This fish tale begins with a pretty sad story. Two clownfish—Marlin and Coral—have found a beautiful sea anemone home in the Great Barrier Reef to wait for the birth of their 400 little fish eggs. These are two proud parents-to-be.
And then everything turns into a sob-fest. (Classic Pixar.)
Coral and all but one egg are killed in a barracuda attack, leaving Marlin to care for the last remaining baby fish (whose egg was scarred by that mean ol' barracuda) all on his own. Marlin decides to call his son Nemo because Coral really liked that name. Guess she was a big Jules Verne fan.
Flash forward to Nemo's first day of school. (Apparently, fish swim in schools and go to school.) Marlin's super overprotective of his son because Nemo's got one fin that's slightly smaller than the other…and because he can't forget about how dangerous the ocean is.
So things go pretty badly when the teacher takes the kids to the Drop Off at the edge of the reef. Marlin yells at Nemo for venturing out into open water and, as the little fish makes his way back, he's captured by a team of scuba divers. A fish-napping.
Marlin springs into action and races after his son. He ends up meeting a forgetful fish named Dory who's able to read the address on one of the scuba diver's masks—P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. That's the key to finding Nemo.
Marlin and Dory are a bit of an odd couple, but together they manage to survive a whole bunch of crazy and daring adventures—shark attacks, a big bad anglerfish, a swarm of jellyfish, and the swirling vortex of terror that is the East Australian Current.
Things go even worse for them when the two fish meet a whale that swallows them whole. But, don't worry—this story is more like Pinocchio than you might think. While in the belly of the beast, Marlin learns to trust Dory and let go of his fears and, low and behold, the great whale shoots them out of his blowhole…right into Sydney Harbour.
Gee thanks, big guy.
While all this is going on with Marlin, Nemo finds out that his scuba captor has taken him to live in a fish tank in his dental office. There, Nemo meets the other fish that live in the tank, including one guy named Gill who also came straight from the ocean.
Gill sees Nemo as his ticket back to the big blue. Plus he doesn't want the kid to go home with the dentist's niece—a fish-killing little girl named Darla. It's a real underwater ticking clock.
Gill convinces Nemo to take part in his escape plan: clog the filter so the tank gets dirty, and then escape when the dentist takes them out to clean up. Nemo tries to clog the tank filter, but nearly gets chopped in sushi into the process. Abort mission.
Later, when Nemo hears from a pelican named Nigel that Marlin's been crossing the ocean trying to find him, he tries the plan again. This time it's a success and the tank gets super-slimy. Now all the dentist has to do is take the fish out to clean the tank and they can roll out into the harbor and escape back to the ocean.
But, on the morning Darla arrives to claim her victim—er—present, the fish wake up to find that the tank is clean again. Oh, no! Nemo plays dead in the hopes that the dentist will flush him down the toilet and back into the ocean. Of course, he also plays dead just as Marlin and Dory arrive in the window of the dentist office (thanks to a little air lift from Nigel).
Marlin sees his son lying there "lifeless" and thinks that he's too late. Whoops.
Back in Sydney Harbour, Marlin leaves Dory to head home. But, little does he know that Nemo's managed to get himself flushed down a drain and has popped up back in the harbor, too. Father and son are finally reunited, but not before Dory gets trapped in a fisherman's net. (Things are never that simple, are they?) Nemo has a plan to help her escape, but it's dangerous. Marlin agrees to let his son try and finally learns that you can't stop your kids from doing crazy things forever.
After a few minutes of suspense, Dory's saved and the three fish head back the reef where they live out their days. Marlin's way more chill and not nearly as freaked out about his kid getting killed. Nemo learns a whole bunch of stuff in school and appreciates his dad a whole lot more. Dory's still Dory…but we love her, so it's all good.
All in all, it's one crazy fish story with one ridiculously happy ending.