In the colorful and warm tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef, a Clown Fish named Marlin lives safe and secluded in his anemone home with his only son, Nemo. Fearful of the ocean and its unpredictable risks, he struggles to protect his son. Nemo, like all young fish, is eager to explore the mysterious reef. When Nemo is unexpectedly taken far from home and thrust into a tacky dentist’s office fish tank, Marlin finds himself the unlikely hero on an epic journey to rescue his son.
In Finding Nemo the supporting characters drew inspiration from classic movies: Gil was given Clint Eastwood’s squint, Bloat was based on George Kennedy’s character in Cool Hand Luke, and the Tank Gang borrowed the neuroses of the characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Nemo is a curious and impressionable six-year-old, only child who lives with his overprotective, single-parent father, Marlin. Having led a sheltered life, Nemo brims with the excitement of starting school and finally seeing the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Despite being born with a withered fin, Nemo yearns for adventure, and as fate takes him far from home, he learns he is capable of doing great things.
Sheltered deep within The Great Barrier reef, safe inside his anemone home, lives Marlin. After losing his wife and family to the ocean, Marlin is left alone to raise his only surviving child, Nemo. He vows never to let anything happen to his son. A loving and responsible father, Marlin keeps his noble promise throughout Nemo’s early years. However, Marlin’s fear and distrust of the sea builds, and he struggles with his inability to let go of Nemo as his son begins school. When Nemo is suddenly taken away, Marlin must try to find in himself the courage, wisdom, and faith needed to search the unpredictable ocean to bring his boy home – the very characteristics he needs to allow his son to learn and grow.
Throughout the vast ocean you will not find a fish more hospitable, more friendly, or more sociable than Dory. She would love to chat with you all day and tell you her life story, but she can’t. Dory suffers from short term memory loss. Dory is the aquatic Good Samaritan who offers to help Marlin on his journey to find his son. She is certainly an odd partner for such a quest, but her optimism proves an invaluable quality to help Marlin overcome the impossible. To Dory, the glass is always half-full.
Gill is the maverick of the dentist’s office fish tank. He is the leader of an eclectic gang of fish, who hang on his every word and are drawn to his magnetic personality. This tough, scarred, one-finned fish was raised in the ocean, but taken at a young age to live in a tank. Surrounded by fish who have spent their entire lives in “the box,” Gill alone feels the pull to be free. Though he dreams of one day breaking out and returning to the ocean, his failed escape attempts have broken his spirit. With Nemo's arrival to the tank, Gill is inspired again to find a way back to
No matter where you're from—the ocean, eBay, Pet Palace, or mail order—being stuck in a kitschy dentist's aquarium can do things to a fish. Led by escape artist Gill, Peach, Bloat, Gurgle, Deb, Bubbles, and Jacques make life livable with tiki-inspired tank rituals, all the while dreaming of getting back into the Big Blue.
Bruce, Anchor and Chum are mates. Anchor is cynical; he hates dolphins. Chum is hyperactive; he can’t keep still. Bruce is the jolly leader of the pack. All three are members of a Fish-Eaters Anonymous Group, and are tormented by their natural urge to eat fish and their resulting unpopularity amongst the general ocean population. Consequently, they have embraced a “veggie” lifestyle, allegedly swearing off fish, and living off politically correct kelp instead.
Crush and his offspring Squirt know how to chill and go with the flow, especially the one created by the East Australian Current. The two have a righteous bond that's totally sweet. After 150 years of living in the ocean, Crush knows a thing or two about being a good parent.
Nigel is a tough old local bird. He likes to hang out on the docks with his other pelican mates and carry on. But Nigel has a guilty pleasure the others don’t know about; he loves to sneak off and spend hours in the dentist office window, diagnosing dental problems with his fish friends in the tank.
This school of young, impressionable fish love their tuneful teacher's marine-inspired songs and impromptu oceanography lessons. Riding atop Mr. Ray like an underwater magic carpet, the kids experience the ocean through the eyes of a scientist and true deep sea explorer.
