Finding Nemo

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Is Nemo too scary for a 3-year-old?

August 2003

hello, I'm wanting to take my almost 3 year old to ''Finding Nemo'' , but have been told by the other parent that she heard it was ''scary for little kids'' . does anyone agreee or disagree or have any other input? please help. ;-} thanks john

I took my 3 yr. old and she loved it. I am not sure what people think is so scary about it. Maybe that in the beginning of the movie, Nemo's mom and the baby fishy eggs (all but Nemo) get killed by a barracuda. However, they dont show any gore, rather the mom and eggs sort of ''disappeared''. I think if you can explain this to your child, it should not be so scary (think Bambi). anon

I took my 3-year-old and he was just fine. Didn't even want to sit on my lap for the lantern-fish part (pretty scary), even after I asked.

That said, he doesn't get scared at much. Watches all sorts of videos (''Lion King,'' ''Peter Pan,'' ''The Iron Giant'') with only an occasional ''I'm scared, hold me'' and never agrees to turn it off. And never a single nightmare, even after ''Spirited Away'' (which was an error in judgment).

There are also scenes that were scary for the adults (a mined harbor) that had no effect on the kids (what young kid knows what a mine is?).

I hope this helps. It was his first theater movie and is a precious memory for both of us (we went to Jack London Theater in Oakland). Jennie

My son (almost 3) has seen Nemo twice and loved it- first movie theater movie. However, he watches all kinds of animated videos from Cinderella to the Lion King and doesn't seem phased by the occasional violence, death, etc.. Having said that, I can see how some scenes in Nemo might be scary or traumatic for a little one. Susan

My daughter is not-quite three (she will be in November) and has seen Nemo twice. She adores it. The first bit (before the credits) is Disney's (even if it is Pixar) obligatory ''get rid of the mom'' scene--a barracuda gets Nemo's mom (Nemo is still an egg at this point). That loss sets up the whole character of Nemo's dad (the worried-all-the-time Marlin), and I can see how that would be scary for kids. My kid bleeped right over that part, didn't faze her a bit. The other potentially scary part (IMO) is the scene with the sharks. Again, my kid loved that part. She is also not bothered by potentially scary bits in the other Pixar flix (scary toys in Toy Story, scary monsters in Monsters Inc, etc). We put that together with her pre-existing love for fish and took her to Nemo without pre-screening.

I suspect you will get as many kinds of answers as there are kinds of kids.

FWIW I think it's a great movie, it was the first we brought my daughter to see in the ''big theater.'' Donna

My friend and I took my 2 and a half yo and her 5 yo to Finding Nemo. I tried to check it out in advance and was told that it would probably not be too scary. My 2 yo decided it was too scary after only a couple of minutes (and then fell asleep) and the 5 yo lasted another maybe 20 minutes before she, too, decided it was too scary and we left. My friend's take on it was that cartoons are often scarier than live-action movies.

No more cartoons for now

I saw Finding Nemo recently with my 7-year old daughter and would guess that some parts may be too scary for a 3-year old. One part that comes to mind is with the sharks who are in a recovery group trying to stop eating fish ''fish are friends, not food,'' until one shark smells blood and falls off the wagon. The movie may be OK if you can go with someone who has seen the movie, he or she tells you when that part is coming up, and you take your child out for popcorn for about 10 minutes. The good news is that it's pretty funny for adults so you won't be bored to tears.

Hi, We took our then-19-month-old to see Finding Nemo. She was scared at some points mostly because of the noise. She spent the entire movie in mine or my wife's lap, kind of slack-jawed, staring at the screen. I think that she liked it, and also that it didn't scare her tremendously, but I really don't know for sure. Michael

My husband took our 5 1/2 year old and she was scared! She generally only watches public television, and so has not been exposed to the more mainstream type of cartoons with an increased level of violence, yet she loves The Wizard of Oz (since age 3) and The Sound Music, so go figure... just my 2 cents.

