1. In an hour-long session, director Andrew Stanton pitched his idea to Pixar head John Lasseter, using elaborate visual aids and character voices. At the end of it, the exhausted Stanton asked what he thought. Lasseter replied: “You had me at ‘fish.’”
2. Creating just 1/24th of a second of the film could take up to four days because of the complexity of the underwater environment. The animators wanted to create the effect of sunlight coming through the water and hitting fish scales.
3. The names of the two primary turtles are also the names of two popular citrus soda brands: Crush and Squirt.
4. As “homework,” the production crewmembers were all expected to visit aquariums, go diving in Monterey and Hawaii, study Pixar’s own 25-gallon fish tank, and attend a series of in-house lectures from an ichthyologist. They even got scuba certifications and went to the Great Barrier Reef on the insistence of Lasseter.
5. Because actor Willem Dafoe (who voiced Gill) has such a recognizable mouth, animators mimicked his facial lines when creating the fish.
6. The infamous shark who sang, “Fish are friends, not food,” is named Bruce. Bruce was the nickname given to the shark models used in Jaws, and they’re named after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer.
7. Finding Nemo was the first movie to surpass 1994’s The Lion King to become the highest-grossing animated film. “It’s about time,” Lion King producer Don Hahn remarked at the feat.
8. Squirt the sea turtle is voiced by Nicholas Bird, the son of Pixar director Brad Bird.
9. Nemo’s first appearance wasn’t in the film. Because Pixar plans films years in advance (and because they love Easter eggs), he first appeared as a stuffed toy on a couch in Monsters, Inc.
10. The waiting room in the dentist’s office was modeled after a real dentist’s office in Emeryville, California, where the Pixar headquarters are located.
11. Director Andrew Stanton always wanted Albert Brooks to voice Marlin, and while Brooks had some experience with voice work, he found working in solitude and not alongside other actors to be unenjoyable.
12. Work first began on the movie in 1997. Physical production actually started in January 2000 with a crew of 180 people.
13. The realistic-looking tentacles on the sea anemones were created using the same computer program that animated Sully’s hair in Monsters Inc.
14. There are roughly 200 turtles in the background of the turtle drive sequence.
15. To create the facial expressions of the fish, animators studied dogs, paying particular attention to their eyes.
16. The role of Dory was written specifically for Ellen DeGeneres.
17. In order for it to sound like Nigel (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) had Marlin and Dory in his mouth, Rush held his tongue while delivering his lines.
18. When Gil is daydreaming about how he will escape the dentist’s office, the “camera” pans out the window and the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story can be seen outside.
19. Dory, famous for butchering Nemo’s name (Chico, Fabio, Bingo, Harpo, Elmo), actually does get his name right a total of seven times.
20. Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally was originally signed on to do a voice in the film. But when producers found out she wasn’t willing to do her “Karen” voice from the show, she was fired.
21. Director Andrew Stanton voiced Crush, the sea turtle. He did it for the film’s rough cut, but never intended to do the final version. The voice was so popular with test audiences that he agreed to do it for real. Stanton recorded all of Crush’s dialogue lying on his couch in his office.