Finding Nemo lied to your kids, and they will do it again in the sequel: Finding Dory!

By Patrick Cooney

The Disney film, Finding Nemo, lied to your kids!  Disney would simply argue that they altered reality to create a more entertaining storyline, but read below for the true story, and you tell me which you think is a more entertaining.

Disney forced them to hide the truth!

How Finding Nemo started:

Father and mother clownfish are tending to their clutch of eggs at their sea anemone when the mother is eaten by a barracuda. Nemo is the only surviving egg and he grows up in his father’s anemone before getting lost on a crazy adventure!

Video of the opening scenes:

How Finding Nemo should have started if it were biologically accurate:

Father and mother clownfish are tending to their clutch of eggs at their sea anemone when the mother is eaten by a barracuda. Nemo hatches as an undifferentiated hermaphrodite (as all clownfish are born) while his father transforms into a female now that his female mate is dead. Since Nemo is the only other clownfish around, he becomes a male and mates with his father (who is now a female). Should his father die, Nemo would change into a female and mate with another male. Although a much different storyline, it still sounds like a crazy adventure!

Video of the truth:

As you can see, the first minute of Finding Nemo, outside of the talking fish part, is the only biologically accurate part of the movie. Considering that they demonstrate reproduction and the killing of the mother in the first minute of the movie, how did they decide that a natural sex change is outside the bubble of viewable material?

Fish reproduction is complicated, and it is especially complicated in cases like the clownfish where species are sequential hermaphrodites. These fish are born as hermaphrodites that develop as one gender before changing to the other gender at some point in their life.

Unlike clownfish that start life as males and transform into females, there are other species, like the California Sheephead, that start as females and transform into males. These opposing forms of sequential hermaphrodites are called protandrous hermaphrodites for male to female changing species, and protogynous hermaphrodites for those that change from female to male.

The truth!

A sequential hermaphrodite life history strategy can be extremely detrimental if harvest of fish is allowed prior to male or female reproductive sizes. Should all males be harvested before turning into females at a certain size (or vice versa), a rapid decline would occur in the population. Understanding the triggers and sizes at which fish shift from one sex to the other greatly enhances the ability of fisheries managers to set proper length limits for long term fish population health.

More lies and deception?
In the end, the storyline for Finding Nemo was obviously entertaining for children, but as a fisheries scientist, I must admit, I find the biologically accurate storyline a bit more entertaining. With the announcement of a sequel called ‘Finding Dory’ coming in 2015, Disney still has a chance to redeem themselves, but I am not keeping my small ‘lucky’ fin crossed. Which storyline do you think Disney should show in the sequel?

Be sure to check out The Fisheries Blog on Facebook and Twitter (@FisheriesBlog).  If you want to receive our weekly blog through email, leave your email address in the open space at the top right of the page (scroll up!).  Also, check out an article we wrote a year and a half ago about how birth control in the water is causing fish to display both male and female gonads at the same time.



125 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, because a story about talking fish is otherwise accurate…

  2. Yes, compared to the otherwise very accurate Disney movies like Brother Bear (a movie about a man who turns into a bear), Monster's Inc., the Little Mermaid, etc:)

  3. Anonymous says:

    You shouldn't look for anything more than entertainment in children's cartoons.

  4. You are all correct…Disney is for entertainment purposes. We are just having some fun here pointing out the crazy life cycle of clownfish while associating it with something people are familiar with…Finding Nemo. Thanks for reading, and if you have any fun fish ideas you want to hear about, let us know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    somebody put time into thinking about all this???? O.o

  6. emily says:

    Things can be entertaining and also accurate, strangely enough. But as long as nobody cares, they probably won't be.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You mean fish don't actually speak English????????

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great fun! All those other commenters seemed to be thinking too much about not thinking at all to see just how fascinating the lives of Clownfish actually are.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of how the United States just never translated the last story arc/season to my favorite Japanese anime because it focused on women who became men who transformed back to women when they said their “magic words.”

  10. So my toys really don't come to life?! CURSE YOU TOY STORRRRY!!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Some people just want to watch the world burn.

  12. Corynn says:

    This was an excellent and fun story.

  13. Carl Hancock says:

    Disney lied? It's a f'n omputer animated cartoon involving talking sea life. Not some educational documentary about the insestious relationship between 2 clown fish.

