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“Finding Nemo”: a great disability movie! Film Review by Meecha Corbett [with additional comments from Corbett O’Toole (Meecha’s mom)]

Who I Am
I am a 10 year old girl who uses a power wheelchair. I use computers a lot, both for my pastimes and schoolwork. I’ve seen almost every good movie that Disney has made. I’m curious to learn how movies are made. I like to play arcade games on the computer. I play power soccer. My team is the Bay Cruisers.

Nemo’s 400 clownfish siblings and mom were killed while they were in eggs on the reef. They were eaten by a barracuda. The barracuda left a scratch on Nemo’s egg and it made him have one little baby fin (right fin). So his dad was over-scared and compulsive. But his dad was so happy that Nemo lived that he called Nemo’s baby fin his “lucky” fin.

Nemo goes to school with Mr. Ray [a stingray]. They are going on a field trip to the ‘drop off’. The ‘drop off’ is where the sea meets the reef. One of Nemo’s schoolmates (a seahorse) is allergic to H2O (which is also water) even though he lives in water.

A diver (who is also the dentist that we see later in the movie) thinks that he saved Nemo off the reef and takes Nemo from the water to his Sydney, Australia fish tank in his dental office.

Dad decides to find his son even though he’s afraid of things. Dad meets Dory (played by Ellen Degeneres). Dory has a short-term memory loss. So after she says “I know where the boat went. It went this way. Follow me. ” Dad follows Dory. But after a few minutes she turns around to Dad and says “Sir, do you have a problem? Why are you following me?” She’s really funny.

Once Nemo gets into the fish tank there are many fishes but only one is from the ocean – Gill. He has a torn fin. I find that there are more phobias and disabilities in the tank. One’s a puffer fish, the other is a cleaning shrimp, another is a yellow fish that is obsessed about bubbles. Every time something in the tank makes bubbles, he closes the treasure chest and says, “Don’t touch my bubbles.”

Dad and Dory have many adventures trying to find Nemo. Nemo is in jeopardy because the dentist plans to give Nemo to his niece Darla as a birthday present. Every fish in the tank is scared of her because every year the dentist gives her a fishy and she shakes the bag so hard the fish dies before she even leaves the office. Darla is really intense. The goal is to get Nemo out of the tank and back to the ocean before Saturday when Darla arrives.

What I Liked
Pixar was good about disabilities and phobias. I found the Dad funny and Dory’s personality is funny. I think Darla has a cognitive disability. She is a fish killer. She accidentally kills all her birthday presents.

Marlin has a phobia about the sea. He’s a little overprotective and a little over-scared of the sea. In the beginning of the movie, a barracuda ate his wife and children except Nemo – one of over 400 eggs.

Bruce the shark started a 12 step club with 2 other sharks. Their motto is: “Fish are friends not food.”

It was the first picture movie that I discovered was good on disability. It wasn’t that creepy except for Darla. They didn’t say that disability was stupid. They were encouraging to bring disability into every day lives. All the characters were dealing with phobias, disabilities, something.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best), this movie is a 10.

The reason I like “Finding Nemo” is that it’s not like other movies. Because it’s a mixing of everyday life. Other movies seem different. In other movies people are horrible.

For example, in the beginning of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the priest opened up the blanket and he said he would drop Quasi into a well while he was a little baby so he would go back where he came from. Quasimodo loves the girl but he doesn’t get her. I don’t like that.

What I Wish
I wish there were more good movies about disabilities and people (and animals) with disabilities. When a movie is creepy about people with disabilities, I don’t buy them.

8 reasons you should see this movie:

  1. No one else has really good disability stuff.
  2. It’s funny.
  3. The whole family can see it.
  4. It has a lesson – “Always listen to your parents”
  5. It’s fun to watch because it has “fish comedy”.
  6. You learn some stuff about the fish.
  7. It’s nice to see many animals with disabilities (many more than 1 or 2 or 3).
  8. Oceans are great places for adventures – especially reefs.

Mom’s additional comments by Corbett O’Toole
I agree with everything that Meecha said. I also liked that the majority of animals (and people) in this picture had disabilities. It is rare to see disabled characters as the majority in any media situation. Usually we are presented as “different” than everyone else.

The best thing about “Finding Nemo” is that the characters’ differences are accepted and acknowledged. Everyone on the reef knows that Marlin is overprotective and teases him about it. They also accept that the seahorse is H2O intolerant. When the school kids ask Nemo about his “lucky” fin, Dad rushes to help Nemo. Nemo doesn’t want Dad’s help, he talks to the kids for himself and an octopus comments that one of her tentacles is shorter than the others. When the Dad tells the teacher that Nemo may not be able to swim fast for the field trip, Mr. Ray reassures him that they will all stay together.

Full inclusion classroom in the ocean, if only we could have that on land.

Nemo gets captured by the diver not because his disability prevents him from swimming fast, but because he was the bravest of his peers and he swam all the way out to touch the boat’s anchor chain.

When Dad decides to try and find Nemo, he meets Dory. Like Nemo, she is straightforward about her disability stating “I have short term memory loss. My whole family does. I think.”

Throughout the film Dory is adventurous and social. She solicits information from animals they encounter while Marlin is always advising against talking to strangers. Yet Dory’s willingness to interact with the world is the reason for their ultimate success. Even though Dory has a significant disability, her enjoyment of life makes troubles seem solvable. Marlin is worried all the time about the dangers lurking in the ocean.

Dory reminds him “It’ll be ok.” But Marlin says: “I promised Nemo I’d never let anything happen to him.” Dory replies “You can’t promise that anything will never happen because then nothing would ever happen.” Dory, like Nemo, knows that living with a disability entails taking risks.

In the fish tank, the fishes are strategizing how to help themselves escape. Gill’s plan is to jam up the filter so the dentist needs to take them out of the tank and put them into individual bags. Then they will roll out the window, across the road, and into the ocean.

Nemo is asked to swim up the fish tank filtration tube and block the fan with a pebble. In a rare film example of disability mentoring, Gill advices Nemo to “help yourself” when Nemo gets stuck. Nemo replies, “I can’t. I have a bad fin.” Gill says, “That never stopped me” and turns to show Nemo his own damaged fin.

With the notable exception of Darla, the dentist’s niece, the characters are all treated with respect. They may be quirky and/or phobic and/or disabled but they are also funny, capable and interesting. Whether it’s a flock of seagulls that all say “Mine” incessantly or sharks holding 12 step meetings to help them abstain from eating fish (their motto “Fish are friends, not food.”) the characters are portrayed in loving fullness – not as the one-dimensional stereotypes usually assigned to characters who are “different”.

Whether you watch this film to learn more about ocean life or just to have a good laugh, you can enjoy this film knowing you are laughing with the disabled characters and not at them.