It’s been 13 years since Finding Nemo was released in 2003, but all those years haven’t slowed down the film’s cultural relevancy one bit. Talk to anyone – child or adult, whether they were born before or after 2003 – and they’ll all be able to tell you P. Sherman’s exact address: 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. They’ll also tell you that Finding Nemo is one of their favorite films of all time, because you’d have to be some kind of cold-blooded half-shark half-human to not love every minute of this Pixar classic.
And yet, with our worldwide cultural obsession with Finding Nemo reaching its peak now that the sequel, Finding Dory, has finally arrived all these years later, there’s still so much more about the film to obsess over. There’s still facts and details and trivia that even the most die hard Nemo fans don’t know, which is why we’re here to tell you to just keep swimming – and reading – to discover the 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Finding Nemo.
13 The Movie Began Pre-Production In 1997
Sure, 2003 seems like a long time ago, but 1997 is even longer; and that’s when Finding Nemo first entered pre-production. Back in 1997, Pixar had only one feature under their belt – Toy Story – and no one really knew how this whole computer animated film trend would shake out. Sure, Toy Story was a big hit, but without the one-two punch of A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 to prove just how much of a powerhouse Pixar was, it’s crazy to think that work started on such an ambitious film like Finding Nemo so early.
Not to mention that pre-production just kept rolling right through to the end of the decade, until finally in 2000 the film began the actual production phase, with animation finally beginning on what would eventually become the second highest-grossing film of 2003 -- and perhaps Pixar's greatest achievement.
12 William H. Macy Originally Voiced Marlin
Hidden in the massive success of Finding Nemo is the story of a film that was struggling through production, eventually getting so deep into it that the main voice actor had to be fired and replaced only after all of his lines were already recorded. This was the case with William H. Macy, who had originally voiced a very different Marlin that just didn’t mesh with the character that Pixar was trying to introduce to the world.
While we all know that Macy is a fabulous actor who can play the oblivious hero well – as well as the lovable yet punchable jerk – it’s tough to imagine him as the overprotective clownfish that we grew to love. When Albert Brooks came along to voice Marlin, he infused the film with a charming and neurotic twist, a perfect complement to Dory and Nemo that only Albert Brooks could have pulled off.
11 Disney's CEO Thought The Film Would Flop Upon Release
As you can tell by the previous fact, things weren’t always going so (pardon the pun) swimmingly while Finding Nemo was in production. But not many people know just how bad things were looking. Back in 2001, two years out from the premiere of Pixar’s biggest gamble to date, Michael Eisner – then the CEO of Disney – was looking to buy Pixar. However, after seeing an early screening of Finding Nemo that year, Eisner decided to postpone all contract talks with the studio because he believed it was the worst film they had ever created.
Assuming that Pixar wouldn’t be able to turn it around in time for release and that the film would flop – thus giving Pixar a reality check after so many big commercial successes in a row – Einser decided that if he waited until after the film’s release, he could buy Pixar for a much cheaper price. Obviously, that never happened. Finding Nemo became one of the highest grossing films of all time, Michael Eisner is no longer the CEO of Disney, and Disney ended up buying the animation giant on terms that worked out quite well for Pixar: the final purchase price was roughly $7.4 billion.
10 Pixar Had To Re-Animate the Water Because It Looked "Too Realistic"
When Pixar started doing tests to create their first underwater environments, animators studied the gloom and murkiness of water and developed an animated ocean that blew everyone away. No one was able to differentiate between footage of real water and the animated footage, which sounds like a better problem then it really was.
A Pixar animator claimed that if they wanted to make a photo-realistic documentary, they could have, but since this was an animated film, they wanted it to look like an animated film. Because of the cartoon-y designs of the fish and the reef, animators had to go back and re-animate the water to make it look less believable, and thus fit the style that the film was striving for. In the finished film, we see a bright blue saturated ocean that’s filled with color, and that’s only because the alternative was an ocean that we wouldn’t believe was as computer animated as the animals living in it.
9 Director Andrew Stanton Provided The Voice For Crush
Crush remains a fan favorite of nearly everyone who has seen Finding Nemo, and a large part of it is due to his trademark laid-back surfer voice. The character became an instant classic when he debuted on the big screen, and some of the film’s best quotes come from the wise old turtle. But things were supposed to end up differently for Crush.
Without a voice for the character in a rough cut, Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton lent the voice to Crush. In order to provide him with the trademarked easy-going vocal stylings of a California surfer, Stanton recorded all of his lines while lying down on the couch in his office. This strange technique ended up working out, because after screening the rough cut to test audiences, the reaction to Crush’s voice was so positive that it ended up staying in the final film.
8 The Barracuda Attack Was Originally Very Different
Finding Nemo’s opening scene was one of the first times that a computer animated film ripped our hearts out, and it set the stage for all of the gut-wrenching tragedy that Pixar would unleash upon us over the next decade. Starting a “kids’ film” with the death of a mother and hundreds of unborn babies isn’t exactly new ground for Disney, as it’s had a long tradition of having animated films brutally murder a parent in order to set up the journey of the protagonist. But that wasn’t the original plan for Finding Nemo.
Throughout the development process of the film, the script and storyboarding called for the famed barracuda attack on Nemo’s mother to occur throughout the course of various flashbacks. By doling out the tragedy, Pixar thought that viewers would be able to enjoy a mystery and be satisfied once they put the pieces together. However, test screenings showed that Marlin wasn’t relatable without the background of how Nemo’s mother died, so the scene was moved up to the beginning, and our tear ducts got an immediate workout before the words “Finding Nemo” ever even flashed on screen.