It was scarey but not too scarey. The mother fish 'disappears' at the beginning (eaten by another fish). There are 'jokes' that 3 year olds don't get, but you might enjoy. The color and achievement of the animation is really very wonderful. But even with all the great work they did on this animation (Ellen Degeneres is really great), my little one had a bit of hard time sitting through it. I think there were WAY too many trailers at the beginning...somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes worth, which put kind of a damper on the movie attention span of a 3 year old. I would say it's a good movie if you don't mind getting questions throughout the movie and it may be a better experience if you bring along other little friends. But...yes, it is scarey. liz

Finding Nemo is horrible for little ones. I took my 2 and 3.5 year old and ended up walking out halfway through. I noticed another mom who had 2 young ones do the same. Pixar has some great movies, but every once in a while they have poor judgement on what is appropriate and inappropriate for children's movies. Usually Pixar's story and dialogue are great, but this time they didn't put as much energy into story and leaned mostly on scaring the young audience. If you really want to see it, wait for video and when your child is a little older. Hope this helps. anon

I took my not quite 2 year old son who never sits still EVER and he absolutely loved it. He watched every minute and every once in a while he'd say with pure delight, ''FISH MOMMA!''. He's now interested in movies (and fish) and has been watching a few Disney ones. Now that I see them through his eyes, I realize how many villians and scary parts there are in the Disney movies. He actually asks me (in his own two-year old way) to skip past the scary parts. So anyway, I mention that so that you'd know that he recognizes scary when he sees it and he was never scared during Nemo. In fact, there are no villians at all. I thought it was quite nice. I loved it and he loved it. I'd give it a shot. If your child gets scared, you can just get up and leave. Good luck. Have fun. Karen

Hi, I had the exact same concern! I found out from another parent that the scary part happens in the first five minutes, when the mom gets eaten by an eel (or something). You don't actually see any violence, it's just implied by swirling water and blackness. I talked to my 3 year old beforehand with heavy editing and she was totally fine with it. In fact, we've seen it twice now and she loves it.

At her age, kids seem to have some need to live vicariously through these emancipated alter egos. It's kind of their worst fear realized (what would I do if my mom died?) and their secret fantasy. Best of luck!

and the air-conditioned theatre ain't bad either!

I can't imagine anyone hinted that Finding Nemo might not be appropriate for kids, any age! It is beautiful, light-hearted and fun, even for adults! And kind of educational, because kids get to see a lot of different wildlife and learn a little about the coral reef habitat

Take them & enjoy! Tiffany

I'm sure you will get lots of conflicting advice since different kids react differently, but our impression (we have older kids now) was that it was way too scary for a G-rated movie marketed to young children. Time after time, the characters come ''this close'' to being eaten by sharks (with close-ups of the huge, razor-sharp teeth), stuck in fish tank filters, stung to death by a mob of jelly fish, eaten by an evil-looking angler fish, devoured by hungry gulls... you get the picture. I know lots of young kids see this kind of stuff routinely in movies and cartoons, but I personally found it too bad that the directors felt the need to have so many scary suspensful scenes.

Of course, there's also the early scene where the mommy and eggs (except Nemo's) get eaten. You don't actually see it happen, but the outcome is clear. Finally, the dentist's office is portrayed as a scary and painful place to be- not the impression I'd want to give my young kids. And the dentist's daughter (the only female human in the show) is clearly sadistic. So overall, while the messages may be sweet and positive, the path was too scary for most kids under 6. R.K.

Most kid movies put me to sleep or give me a headache so this one was a rare treat. It's a wonderful script and the colors are dazzling. I really enjoyed it.

Sadly, about 5-10 minutes into the movie there was a scene where a shark went ballistic and started ramming the side of the boat trying to catch the little fish so he could eat them.

My six year old son (who has been exposed to both movies and TV cartoons with pretty intense scenes) spent the rest of the movie on my lap. Wouldn't admit he was scared just said he felt like sitting on my lap. It's rare that my little kindergartner actually WANTS to sit on my lap that I thought it was pretty cool.

