There have been many times in my life that I just didn’t think I could go on. It was impossible to conceive of another tomorrow. Please don’t misunderstand; I have never had suicidal thoughts. For me, I am a glass-half-full kinda gal. I love finding the solutions and then moving forward to the next big project or moment. I will admit that, secretly, I love being in control. Teaching and directing suited me so well. But what happens when the craziness of our existence throws us into situations that are totally out of our command? Curve balls sometimes just happen. How does a person deal with health issues, going blind, losing a mother, father, daughter, cherished friends, and students, and having only a penny in my pocket? Oh, life can be so unfair and, sometimes, out of our hands. Tough lessons to learn no matter how old you are. These dark blips along our journeys can strip a person to their very core…their essence. What can one do to get to the light of the next day? In my soul, I always hear three words; “Just keep swimming.” This is all any of us can do…just keep swimming. These words project survival, possibilities, and, more importantly, hope. The universe, with all its infinite opportunities and goodness, will surround you in the end. Have faith and patience. Sometimes from sadness and confusion comes great, wondrous adventures. It can happen at any second, as it did for Marlin and his son in one of the greatest animated films of all time, FINDING NEMO.
The name NEMO in Latin means “nobody or no one,” but the name is an homage to Captain Nemo from the movie 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. The director, Andrew Stanton, enjoyed including fun trivia within the film. FYI, he was the voice of Crush, the surfing sea turtle. He recorded his voice-over while lying on his office couch. Squirt, voiced by Nicholas Bird, is the son of a fellow PIXAR director, Brad Bird. This is known as keeping it in the “family.” (And their characters are named after popular sodas at the time.)
For those who don’t know the story behind FINDING NEMO, it is a simple plot filled with huge emotional discoveries. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Alexander Gould) live in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Marlin became a timid father since he lost his wife and 399 baby eggs. Nemo was born with one very small “lucky” fin, so he is not the best swimmer. An accident occurs where Nemo is scooped by a diver from Sydney. His dad must find him and bring him home because he made a promise to always keep him safe. One small clown fish against the ocean becomes a breathtaking entertaining story of determination, perseverance, love, and friendship in the form of the hilarious Blue Tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). Dory, with her short-term memory loss and the neurotic Marlin, is a match made in heaven. Together they conquer sharks, barracudas, whales, electrifying jellyfish, seagulls, fishermen, and pelicans. What a stunning visual delight as they travel the secret undercurrents of the vast ocean. Spectacular animations. It all felt so real. This is why FINDING NEMO won an Oscar in 2003 for Best Animated Film.
The chemistry between Dory and Marlin was brilliant. The audience is watching two fish, yet believing every word they say is real. Their expressions and comedic timing were perfect. I laughed, cried, smiled, and rolled my eyes at every nuance and detail. When Dory says, “When I look at you, I am home,” my heart ached for her. I loved the honesty of their friendship and loyalty to each other, and I am still chuckling remembering her speaking “whale,” wondering why men can’t ask for directions or attend a shark AA meeting. (“Fish are friends, not food.”) How do the writers come up with these lines?
Nemo also had incredible moments with his fish tank buddies, voiced by some of Hollywood greats, including William Defoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Vicki Lewis, and Geoffrey Rush. Geoffrey played Nigel and all those incredible seagulls. “Mine, mine, mine, mine.” To simulate carrying Marlin and Dory in his mouth, he held his tongue with his fingers while he recorded his lines. Now that is using every part of their instrument to get the best performance.
What makes FINDING NEMO so special is the personal parental questions Marlin seeks to answer. “How do you know when it is time to let go?” I don’t think there is a parent alive who hasn’t silently spoken these words. The thing is, if you never allow little ones to spread their wings or fins, how will they know when they are ready? Children must be given opportunities to soar, fail and try again. It is how they become confident and take on life’s challenges. I remember watching each of my children leave the nest. It still brings tears of joy, sadness, and pride after each visit when I must walk away again and again. All these human feelings are wrapped inside this beautiful, genuine film.
FINDING NEMO is a family classic that teaches us to lead with kindness, humor, and love. It reminds audiences how important teamwork is when facing adversity and to stay curious about our world. Only then will we be able to “go out and have an adventure?”
FINDING NEMO is available to stream on Disney+.