Just Keep Swimming: Representations of Disability in Finding Nemo

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“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.

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