  14. I hope they keep lying.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I believe we always tell the truth to children (especially when it concerns science and life), even if we are Disney. Great blog!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Actually, there are many life lessons involved in a lot of them.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well, we did get Ranma 1/2

  18. Anonymous says:

    wow very interesting facts truly that the truth will set us free, thanks mate, i would suggest tell us more not only about fish but also hidden lies in movies, art, etc so that we will be informed and the christian community. Pure deception from this movie. Pls share more…worth it

  19. Tynam says:

    Yes, I should. It's possible to be entertaining _and_ informative. It's OK to just be entertaining. There's no excuse for being entertaining and _misinformative_, especially around gender issues.

    (Do you think trans people would have to deal with so much prejudice if children's entertainment weren't routinely censored of anything but one-boy one-girl families? A few more biologically accurate cartoons would go a long way to a less fucked-up society.)

  20. Thetaobera says:

    Thanks for using a popular movie to get my attention and then teaching me something. I had no idea that sequential hermaphroditism existed in fish and now I do.


    PS. Don't be dissuaded by the trolls. Some people enjoy learning new things.

  21. Dianne K. says:

    Another example of why science geeks are not fun at all (unfortunately)…

  22. Dude.. , at first fish cant talk either atleast not in a language humans can understand.   So why would you make a big deal of something unrealistic in a childrens movie , its ment to keep your kids quiet for atleast an hour And would you really want your kids to se how nemo pairs with his dad?  

    Ill give you some tips for a hobby so you can stop worrying about useless things.   – find a girl – learn guitar – go fishing , or wel.. You.. Hmm maybe not – take aerobic classes – get a pet?

  23. haley a says:

    No they actually speak Mermish, just like the merpeople in the lake at Hogwarts

  24. Jon Levi says:

    Is it bad that I'm tempted to write a fanfiction based on this premise?

  25. Anonymous says:

    I have seen incorrect science information in children's literature when in an effort to make the introduction of a science topic in preschool/elementary levels in books, the description/explanation becomes so watered down that it is actually incorrect. I do not like this. I think that publishers should present such information more skillfully. Children love fantasy and fiction, but I prefer that science information be presented accurately in general. I have seen fantasy/fiction books about penguins state that the penguins lived at the North Pole where Santa lived. Penguins live at the South Pole and other places in the southern hemisphere. Some books call a butterfly's chrysalis a cocoon. Moths have cocoons. This is a topic that is interesting. No right or wrong. It is a movie that is fantasy.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well, I'm glad you didn't tell me that the Incredible Mr. Limpit was not accurate, because that would just be upsetting!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Anonymus is talking about Sailormoon. But that last season was also sexistic anyway, because the gender transformation only took part “because only as men we can attract our princess”…, so…?

  28. Anonymous says:

    So, what do you want? that kids learn how a cute cartoon change from male to female?? Oh,God, we truly are living the last days!.. I think the first error here was made by Disney: to use an hermaphrodite animal in a movie for kids. And then you, by proposing Disney to show the reality about clownfish changing sex in an animated movie for children.
    Thanks for the info, but seriously!

  29. Anonymous says:

    tan mula, dedicar un blog a esto. y despues alguien explicando que pasará 10 años despues con la sexualidad de bambi, blanca nieves, morita, elmo, y la concha de la lora….

  30. Anonymous says:

    They should have instead spent their time trolling random message boards, right?

    1. Rogan says:

      “…spent their time trolling random message boards…” That’s hilarious! Well done.

  31. Anonymous says:

    “.. so that we will be informed and the christian community ..”

    You mean that by putting up more info, they will transform us all into a community of christians?

    Assuming I know what you meant, as opposed to what you wrote, can you think of any other groups who don't ascribe reality to science, or only that one?

  32. Anonymous says:

    You been hanging with the wrong science geeks. Just read one random paragraph about Feynman's personal life for merely one tiny sample.

  33. Anonymous says:

    You been hanging with the wrong science geeks. Just read one random paragraph about Feynman's personal life for merely one tiny sample.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I have a better recommendation: Go to sites that are fun and entertaining for some folks and spend your time poking holes in it and posting comments!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I particularly enjoyed how justified this justification appeared.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Yes, seriously, you think this was serious?