So basically, I would highly recommend the film for adults and older kids (6 and up unless they are very sensitive) but it's too scary for a 3-year-old. --Sharon

We took our 2.5 y.o. daughter to see Finding Nemo because everyone told us it was a lovely, non-violent movie, that would be appropriate for a sensitive 2y.o.

What we found was that the volume alone was extremely frightening. Paired with an opening scene where Nemo's mother dies; some very scary scenes with sharks and other animals threatening to eat nemo's father; and a very frightening dentist...

If I had to do it over again, I would not allow any child of mine under 7 y.o. to see the movie. I certainly would not recommend it for a 3 y.o. Ruthie

Yes, it has 5 or 6 really scary parts! The shark scene reminded me of Jaws (the 1970s movie about great white shark attacks). I was so disappointed and covered my 3 year old's eyes during the intense parts. Why does Disney feel the need to put these scenes into a little kid's movie??? scaredy pants

I took my 3 year old to see ''Finding Nemo'' and found that there were many scary scenes. However, I do think that it also depends, partly, on your child, as I have friends whose children loved it and weren't afraid. Everyone mentions the scene where the mother fish gets killed, but that was so over my daughter's was implied (nothing graphic) and she didn't ''get it.'' However, there were frequent scenes with scary-looking fish, with big teeth, and menacing music (it seemed like they occured every few minutes!). My daughter asked to leave several times (we took a few potty breaks, water breaks) and hid her face in my shoulders during the other scary parts. I should mention that this was her first theater movie. MK

Other than the fact that Nemo's Mama and a couple hundred of her babies are killed in the first two minutes, that there is a shark who is very sweet and introspective until he smells blood, and that Nemo ends up in a dentist office that would make anyone never want to go to the dentist again; this movie is fine. All this happened within the firs 30 minutes or so and it all may have turned out fine, but we didn't stay long enough to find out. Check it out on the Finding Nemo site on the internet. I think they offer a disclaimer about it there and if I had read it, I would not have gone with my toddler. Try the Tigger movie or Piglet's Big movie. Anon

We took our 2.8 month old to FN -- and walked out after about 20 minutes. He was very scared of the loud explosions and fierce shark attacks (not to mention being disturbed by the disappearing mother and death of all the siblings). Frankly, I was glad he was scared of these things; they are scary and I don't want him to be jaded about them. So I wouldn't bring a 3 year old. The graphics are amazing, though . . . Chris

I would say no to Nemo for a 3 year-old, but then again, I am conservative about movies (I might say no to a 5 year-old, too). I've heard about some parents' experiences who did take kids that age. One child covered their eyes at various scenes throughout the movie, another watched the whole thing, and another ran out of the theater crying after that first scene. One complaint I've heard is that it is ''just too much''--too many violent images and scenes, too many sudden, scary surprises, too much booming loud noise and music.

Aside from violence, there is the issue of commercialism. I tend to avoid Disney stuff like the plague, but then again, I love Pixar for its creativity and irreverence. Kinda neat to see Nemo at Emery Bay, less than a mile from where it was actually created.

Invariably, you will get comparisons to past movies from other childhoods. For me, the ''flying monkeys'' of Wizard of OZ, or the kidnapping scene in ''Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'' stand out in my mind to this day as very powerful and scary. And of course, you can't beat age-old fairy tales for violence (most modern versions are considerably tame, actually, from what I understand). Should my parents not have exposed me to that stuff? Aside from giving me the shivers, did it have any lasting or negative effect? Who knows. I tend to think ''not really,'' but you still won't see me in the theaters with my 3-year old.

Having said all, that, guess which movie my wife and I went to see on a date when we got a rare afternoon off this summer... Loved it.