7 The Film Is Loaded With Pixar Easter Eggs
Most people know that Pixar loves loading up its films with hidden easter eggs that reference past and even future films, but Finding Nemo is so loaded with these that even the most eager easter egg hunter may not be able to find them all. Embedded in the film (as in every Pixar film) is the Pizza Planet truck, a Buzz Lightyear toy in P. Sherman’s dental office, Boo from Monsters Inc. in a hanging mobile, as well as a Mr. Incredible comic book.
Most impressively -- due to Pixar’s development cycle overlapping over the course of several films -- is the inclusion of Luigi from Cars driving on the street when the tank gang is executing their escape plan. Keep in mind that Cars didn’t come out until three years after Finding Nemo.
6 Bruce The Shark Was Named After The Shark in Jaws
Bruce The Shark quickly became one of the most iconic shark characters in pop culture after his introduction in Finding Nemo. Not only was he a vegetarian departure from all the killer sharks that usually find their way onto the big screen – at least, he was until he turned into a killer shark after getting a sniff of Dory’s blood – but he was a friendly and funny Australian face that ended becoming a fan favorite character. You might be surprised to know that the inspiration for Bruce’s name came from one of the most bloodthirsty sharks in cinematic history.
Yes, Bruce isn’t just a name that sounds authentically Australian, but it’s actually the nickname that Steven Spielberg gave the mechanical shark that he used on the set of Jaws. That name originated from Spielberg’s lawyer Bruce Ramer – because lawyers are often referred to as sharks – and thus Andrew Stanton gave Ramer the honor of being the inspiration for two of Hollywood’s most infamous sharks.
5 Finding Nemo is the Top Selling DVD of All Time
If you remember the rise of HDTVs and DVD players in the early 2000s, there’s no doubt you remember seeing Finding Nemo playing as the demo in every single electronics store ever. It just looked so damn beautiful that it was the gold-standard for showcasing technology for years. This was also one of the reasons that Finding Nemo became the ultimate DVD to own – the jewel of everyone’s collection – the one DVD that you owned even if you weren't a movie collector in any sense.
Because of the fact that everyone owned Finding Nemo on DVD and played it until it wore out – and then bought another copy – the film is to this day the best-selling DVD of all time. Having sold 41 million units, Finding Nemo outsold The Matrix and The Lion King and every other film you can imagine, and -- with the demise of the DVD coming with the introduction of the Blu-Ray -- it will likely never be dethroned as the king of digital video discs.
4 Pixar Modeled the Fish’s Facial Expressions after Dogs
When Pixar dives into animating a film, they do all the research imaginable in order to provide viewers with the best possible visual experience. For Finding Nemo, this included countless hours of trips to aquariums and on scuba dives, watching and studying the movements of fish and all that surrounds them. But the one thing that animators couldn’t study was the facial expressions of fish, because, as it turns out, they don’t really have any facial expressions.
So in order to make a film that would require a large degree of expressiveness from every character on the ocean floor, animators had to turn to an unlikely source to model their fish’s expressions after: dogs. For eyes and mouths, Pixar animators looked at the subtle and overt expressions of canines and based the character models of the fish in the film on man’s best friend.
3 Gill Was Originally Meant to Be a Villain
Willem Dafoe’s Gill is a charismatic leader and surrogate father to Nemo once he ends up in the office of P. Sherman. He is constantly giving Nemo encouragement and telling him not to give up on escaping back into the ocean and getting to see his father again. But in earlier drafts of the story, Gill was a liar and a villain, manipulating the tank gang into helping him escape and stealing his backstory from a children’s book found in the dentist’s office.
Eventually, like all of the best changes from original versions of the film, Pixar realized that the story would be more straightforward if they cut out the villainous subplot entirely. From there, Gill was everything he appeared to be, and ended up as a memorable character in a film packed to the gills with them.
2 There Was an Epidemic of Kids Flushing Their Fish Down Toilets After The Film
One of Finding Nemo’s most memorable mantras was its claim that “all drains lead to the ocean,” and while that may be true in some sense, it’s not as straightforward as it appears in the film. Because of water treatment systems in place, if a fish is flushed down a toilet, there is almost no way that they would survive a trip out to the ocean without first being ground up. But this truth never made its way to well-meaning kids that wanted to free their aquarium fish.
After Finding Nemo’s release, children who had seen the film wanted their own little Nemos to be free, which ended up starting an epidemic of fish-flushing. So much fish-flushing was happening, in fact, that several organizations had to issue public warnings that warned against the flushing of fish. One organization in particular said that if the film accurately portrayed a fish’s journey through a sewage system, it would have to be titled Grinding Nemo.
1 The Film Decimated The Clown Fish Population, And The Blue Tang Could Be Next
Finding Nemo was a massive hit, so it makes sense that the millions of kids who went to see the film walked out with a deep yearning for a clown fish of their own. The problem was that, since 90 percent of the species was taken from the wild (just like Nemo) rather than being bred in captivity, clown fish were going extinct in over-fished areas that were looking to keep up with the incredibly high demand that the movie had produced.
The clown fish population has since recovered for the most part, thanks mostly to in-captivity breeding efforts by scientists. But now that Dory is front and center in the sequel, there's a growing concern that the blue tang (who haven't been bred successfully in captivity) could be the next ones to flirt with extinction.
To learn more about what you can do to help, click here.
Which of these facts surprised you the most? Are there any facts you know about Finding Nemo that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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