    You must be super cereal.

  37. Anonymous says:

    autotrans: “as mule, dedicate a blog to it. and then someone explaining what will happen 10 years later with the sexuality of bambi, snow white, morita, elmo, and the shell of the parrot ….”

    Pretty sure Rule 34 has you covered.

  38. Anonymous says:

    No, it is not bad at all. Do it.

  39. Erpwood says:

    Very entertaining seeing a bunch of people get worked up over what they perceive as someone insulting a CARTOON they like, when they actually someone just gave them free education. Of course the reality stated here would not make it into the movie—and the author is obviously being tongue in cheek to state that Disney should have incorporated hermaphrodite fish into the script. Take a well known piece of pop culture or relatable entity and use it to educate–teaching 101 (and internet SEO 101 apparently, as I assume by the tone 'Finding Nemo' was part of the search term that got you here). This is awesome information. My daughter has become fascinated with fish after Finding Nemo and the remarkable story telling within it. I can't wait until she's old enough to really comprehend these concepts so we can take the learning further, debunking several of the themes that the good storytelling inserted–the movie then continues to provide as both an education tool and fantastic entertainment. I love the film even more now after understanding more about it. Thanks for the awesome post.

  40. Jason Hocker says:

    This is why scientific accurate movies like Jurassic Park are great, because they cover hermaphrodite DNA. I'm glad we can be entertained and learn while getting 100% accurate information from Jurassic Park, and so glad to learn about hermaphrodite dinosaurs who have frog DNA roaming around an island in our present day world.

  41. Es solo una pelicula y eres un completo imbecil

  42. Anonymous says:

    Its a Movie!

  43. Fledge says:

    Disney are not known for biological accuracy. The protagonists in all those social insect movies are predominantly male, despite the fact that in nature, all worker bees and ants are female. And sterile. I think they'd rather get kids watching and earn money than have to shut down following the irate comments of LGBTphobic parents asking why on earth they felt it necessary to incorporate degree level biology lessons into a kids' film, though I agree that it could benefit society to have more flexible lifestyle examples in movies. Anyway, interesting information. I did know about the sexual dimorphism of clownfish, but not that one of their own young would take a deceased parent's place – inbreeding is rarely good, does this only happen in lab conditions where in the wild, a new fish would simply move into the nest? I think that's one of life's truths I'd really rather keep from my young offspring, until he is mature enough to process it. Trans != incest in humans, although a lot of the hate crowd would love us to believe it.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for having a sense of humor! I wish the other commentors understood that you're not seriously trying to get Disney to change thier movie. Finding Nemo is hardly the movie I would show my kid to learn about SCIENCE! Next time we see a clownfish at an aquarium, I'll be happy to share your real nemo story with him.

  45. Anonymous says:

    “The Incestuous Relationship between 2 Clown Fish” sounds pretty entertaining to me.

  46. Rob says:

    Why are people so put off by this article? You’d have to be as dense as lead to not realize this was a criticism written tongue-in-cheek. Who actually believes the writer is truly nitpicking that a fantastical cartoon isn’t following reality? Back off from your knee-jerk fanboy defenses for one moment to appreciate some dry humor.

  47. Privet says:

    Theres no need to be biologically correct about anything unless your doing a doctumantry like David Attemrorough. The disney films lie because it puts a twist in stories like i could twist the story of Branwen ferch Llur. Instead of Bendigeidfran getting killed Matholwch could get killed and Branwen could live and find a new husband and live happy ever after. And i could say in the story Culwch ac Olwen Culwch got killed by the shepards son instead of the shepards son killing Olwen’s dad Ysbaddaden.

  48. Why they need two add extra into the movie who care its not like the kids wanted to go out with the fish and we don’t care about your opinion I like the movie just the way it is just stop👍👍🐠🎣🐳 got it

  49. Gabriel love says:

    Y do ppl have to think about it so much. Maybe Disney knew this but they didn’t want to go overboard and think about it. Sometimes ppl have an idea and they aren’t going to let reality stop them. I think Disney wasn’t trying to hide it I think they just didn’t think about it. Stop over thinking things to ruin Disney ppl! They r already ruining themselves anyway.

  50. Dalek says:

    Wow. 🙀 Childhood memories ruined.

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