning of the movie.[6] The character of Gill also was different from the character seen in the final film. In a scene that was eventually deleted, Gill tells Nemo that he's from a place called Bad Luck Bay and that he has brothers and sisters in order to impress the young clownfish, only for the latter to find out that he was lying by listening to a patient reading a children's storybook that shares exactly the same details.[6]

The casting of Albert Brooks, in Stanton's opinion, "saved" the film.[6] Brooks liked the idea of Marlin being this clownfish who isn't funny and recorded outtakes of telling very bad jokes.

The idea for the initiation sequence came from a story conference between Andrew Stanton and Bob Peterson while they were driving to record the actors. Although he originally envisioned the character of Dory as male, Stanton was inspired to cast Ellen DeGeneres when he watched an episode of Ellen in which he saw her "change the subject five times before finishing one sentence".[6] The pelican character named Gerald (who in the final film ends up swallowing and choking on Marlin and Dory) was originally a friend of Nigel. They were going to play against each other with Nigel being neat and fastidious and Gerald being scruffy and sloppy. The filmmakers could not find an appropriate scene for them that did not slow the pace of the picture, so Gerald's character was minimized.[6]

Stanton himself provided the voice of Crush the sea turtle. He originally did the voice for the film's story reel, and assumed they would find an actor later. When Stanton's performance became popular in test screenings, he decided to keep his performance in the film. He recorded all his dialogue while lying on a sofa in Unkrich's office.[6] Crush's son Squirt was voiced by Nicholas Bird, the young son of fellow Pixar director Brad Bird. According to Stanton, the elder Bird was playing a tape recording of his young son around the Pixar studios one day. Stanton felt the voice was "this generation's Thumper" and immediately cast Nicholas.[6]

Megan Mullally was originally going to provide a voice in the film. According to Mullally, the producers were dissatisfied to learn that the voice of her character Karen Walker on the television show Will & Grace was not her natural speaking voice. The producers hired her anyway, and then strongly encouraged her to use her Karen Walker voice for the role. When Mullally refused, she was dismissed.[9]

To ensure that the movements of the fish in the film were believable, the animators took a crash course in fish biology and oceanography. They visited aquariums, went diving in Hawaii and received in-house lectures from an ichthyologist.[10] As a result, Pixar's animator for Dory, Gini Cruz Santos, integrated "the fish movement, human movement, and facial expressions to make them look and feel like real characters."[11][12] Production designer Ralph Eggleston created pastel drawings to give the lighting crew led by Sharon Calahan ideas of how every scene in the film should be lit.[13]

The film was dedicated to Glenn McQueen, a Pixar animator who died of melanoma in October 2002.[14] Finding Nemo shares many plot elements with Pierrot the Clownfish,[15] a children's book published in 2002, but allegedly conceived in 1995. The author, Franck Le Calvez, sued Disney for infringement of his intellectual rights and to bar Finding Nemo merchandise in France. The judge ruled against him, citing the color differences between Pierrot and Nemo.[16]

Video game

A video game based on the film was released in 2003, for PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Game Boy Advance. The goal of the game is to complete different levels under the roles of Nemo, Marlin or Dory. It includes cut scenes from the movie, and each clip is based on a level. It was also the last Pixar game developed by Traveller's Tales. Upon release, the game received mixed reviews.[17][18][19][20][21][22] A Game Boy Advance sequel, titled Finding Nemo: The Continuing Adventures, was released in 2004.[23]


Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 99% approval rating, with a rating average of 8.69/10, based on 264 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Breathtakingly lovely and grounded by the stellar efforts of a well-chosen cast, Finding Nemo adds another beautifully crafted gem to Pixar's crown."[24] Another review aggregation website, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 90 out of 100, based on 38 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[25]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, calling it "one of those rare movies where I wanted to sit in the front row and let the images wash out to the edges of my field of vision".[26] Ed Park of The Village Voice gave the film a positive review, saying "It's an ocean of eye candy that tastes fresh even in this ADD-addled era of SpongeBob SquarePants."[27] Mark Caro of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying "You connect to these sea creatures as you rarely do with humans in big-screen adventures. The result: a true sunken treasure."[28] Hazel-Dawn Dumpert of LA Weekly gave the film a positive review, saying "As gorgeous a film as Disney's ever put out, with astonishing qualities of light, movement, surface and color at the service of the best professional imaginations money can buy."[29] Jeff Strickler of the Star Tribune gave the film a positive review, saying it "proves that even when Pixar is not at the top of its game, it still produces better animation than some of its competitors on their best days."[29] Gene Seymour of Newsday gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, saying "The underwater backdrops take your breath away. No, really. They're so lifelike, you almost feel like holding your breath while watching."[29] Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald gave the film four out of four stars, saying "Parental anxiety may not be the kind of stuff children's films are usually made of, but this perfectly enchanting movie knows how to cater to its kiddie audience without condescending to them."[30]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film three-and-a-half out of five, saying "The best break of all is that Pixar's traditionally untethered imagination can't be kept under wraps forever, and "Nemo" erupts with sea creatures that showcase Stanton and company's gift for character and peerless eye for skewering contemporary culture."[31] Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film four out of five stars, saying "Visual imagination and sophisticated wit raise Finding Nemo to a level just below the peaks of Pixar's Toy Story movies and Monsters, Inc.."[32] Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press gave the film three out of four, saying "As we now expect from Pixar, even the supporting fish in "Finding Nemo" are more developed as characters than any human in the Mission: Impossible movies."[33] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three and half out of four, saying "Finding Nemo is an undersea treasure. The most gorgeous of all the Pixar films—which include Toy Story 1 and 2, A Bug's Life and Monsters, Inc.—Nemo treats family audiences to a sweet, resonant story and breathtaking visuals. It may lack Monsters, Inc.'s clever humor, but kids will identify with the spunky sea fish Nemo, and adults will relate to Marlin, Nemo's devoted dad."[34] Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle gave the film an A-, saying "Finding Nemo lives up to Pixar's high standards for wildly creative visuals, clever comedy, solid characters and an involving story."[35] Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film an A-, saying "A simple test of humanity: If you don't laugh aloud while watching it, you've got a battery not a heart."[29]

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film four out of four, saying "A dazzling, computer-animated fish tale with a funny, touching script and wonderful voice performances that make it an unqualified treat for all ages."[29] Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film four out of four, saying "Enchanting; written with an effortless blend of sweetness and silliness, and animated with such rainbow-hued beauty, you may find yourself wanting to freeze-frame it."[29] Daphne Gordon of the Toronto Star gave the film four out of five, saying "One of the strongest releases from Disney in years, thanks to the work of Andrew Stanton, possibly one of the most successful directors you've never heard of."[29] Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film three and a half out of four, saying "Finding Nemo isn't quite up there with the company's finest work—there's finally a sense of formula setting in—but it's hands down the best family film since Monsters, Inc."[29] C.W. Nevius of The San Francisco Chronicle gave the film four out of four, saying "The visuals pop, the fish emote and the ocean comes alive. That's in the first two minutes. After that, they do some really cool stuff."[36] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying "Finding Nemo will engross kids with its absorbing story, brightly drawn characters and lively action, and grown-ups will be equally entertained by the film's subtle humor and the sophistication of its visuals."[29] David Ansen of Newsweek gave the film a positive review, saying "A visual marvel, every frame packed to the gills with clever details, Finding Nemo is the best big-studio release so far this year."[37]

Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "Nemo, with its ravishing underwater fantasia, manages to trump the design glamour of earlier Pixar films."[38] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A, saying "In this seamless blending of technical brilliance and storytelling verve, the Pixar team has made something as marvelously soulful and innately, fluidly American as jazz."[39] Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three out of four, saying "As eye-popping as Nemo's peepers and as eccentric as this little fish with asymmetrical fins."[29] David Germain of the Associated Press gave the film a positive review, saying "Finding Nemo is laced with smart humor and clever gags, and buoyed by another cheery story of mismatched buddies: a pair of fish voiced by Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres."[40] Anthony Lane of The New Yorker gave the film a positive review, saying "The latest flood of wizardry from Pixar, whose productions, from Toy Story onward, have lent an indispensable vigor and wit to the sagging art of mainstream animation."[41] The 3D re-release prompted a retrospective on the film nine years after its initial release. Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger described it as "a genuinely funny and touching film that, in less than a decade, has established itself as a timeless classic."[42] On the 3D re-release, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote that its emotional power was deepened by "the dimensionality of the oceanic deep" where "the spatial mysteries of watery currents and floating worlds are exactly where 3D explorers were born to boldly go".[43]

