“When my son was five, I remember taking him to the park. I had been working long hours and felt guilty about not spending enough time with him… but I spent the whole walk going, ‘Don’t touch this. Don’t do that. You’re gonna fall in there.’ And there was this third party voice in my head saying, ‘you’re completely wasting the moment you’ve got with your son right now. I became obsessed with this premise that fear can deny a good father from being one” (Price, 208). This experience of fatherhood is what planted the idea that would eventually evolve into the Pixar classic, Finding Nemo, in Andrew Stanton’s head. Stanton would go on to co-direct the film with Lee Unkrich in 2003. This movie was an instant classic, beating it’s predecessors, Toy Story I and II, and Monsters Inc. as the largest grossing animated film of all time at the time of it’s release (Disabilities) and by winning an Academy Award for best Animated Feature film in 2004. The film has had no issue in receiving praise for its technological and thematic accomplishments. One element of the story seems to go unnoticed by the majority of the film’s audience: it’s portrayal of disabled persons. To understand the impact of this element, one must explore how disability has been represented in popular culture, how it has been represented in Disney’s past filmography, and how Finding Nemo represents it comparatively.
One would be hard pressed to find someone who cannot identify that iconic signature belonging to one of the world’s most influential men in the entertainment industry. Walt Disney has grown from a singular man into an entire corporation with its own values and even its own city. With any figure of such importance, rumors and myths begin to form around them. For Disney, some range from the inspiring, like the story told in the recent film Saving Mr. Banks (Hancock 2013), to the strange, like the rumor of his being cryogenically frozen. One of the darkest rumors surrounding Disney is the accusations of anti-Semitism. The perception of Walt Disney has been affected by the rumors surrounding his prejudices. His work depicting incredibly stereotypical representations of race becomes evidence for those believing him to be bigoted; but the personal accounts of some of his workers as well as his association with the anti-communist and anti-Semitic group, the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals are more likely the source of the myth.