20 Years Later: What Andrew Stanton’s ‘Finding Nemo’ Means to Me…

Exactly 20 years ago today, Andrew Stanton’s animated magnum opus Finding Nemo hit theaters. To commemorate this anniversary and because Andrew Stanton has reportedly written an upcoming episode of the new Star Wars spin-off prequel Obi Wan Kenobi, I thought now be a perfect time to revisit his work, honor his genius, and relay why it means so much to to me.

In 2003, the film opened to great success both critically and financially. Seeing the film at a young age I of course have fond memories of it like many others. But the film had an effect on me that I didn’t quite realize at the time but has only gotten stronger as I’ve grown older.

I was born with a brachial plexus injury called Erb’s Palsy. It caused me to have much weaker movement and feeling in my right arm. Over the years after both physical therapy and several surgeries my arm still can’t move much but it is better than what it used to be. As a child I could hardly move it at all, and it was very crooked sometimes going behind my back even. It was something that I did feel uncomfortable with, but something happened that I truly believe helped me from feeling self-conscious and embarrassed by it. I saw Finding Nemo

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In the film Nemo (Alexander Gould) is separated from his overprotective father Marlin (Albert Brooks) who goes on a journey to find him and bring him home along with a regal blue tang with short term memory loss named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres)

The reason behind Marlin’s overprotectiveness comes from the fact that Nemo is his only surviving child from a vicious barracuda attack that led to all his siblings and his mother being killed. Nemo didn’t come out completely unharmed as the attack led to him having a stunted right fin.

I was 5 when I saw the film and I remember thinking the whole time “Hey Nemo’s like me” I loved that he referred to the injury as his “lucky fin” I remember relating to his feelings of embarrassment at having a parent that seemed overprotective. But what really hit me was two scenes in particular the first was when Nemo jams the filter in the tank, he’s being kept in to try and escape. The second was at the end of the film when Nemo saves Dory and a group of fish who have been captured in a net.

Both times I saw Nemo risk his life doing these very dangerous acts. He didn’t let his “handicap” stop him from trying to save himself and his friends. He proved to himself and to his father that he was cable of doing things on his own.

I really believe that in a way Finding Nemo changed my life. Of course, growing up I still had moments where I wished I could do more with my right arm. But I never felt ashamed of it. I never let it stop me from doing things others may not have thought I was cable of. I also wasn’t afraid to speak up for myself and tell my parents that while I understood they simply wanted to keep me safe. They didn’t have to worry about me, and they didn’t have to be afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.

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The film is an example of just how important it is for audiences, children especially. To feel seen and represented on film. There are too many people who still don’t understand just how powerful it is for a little kid to look at a character onscreen and say, “Hey they’re like me”. That’s what ‘Finding Nemo’ did for me.

If you have any stories about films from Disney/PIXAR that left an impact on you. Please feel free to post them in the comments below.

Finding Nemo is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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