Box office

During its original theatrical run, Finding Nemo grossed $339.7 million in North America, and $528.2 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $867.9 million.[2] It is the 12th highest-grossing animated film, and the second-highest-grossing film of 2003, behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.[44] Worldwide, it was the highest-grossing Pixar film, up until 2010, when Toy Story 3 surpassed it.[45] The film sold an estimated 56.4 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run.[46]

In North America, Finding Nemo set an opening weekend record for an animated feature, making $70.3 million (first surpassed by Shrek 2) and ended up spending 11 weeks in the top 10 domestically (including 7 weeks in the top 5), remaining there until August 14.[47] It became the highest-grossing animated film in North America ($339.7 million), outside North America ($528.2 million), and worldwide ($867.9 million), in all three occasions out-grossing The Lion King.[48] In North America, it was surpassed by both Shrek 2 in 2004 and Toy Story 3 in 2010.[49] After the re-release of The Lion King in 2011, and then Despicable Me 2 and Frozen in 2013, Minions in 2015, Zootopia, its sequel Finding Dory in 2016, Despicable Me 3 in 2017, and Incredibles 2 in 2018, passed it, it stands as the tenth highest-grossing animated film in these regions. Outside North America, it stands as the fifth-highest-grossing animated film. Worldwide, it now ranks fourth among animated films.[50]

The film had impressive box office runs in many international markets. In Japan, its highest-grossing market after North America, it grossed ¥11.2 billion ($102.4 million), becoming the highest-grossing foreign animated film in local currency (yen).[51] It has only been surpassed by Frozen (¥25.5 billion).[52] Following in biggest grosses are the U.K., Ireland and Malta, where it grossed £37.2 million ($67.1 million), France and the Maghreb region ($64.8 million), Germany ($53.9 million), and Spain ($29.5 million).[53]

3D re-release

After the success of the 3D re-release of The Lion King, Disney re-released Finding Nemo in 3D on September 14, 2012,[54] with a conversion cost estimated to be below $5 million.[55] For the opening weekend of its 3D re-release in North America, Finding Nemo grossed $16.7 million, debuting at the No. 2 spot behind Resident Evil: Retribution.[56] The film earned $41.1 million in North America and $31.0 million internationally, for a combined total of $72.1 million, and a cumulative worldwide total of $940.3 million.[1]


Finding Nemo won the Academy Award and Saturn Award for Best Animated Film.[57] It also won the award for Best Animated Film at the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards, the National Board of Review Awards, the Online Film Critics Society Awards, and the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards.[58] The film received many other awards, including: Kids Choice Awards for Favorite Movie and Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie (Ellen DeGeneres), and the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress (Ellen DeGeneres).[58]

The film was also nominated for two Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Ellen DeGeneres), a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and two MTV Movie Awards, for Best Movie and Best Comedic Performance (Ellen DeGeneres).[58]

In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten", the best 10 films in 10 "classic" American film genres, after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Finding Nemo was acknowledged as the 10th best film in the animation genre.[4] It was the most recently released film among all 10 lists, and one of only three movies made after the year 2000 (the others being The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Shrek).[59]

American Film Institute recognition:

Environmental concerns and consequences

The film's use of clownfish prompted mass purchase of the fish breed as pets in the United States, even though the story portrayed the use of fish as pets negatively and suggested that saltwater aquariums are notably tricky and expensive to maintain.[60] The demand for clownfish was supplied by large-scale harvesting of tropical fish in regions like Vanuatu.[61] The Australian Tourism Commission (ATC) launched several marketing campaigns in China and the United States to improve tourism in Australia, many of them utilizing Finding Nemo clips.[62][63] Queensland used Finding Nemo to draw tourists to promote its state for vacationers.[64] According to National Geographic, "Ironically, Finding Nemo, a movie about the anguish of a captured clownfish, caused home-aquarium demand for them to triple."[65]