A Little Fishy

I brought both my 3 year old and my 12 month old to see Nemo (actually, the whole family went!) As with any Disney movie there seems to always be some death scene which is implied (it's at the beginning). However, both kids seemed to have enjoyed it and so did my husband and I; it was entertaining! My daughter is not afraid anymore when she sees a shark on TV, pics, aquariums etc. You know your child the best and know what he/she can handle; go with your gut. If anything, you can always wait until it comes out on DVD/video and fast forward through parts you think may not be appropriate for your child. anon

Check out the parents' reviews of ''Finding Nemo'' on (where I work): is also a great resource. Leah

I have seen Finding Nemo and it is a fantastic film. Although the subject matter is not very scary, we feel that the intensity of some of the scenes would be too much for our three year old daughter. The climactic scenes are meant to be exciting and so are shot in ways that would be too much for children under four. This of course depends on the child. I am going to wait and let my daughter see it when she is a little older. patricia

I have two girls, ages 4 1/2 and 6. We are VERY conservative about what movies they see; as a result, they have obviously seen very few movies! We did take them to Finding Nemo, but only after hearing ''the scoop'' from several different parents about the content. My husband and I found the movie to be quite entertaining, even for us; however, there are a couple of scenes where there are some very scary, very sharp-toothed fish that might frighten your nearly 3 year old. My advice is that 3 is too young -- I was worried about my 4 1/2 year old, although she handled it well. Only one person had mentioned a ''sort of scary but short part with a fish with big teeth'', but I found it to be a few scenes -- starting right from the beginning when the mother fish gets eaten! I am dismayed by the fact that Disney/Pixar/anyone feels the need to put some of these scenes in a KIDS movie, but that's a whole other topic! Good luck with your decision, but my vote is that 3 is too young. falconcrest2

We took our almost 3 year old to Finding Nemo and she really liked it (even sat through the whole thing). I personally found it kind of scary for a toddler, especially the sharks, and was surprised my daughter wasn't even fazed. There is a fair amount of violence in the movie - Nemo's dad is constantly being chased by fish that want to eat him. I think you would have to evaluate whether your toddler would react strongly or not. If I had known the content of the movie before we went, I wouldn't have taken my child. -RK

I took my 2.5 and 4.5 year old boys to see Nemo and they were both very scared. The older had already seen both Harry Potter movies (on video) but got up and walked out on Nemo in the theater. It was only the 2nd movie he'd seen in the theater so part of it might have been the size of the images on the screen and the volume. Mary

''Finding Nemo'' is too scary for little kids. We took a 6-year- old and a 5-year-old, both hardened veterans of pictures such as ''Aladdin'' and ''Toy Story,'' and they found much of the movie so scary that they sat on our laps. ''Nemo'' was great, but noticeably scarier than earlier Pixar, and MUCH too scary (and complicated) for a 3-year-old. Wendy

I think it depends on your little one. We took our just-turned 3 year-old to see it, and she LOVED it. The mother fish dies at the beginning--she's eaten by a shark--but my daughter was fine with it. When she asked where the mama was, I just told her matter of factly that the shark ate her. No biggie for her.

All kids are different, of course, but of the 5 or so 3 year-olds I know who've seen it, none have had any problems. The bigger issue might be sitting still for 1 1/2 hours! Christine

my friends agree that it is too scary for young children. one of them took their daughter who is around 6 years old and it was a bit scary for her too. of course depending on your child's maturity - etc. but 3 is probably too young. i've heard adult's love it though! but i definitely think it should have been much more carefully marketed. i think a lot of parents just assumed it was for kids since it was a cartoon, but it really isn't!

duped by pixar

Though I loved the movie myself, there is no way I'd take my 2 year old to see it. There are several scary, tense parts that I really think are toointense for most small children to experience. Just to give you some perspective, my two year old can handle the fight scenes in Lion King but got upset enough during Shrek (when the dragon chases them in the castle) that we don't watch that one anymore. Also, there is a family loss early in the movie (ala Bambi) that might be upsetting to more perceptive kids as well. I am planning on waiting until the DVD comes out...two pluses: seeing it on a smaller screen will make it less intense and we can skip the scary scenes and let her enjoy the beautiful scenery. anon

We took our son to see Nemo when he was about 2 1/2. There are some scary parts, but he was fine as long as Mommy or Daddy were holding him. He is still enjoying it and frequentlky askes me to ''tell me the Nemo story''. We then take turns retelling parts of the story. I am sure that it is different for different kids. Although I don't know their ages, there were some children who were crying through some of the scary parts. Lori

Hi - I took my 4.5 yr old son and my 2.5 yr old daughter to Nemo. He was terrified, she was fine. I think he understood the story more so it was scarier for him. She didn't get the story and liked the visuals.