Don't be angry with the dentist for taking Nemo—from his point of view, he was rescuing a struggling fish destined to be eaten. The dentist's niece Darla, on the other hand, can't seem to shake her habit of shaking the bags containing her fishy gifts.
"I grew up in Massachusetts, by the sea, and I remember going to my family dentist, who had this funky fish tank in his office. All kids are attracted to aquariums, and I remember staring at this tank and thinking what a weird view of the world this must be for the fish—it’s like flying into Las Vegas and that’s your first view of America," recalls writer-director Andrew Stanton.
Intended to amuse children visiting the dentist’s office, the fish tank in Finding Nemo can also be viewed as a glass prison for its unlucky inhabitants. Looking to illustrate the odd dichotomy, the filmmakers found inspiration in the world of kitsch aquarium accessories and began filling the tank with garish plastic objects. When we meet them, we find the tank gang has gone slightly mad, prisoners not only of their narrow confines but also the dentist’s bad taste.
It’s not often that an ocean current plays a role in a movie, but the real-life East Australian Current (EAC) had compelling qualities. A colorful underwater highway favored by migrating fish and sea turtles, the EAC follows a path of hundreds of miles before reaching Sydney Harbor, providing a handy template for both the Pixar art and story teams.
The epic journey required Marlin to leave the relative safety of his home on the coral reef for the depths of the great unknown, which the filmmakers viewed as both a metaphor and the very real drop-off of a deep-ocean trench.“The ocean is so beautiful and there’s so much to explore, but if you’re a fish, every foot you go there is something that could eat you," observed producer Graham Walters.“Ultimately it comes down to anything could be out there. It’s both wondrous and terrifying.”
Humans enter the picture as Marlin and Dory reach Sydney Harbor, bustling with trawling fishermen, a sewage treatment plant, views of iconic Sydney landmarks, and most importantly, buildings perched next to the water.
For both scenic and technical reasons, the filmmakers needed their land-based scenes as close to the ocean as possible, and a dentist’s office in the charming seaside community of North Sydney provided the perfect location for Nemo’s final rescue.
How do you construct a set out of thousands of gelatinous, translucent animals? “We spent a lot of time with Ralph’s (Eggelston) pastels, watched a lot of underwater footage taken in Palau in the South Pacific, and also went to visit the jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to better understand what jellyfish look like and how they really move,” explains Supervising Technical Director Oren Jacob.“In the end this is one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie, and one of the scariest, too.”
With Nemo’s home set in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Pixar team had one of the most colorful environments on Earth to work with. The unlikely challenge was how much to change its otherworldly beauty.
Early R&D tests were startling. “It looked so real!” recalls John Lasseter. “From that first CG coral reef test we realized we had to go further with stylization than we’d ever gone before. Of course we have talking fish, but we really needed the audience to know that this world, while believable, was also make-believe.”
"Inside the whale it’s dark, and in a dark environment, the lighting requires extreme precision. There’s no obvious light source, so we had to create something. Whales have a baleen—a thick, broom-like substance around their lips—so we have the light seeping through there," explains Director of Photography for Lighting Sharon Calahan.
The filmmakers wanted a chase scene involving Dory, Marlin, and great white shark Bruce. Many scenarios were being considered when a team field trip to a submarine docked at a San Francisco pier revealed that submarine floors are actually grates. With that simple fact in mind, the Pixar team envisioned a wild escape sequence set in the wreck of an old World War II era submarine sunk in the Great Barrier Reef.
A colorscript is a sequence of small pastel drawings or paintings used to emphasize color in each scene and establish a film's visual language.
For Finding Nemo, Production Designer Ralph Eggleston started with the vibrant palette of the underwater reef, among the most naturally colorful environments on Earth, then shifted to an increasingly minimalist and ominous palette as Marlin and Dory descend into the murky depths of the ocean on an increasingly perilous journey.