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15 Facts About Finding Nemo

Although we now recognize 2003's Finding Nemo as one of Pixar’s most critically and commercially successful films, the underwater masterpiece didn’t exactly kick off production as a guaranteed goldmine. Here are a few little-known facts about the rocky road leading up to the film’s status as a bona fide blockbuster.

1. THE FILM WAS INSPIRED BY THE DIRECTOR’S OVERPROTECTIVE NATURE.

“Autobiographical” isn’t exactly the first adjective you’d expect to assign to a road comedy about marine life, but Finding Nemo co-writer-director Andrew Stanton’s story came from a very personal place. As a relatively new father during the film’s development, Stanton found himself at odds with his proclivity to veer into overprotective territory, much in the way viewers see Marlin combating his neuroses in raising his son Nemo. He also had a love for all things aquatic that dated back to a childhood fascination with his dentist’s fish tank, so Stanton used this lifelong interest as a funnel for a deeply emotional story about the challenges of being a good father. 

2. STANTON WROTE A SCRIPT LONG BEFORE HE WAS “SUPPOSED TO.” 

Pixar’s multitiered film production process begins with a basic premise pitch to the creative higher-ups, followed by (for all greenlit projects) a written story treatment. Stanton already had a script completed before this second step took place, the only Pixar project to proceed in this manner. 

3. IT TOOK ONLY ONE WORD TO GET THE GREEN LIGHT FOR FINDING NEMO. 

“You had me at ‘fish.’” That is precisely what John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, said to Stanton following his exhaustive pitch for his passion project.

4. THE MOVIE’S ART TEAM WENT THROUGH MARINE TRAINING PRIOR TO PRODUCTION. 

In order to get the look and the feel of Finding Nemo’s characters and atmosphere just right, Pixar’s in-house art team was required to take courses and audit lectures in marine biology, oceanography, and ichthyology while enrolling in scuba diving classes. 

5. DOGS WERE USED AS MODELS FOR THE FISHY FACIAL EXPRESSIONS. 

While the Pixar team’s extensive research on the denizens of the deep yielded a wide variety of spectacular shapes and colors perfectly suited to an animated feature, the underwater populace proved consistently lacking when it came to one anatomical component. The dull eyes of the average finned critter weren’t especially conducive to building expressive characters, so Pixar had to look elsewhere for its optical models. The crew chose one of the most openly expressive members of the animal kingdom on which to model the eyes of its fish characters: dogs.

6. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT HAD A DIFFERENT TREATMENT FOR THE BARRACUDA INCIDENT.

At first, Stanton kept the inspiration for Marlin’s overprotective attitude—the loss of his wife and all but one of their unborn children in a barracuda attack—a secret to reveal gradually through intermittent flashback sequences. Ultimately, this technique made the revelation obvious and anticlimactic while making Marlin feel substantially less likable, so the script changed. 

7. GILL WAS A VILLAINOUS CHARACTER IN AN EARLIER VERSION OF THE STORY. 

While the combination of somber coloration, a scowling beak, and the menacing vocals of Willem Dafoe render Nemo’s fish tank pal Gill an intimidating presence, we learn soon enough that he is in fact a good guy who has the best interests of his fellow captives at heart. The original cut of Finding Nemo was more ambiguous about Gill’s integrity, however, making him the owner of a falsified identity that he swiped from a nautical-themed children’s book housed in the dentist’s waiting room. 

8. MEGAN MULLALLY WAS FIRED AFTER PRODUCERS HEARD HER REAL VOICE.

In the early 2000s, Megan Mullally was best known for her Will & Grace character, the rude and eccentric Karen Walker. Chief among the character’s recognizable characteristics was her high-pitched voice, which Pixar producers apparently thought would be perfect for an animated fish. Upon hiring Mullally to voice an undisclosed character in the movie, the crew discovered that the actress’ natural voice was of average pitch and that Mullally was unwilling to reproduce “the Karen voice” for the film. As such, Mullally was dismissed from the Finding Nemo cast. 

9. ALBERT BROOKS REPLACED ANOTHER BIG STAR. 

Although Brooks’ background in films like Broadcast News and Mother seems like it would have made him an obvious candidate to play the high-strung Marlin, the first actor cast in the role was William H. Macy. The Fargo star recorded his dialogue for an early screening of Finding Nemo, but producers ultimately felt that he lacked the warmth required for the role of the father fish. 

10. THE DIRECTOR RECORDED ALL OF ONE CHARACTER’S DIALOGUE WHILE LYING ON A COUCH. 

Stanton never intended to commit his voice to the final cut of Finding Nemo, but only to sub in as a placeholder until the right actor could be cast to play Crush, the easygoing sea turtle with the California accent. Perhaps due to his understanding of his vocal contribution as merely temporary (or maybe, in fact, to get into the “slacker” mindset of his character), Stanton recorded all of Crush’s dialogue while lying on a couch in the office of his co-director, Lee Unkrich.

11. THE CEO OF DISNEY THOUGHT FINDING NEMO WOULD BE A FAILURE. 

The combination of a poorly cast Marlin, an unsympathetic Gill, and the running flashbacks made the earliest versions of Finding Nemo feel pretty dismal. Still, nobody was quite as defeatist as Michael Eisner, the Walt Disney Company's then-chief executive officer. Eisner predicted the underwater adventure would be a “reality check” for the yet unchallenged Pixar. Eisner’s only positive spin was that a commercial struggle would be helpful during contract renegotiations with the Disney subsidiary. Of course, Eisner’s judgment, and fund-cutting aspirations, came up short when Finding Nemo became Pixar’s highest grossing film (a superlative it would maintain until the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010). 