The reaction to the film by the general public has led to environmental devastation for the clownfish, and has provoked an outcry from several environmental protection agencies, including the Marine Aquarium Council, Australia. The demand for tropical fish skyrocketed after the film's release, causing reef species decimation in Vanuatu and several other reef areas.[66] After seeing the film, some aquarium owners released their pet fish into the ocean, but failed to release them into the correct oceanic habitat, which introduced species that are harmful to the indigenous environment, a practice that is harming reefs worldwide.[67][68]

Home media

Finding Nemo was released on VHS and DVD on November 4, 2003.[69] The DVD release included an original short film, Exploring the Reef, and the short animated film, Knick Knack (1989).[70] It would go on to become the best-selling DVD of its time, selling over 2 million units in its first two weeks of release.[71]

The film was then released on both Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on December 4, 2012, with both a 3-disc and a 5-disc set.[72] It was released on 4K Blu-Ray on September 10, 2019.[73]


Finding Nemo was the first Pixar film not to be scored by Randy Newman. The original soundtrack album, Finding Nemo, was scored by Thomas Newman, his cousin, and released on May 20, 2003.[74][75] The album was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Music Score, losing to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.[76]

Theme park attractions

Finding Nemo has inspired numerous attractions and properties at Disney Parks around the world, including: Turtle Talk with Crush, which opened in 2004 at Epcot, 2005 in Disney California Adventure Park, 2008 in Hong Kong Disneyland, and 2009 in Tokyo DisneySea; Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, which opened in 2007 in Disneyland Park; The Seas with Nemo & Friends, which opened in 2007 at Epcot; Finding Nemo – The Musical, which opened in 2007 in Disney's Animal Kingdom; and Crush's Coaster, which opened in 2007 at Walt Disney Studios Park.[77][78][79]


In 2005, after disagreements between Disney's Michael Eisner and Pixar's Steve Jobs over the distribution of Pixar's films, Disney announced that they would be creating a new animation studio, Circle 7 Animation, to make sequels to the seven Disney-owned Pixar films (which consisted of the films released between 1995's Toy Story and 2006's Cars).[80] The studio had put Toy Story 3 and Monster's Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise into development, and had hired screenwriter Laurie Craig to write a draft for Finding Nemo 2.[81] Circle 7 was subsequently shut down after Robert Iger replaced Eisner as CEO of Disney and arranged the acquisition of Pixar.

In July 2012, it was reported that Andrew Stanton was developing a sequel to Finding Nemo, to be titled Finding Dory,[82] with Victoria Strouse writing the script, and the film scheduled to be released in 2016.[83] The same day the news of a potential sequel broke, Stanton called into question the accuracy of the reports. The message said, "Didn't you all learn from Chicken Little? Everyone calm down. Don't believe everything you read. Nothing to see here now. #skyisnotfalling".[84] According to the report by The Hollywood Reporter published in August 2012, Ellen DeGeneres was in negotiations to reprise her role of Dory.[85] In September 2012, Stanton confirmed, saying, "What was immediately on the list was writing a second Carter movie. When that went away, everything slid up. I know I'll be accused by more sarcastic people that it's a reaction to Carter not doing well, but only in its timing, but not in its conceit".[86] In February 2013, it was confirmed by the press that Albert Brooks would reprise the role of Marlin in the sequel.[87]

In April 2013, Disney announced the sequel Finding Dory, confirming that DeGeneres and Brooks would be reprising their roles as Dory and Marlin, respectively. It was scheduled to be released on November 25, 2015,[88][89] but the film's ending was revised after Pixar executives viewed Blackfish.[90][91] On September 18, 2013, it was announced that the film would be pushed back to June 17, 2016. Pixar's The Good Dinosaur was moved to the November 25, 2015 slot to allow more time for production of the film.[92]

See also


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