My 3 1/2 year-old son has seen ''Finding Nemo'' three times at his own request. Yes, it's scary. Within the first five minutes the mother is eaten by a biggger fish. But, this is off-camera and it goes by so fast, I don't think he's noticed it. I suppose it's possible that some kids may worry about their own mothers getting eaten, but mine has not made that connection. And, some mothers may chafe at the whole missing mom thing, but personally I thought it was nice to see a movie that featured a VERY DEDICATED DAD.

There's a scene in which Nemo's dad and his friend Dory get chased by a shark. During this chase, the shark briefly imitates Jack Nicholson from ''The Shining.'' It's a scary scene, but it ends in less than two minutes. And, it's no scarier in my opinion than any other children's fare (in fact my son still refuses to see ''The Little Mermaid'' because the mean octopus character scares him a whole lot more).

Since we first saw Nemo we have spent countless hours going over the movie in conversation. What happened first, what happened next, how did Marlin and Dory get away from the shark? It's clear that he's tried to ''work out'' the scary parts in his head by talking about it endlessly. But he still wanted to go back.

Bottom line -- if your kid has an average level of tolerance for scary movies, he/she should be fine.

And, the movie has a very nice message for a little kid, which we sum up in our house as ''If you get lost, your Daddy will ALWAYS find you.'' Melinda

I just took my kids to see ''Finding Nemo'' and my almost-five year old had to leave about 2/3 of the way through -- she got very scared and started crying. Another child sitting near us cried a lot and was finally taken out by his adult companions. Lots of other kids were just fine. There are a number of pretty intense moments and they might be overwhelming for kids who are not used to movies in theaters where everything is BIG and LOUD. I think it depends alot on the child and their exposure to movies.... D. Moran

I took my 3 1/2 year old son to ''Finding Nemo'' when it first came out with several friends, all the chidlren in the same age group. The movie was beautiful BUT...for me and my son, there were only a couple of scenes which we could relax. Everything else was big, loud and scarey. Did I mention loud! The mommy dies part which was to be bad wasn't at all compared with the sharks, although the mantra ''fish are friends '' was cute ...for an adult. Not to mention the ''chucky'' like child, and other ongoing at the edge of your seat or in the hallway watching through covered eyes scenes. My son wants to see it again, but his words, ''when I'm bigger so it's not so scarey''. So, I couldn't recommend it to anyone under 5 years old. Some of our friends did fine and they are the same age. My son still loves the water, wants to swim, no nightmares, but doesn't need Nemo stuffed animals either! Good luck! Nemo could have waited

We took our 3 and 5 year old to see the movie. My 5-year old was scared and I had to take my 3 year old out because he was VERY scared. (Why must they always kill the mothers in these stories??? Bambi, Barbara the Elephant, Nemo...).

We think ''Finding Nemo'' is the best of its genre and a great romp. However, we've decided to wait a few more years until we can at least process traumatic on-screen events with our kids. We have seen more than one body of child development research indicating that three and four year olds don't have the developmental capacity to cope with concepts such as mom being killed, the hero the child is supposed to identify with being chased by sharks, or mines exploding. We think Joanne Cantor, author of ''Mommy I'm Scared,'' who has testified before Congress concerning the emotional impact on children of scary and/or violent movies and TV programming, is a good resource for parents who want a suitability index that's less anecdotal and more informative than the movie industry ratings. Her studies (and others) indicate that themes such as the death of a parent, a child in danger, or disasters of any kind, especially if their true consequences are not depicted, can be harmful even for older children. Here are two links; we'd appreciate hearing from other parents, especially if they know of research that contradicts these claims. There's no harm in waiting.

