10 Life Lessons from Finding Nemo

With the news that Finding Nemo will soon be back with a much-anticipated sequel, the classic Pixar flick has been playing a lot in our house. (A lot.) And I’m not at all complaining because, honestly?, it might be my favorite Disney movie.

I know, I know, I know. That’s a big statement. I’ve never been able to commit to just one favorite Disney movie — do I go with my childhood favorite Little Mermaid, a modern gem like Tangled, or the original Disney-Pixar mega hit Toy Story — but then MY GOD, WHICH TOY STORY? And then there’s The Lion King. 

But if I’m being honest with myself, I love when my son holds up Finding Nemo with his “please?” eyes darting to the DVD player. It’s not just the compelling storyline and visual beauty, but it has some of the sweetest, most profound life lessons wrapped up in one children’s movie. Life lessons that I stress every time we watch this classic:

1. Listen to your parents; they just want to keep you safe.

We can all agree that Marlin walks a fine line between doting Dad and overbearing growth-stunting everything-is-out-to-get-us-crawl-under-this-rock Dad. But he has his reasons, including why he didn’t want Nemo to swim to the boat. There’s a reason why parents tell kids to do things that they don’t want to do — i.e. holding hands in the parking lot (“I CAN WALK BY MYSELF!”) — and Finding Nemo is a nice reminder that, yes, parents can be total pains in the rear. But they’re just trying to keep you safe and healthy — so listen. You don’t want the equivalent of a giant boat taking you across the ocean.

2. Accept help.

There’s no way Marlin could have made it to 42 Wallaby Lane without the help of strangers — even the most unlikely strangers. We can’t do everything on our own.

3. Step outside your comfort zone.

It’s easy to live inside a little bubble (or anemone), but Marlin learned more about himself, as a father, during his epic journey into everything that scares him. Even traveling on the EAC, which would have totally caused a panic attack pre-Operation Find Nemo, ended up being enlightening and fun.

4. Greediness = annoying.

Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine.” Just repeat that bird squawking to your kids every time they grab a toy and yell “MINE.”

5. The importance of teamwork.

From Marlin + Dory to Nemo + the dentist office crew, teamwork is more effective than a solo mission. There’s a lot of cooperation and collaboration in Finding Nemo, which is an important lesson.

6. The importance of friendship.

One of my favorite lines is at the end of the movie, when Marlin is sad and defeated, heading back home without Nemo. Dory wants him to stay and says, “I remember things better with you…It’s there, I know it is, because when I look at you, I can feel it. And — and I look at you, and I…and I’m home.”

Friendship can come from the most unexpected places.

7. Be kind to animals.

Lest you end up like Darla. (DUN, DUN, DUN.)

8. Your differences don’t define you.

One of my favorite details about Finding Nemo is the subtle physical differences (Nemo’s little “lucky” fin, Gill’s scarred body, Sheldon’s H20 intolerance, Pearl’s short tentacle, etc.) and mental challenges (Dory’s short-term memory loss, Bruce’s food addiction, Gurgle’s germaphobia, etc.). But all of these characters are so likable that their little quirks are endearing and normalized.

9. Your parents will never give up on you.

Like, ever.

10. Just keep swimming…

I’ve found that singing Dory’s signature song can get you through just about any rough patch. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Sound advice.

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So maybe, as a viewer, I can’t decide on ONE favorite Disney movie. But as a parent? I have to go with Finding Nemo. And I’m sure Finding Dory will land high in my list of favorites.

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