12. THE MOVIE’S POPULARITY LED TO POPULATION STRESS FOR CLOWNFISH.

Children were so taken with the adorable Nemo following the release of the film that demand for clownfish as pets instantly skyrocketed. Excessive capture and sale of the ocean dwellers led to a steep decline in the organic population of the species; some natural habitats, such as the waters surrounding Vanuatu, saw a 75 percent drop in clownfish numbers. 

13. THE MOVIE ALSO LED TO SOME MISGUIDED FISH LIBERATION MOVEMENTS. 

On the other hand, Finding Nemo’s anti-tank agenda did provoke a few ecologically-minded viewers to set their aquatic captives free. Unfortunately, not everyone took the necessary steps to ensure that their newly liberated pet fish were being transported to amenable waters. Certain marine communities suffered from the introduction of predatory and venomous species in unnatural locales, resulting in, once again, ecological imbalance. 

14. SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS RELEASED “ANTI-FLUSHING” PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS FOLLOWING FINDING NEMO. 

While tanked fish Gill’s proclamation that “all drains lead to the ocean” contains a grain of truth, the movie fails to acknowledge the fact that a flushed fish is unlikely to survive a trip down the typical drain. Water treatment company JWC Environmental and Australia’s Marine Aquarium Council were among those to offer public warnings that flushing would prove fatal to any pet fish. The former organization suggested that a movie that realistically portrayed a household sea creature’s voyage through the municipal sewage system would be more accurately titled "Grinding Nemo."

15. A CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR UNSUCCESSFULLY ACCUSED FINDING NEMO'S CREATORS OF PLAGIARISM.

A year before the release of Finding Nemo, French author Franck Le Calvez self-published the children’s book Pierrot Le Poisson-Clown, featuring a young clownfish on a quest to reunite with his estranged mother. (In fact, Le Calvez first wrote the story as a screenplay in 1995, but was unable to generate interest in the concept.) After Pixar’s admittedly similar tale hit theaters, Le Calvez sued the studio for copyright infringement, but lost two lawsuits and was ordered to pay $80,000 in damages and court costs.

All images courtesy of Disney Screencaps

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Pop Culture
Rare Disney Artifacts From Early Imagineer Rolly Crump Head to Auction

If you’ve ever marveled at the fantastical facades of Disney’s "It’s a Small World" attraction, you can partly thank Imagineer Rolly Crump. Throughout the 1960s, the animator and designer helped bring to life some of Walt Disney Parks’s most iconic attractions, including the "Enchanted Tiki Room," "Haunted Mansion," and "Adventureland Bazaar."

Later this month, some of his original pieces will go under the hammer at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California. The most valuable of the 400-plus lots is Crump’s original model for a clock in "It’s a Small World," which could sell for up to $80,000, according to the auction house. The design was mocked up from fellow Disney artist Mary Blair’s original sketch, and the end result is now a permanent fixture of the boat ride attraction.

A few other items up for grabs are a Polynesian-style shield that Crump sculpted for the "Enchanted Tiki Room," an original devil prop from "Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride," an original "Haunted Mansion" poster, and a costumed character head from "Babes in Toyland." A ticket for the grand opening of Disneyland in 1955 is expected to sell for as much as $5000—although unfortunately it won't grant the buyer entry to the park these days.

In addition to pieces created for Disney, the collection also includes Crump’s original artwork, some of which dates back to his high school years. One such illustration of a colorful character wielding a sword and smoking a pipe was entered into a radio contest in 1947 by Crump’s mother, unbeknownst to her son. He didn’t win, but his consolation prize came five years later when he was hired to work at Walt Disney Studios at age 22.

The “Life and Career of Disney Legend Rolly Crump” auction is scheduled for April 28, 2018.

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Success of Black Panther Inspires Disney to Donate $1 Million to Youth STEM Programs
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Since opening in U.S. theaters on February 16, Blank Panther has already defied industry expectations more than once. The blockbuster now holds the records for biggest February opening, biggest standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and highest-grossing film featuring a black cast. To celebrate the film's groundbreaking success, Disney is donating $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Fortune reports.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a nonprofit organization that provides after-school programs to young people from low-income households. They offer kids a place to build their athletic, artistic, and leadership skills, but Disney's donation will go specifically toward funding STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The technology of the fictional African nation of Wakanda plays a central role in Black Panther. Shuri, T'Challa's sister and the head of all things tech in the film, has been praised for potentially inspiring young women to take an interest in STEM. "It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film," Robert A. Iger, Disney's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "So it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use Disney's generous donation to help establish STEM Centers of Innovation in cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, where much of the movie was shot, and Oakland, California, the hometown of Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. Ten additional cities, from New Orleans to Chicago, will also be getting STEM centers of their own.

The donation is sure to make a huge impact on communities around the country, but it's just a fraction of what Disney is set to make from the film. According to some projections, it won't be long before film surpasses the $1 billion mark at the global box office.

[h/t Fortune]

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