I like this website:

It gives very detailed reviews of movies so that parents can evaluate them without having to watch it first. It lists all manner of troublesome content: Alcohol/Drugs Blood/Gore Disrespectful/ Bad Attitude Frightening/Tense Scenes Guns/Weapons Imitative Behavior JumpScenes Music(Scary/Tense) Music(Inappropriate) Profanity Sex/ Nudity Smoking Tense Family Scenes Topics To Talk About Violence and rates them None Mild Moderate Heavy, then gives a detailed description. for example: # Younger kids might find the following unsettling, tense, suspenseful or even scary (all depending on their age, level of maturity and tolerance for such material), but older ones probably will have little if any problem with it. # Marlin and Coral realize that all of the other creatures in their ''neighborhood'' are gone and hiding. They then spot a large and menacing fish and Coral races to protect their nearby eggs. It then races at them and bites at them, with Marlin hitting it and it then hitting him with its tail. When Marlin comes to, he discovers that Coral is gone as are all but one of their 400 eggs (we never know what happened to them or her). # A human diver suddenly shows up near Nemo and captures him. Marlin tries to race after the diver and his boat as it takes off, but can't keep up with it. # The sight of a huge shark (Bruce) with a mouthful of sharp and nasty-looking teeth might be scary to some kids. We then learn that he's going through a step program to help him not each fish, but when he spots some blood, he sets out after Dory and Marlin (through an old sub and open water) and repeatedly bites at them and slams into various things while trying to get them. They end up in an old sub's torpedo chute with Bruce repeatedly banging into the opening, forcing a torpedo (and thus them) closer to his mouthful of teeth.
I hope this is useful, susan

I kept waiting for more people to respond to your request, because I was curious what other parents thought, too. But perhaps our experience will help you. I think ''Finding Nemo'' was a good movie to take our 3-year-old to. We actually took him twice. He had a harder time on the second showing because he anticipated the scarier parts. Oddly, he didn't have a problem with the beginning where Nemo's mom and hundreds of siblings perished. That's probably because they don't show them getting eaten. But he did get scared when Nemo was abducted. And he was afraid when Bruce, the ''vegetarian'' shark, got a little blood- thirsty. It was kind of funny because when my son's afraid of something on TV or in a movie, he doesn't turn away. He covers his ears. I found if I talked him through things and reminded him that Nemo would be rescued in the end, he was fine.

By the way, our son's first theatrical movie was ''Piglet's Big Movie,'' which we took him to earlier in the summer. And that was such a stupid, boring, pointless movie that, even with ''Nemo's'' scary parts, we appreciated the Pixar movie so much more. Gwynne

For my (4 year old) child, the only problem with Nemo was that it is loooong. I noticed several other kids in the theatre getting antsy and wanting to leave, and parents trying to persuade them to stay. To me, that is not the way it should be -- training my child to sit still mesmerized for 3 hours is not what I'm after. Although the theatre experience is really fun, for the longer movies, I'd rather wait for the DVD and give it in child-sized bites. Fran

We took our 5-year-old daughter to see Finding Nemo as her first movie theatre experience. As it turned out, she lasted 10 minutes and burst into hysterics and she was physically shaking in fear. We got out of there in a hurry. We know kids her age, and younger, who have seen Nemo without getting scared, but each kid is different. Also, a movie theatre is different than watching a video at home. A movie theatre is big, dark, and LOUD. The screen is larger than life. The sound is deafening. Also sometimes it's the editing of a film that can be scary - our daughter was scared partly because of the content of the first 10 minutes, and partly because there were lots of fast cuts during that time as well that startled her, as well as the music. A great website to check really in-depth reviews of films from a parents' standpoint is Here is their take on Finding Nemo: http:// I find that there is almost nothing appropriate in the theatre for our sensitive daughter. Good luck! Lori