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Is Nemo too scary for a 3-year-old?
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?
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
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
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
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.''
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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???
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
head...it 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.
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.
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 . . .
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
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,
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.
Check out the parents' reviews of ''Finding Nemo'' on
ParentCenter.com (where I work):
www.screenit.com is also a great resource.
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
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.
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.
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.
''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.
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
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!
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.
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
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.''
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
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
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:
Nudity Smoking Tense Family
Scenes Topics To
Talk About Violence
and rates them None Mild Moderate Heavy, then gives a detailed
# 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,
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.
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.
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
www.screenit.com. Here is their take on Finding Nemo: http://
www.screenit.com/movies/2003/finding_nemo.html. I find that there is almost
nothing appropriate in the theatre for our sensitive daughter. Good luck!
this page was last updated: Nov 19, 2003
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