The Reef, Kelp Forest & Marine Life Institute - Exploring The Worlds of 'Finding Dory'


Recently, we discussed some of the background inspiration which led Andrew Stanton to start writing the follow up to Finding Nemo — today we'll explore three of the locations (or worlds) which Dory-and-friends will encounter in Finding Dory.

There have been 13 years between the original theatrical release of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory and while the technology behind the films have advanced leaps and bounds since Nemo's 2003 release, the team had some interesting challenges trying to not step too far beyond the look of the original film. According to director Andrew Stanton, the filmmakers faced a curious challenge. “Our technology advances so much over time,” he says. “But we’re beholden to the production design, look and feel of the original movie. So we had to sneak in the improvements. Our lighting is more complex. The flora and fauna have more detail.

Nowhere in the movie are the technological advances more evident than in the film's three main worlds — The Reef, Kelp Forrest and Marine Life Institute. Let's explore each location a little more.


The Reef celebrates fun, family and the comforts of home. Vibrantly colored coral and seaweed provide cover for Marlin, Nemo and the newest member of their family, Dory—at least until their new adventure kicks off. “The coral reef is a slightly fancier, more dynamic version of what we saw in the first movie,” says Stanton, “but we’re not there for long.”


Kelp Forest is located just outside the Marine Life Institute. It’s murky, but magical, with rays of sunshine intermingling with the tall kelp stalks. “We always loved the idea of a kelp forest,” says Stanton. “It’s so arresting. It’s like an underwater redwood forest.”

Adds co-director Angus MacLane, “The kelp forest was incredibly complex to build in the computer—especially creating realistic water effects around the kelp—it would not have been possible in the ‘Finding Nemo’ days. But now, armed with new lighting and rendering tools, we were able to create more realistic lighting throughout the water that helped add to the forest’s believability as an environment.”


Marine Life Institute is a rescue and rehabilitation center and premiere aquarium. The MLI is vast with an array of pools and educational exhibits. “It’s really progressive and dedicated to conservation,” says Stanton. “They want to educate the world about sea life and how it’s integrated into our existence on the planet.”

But achieving the look of the MLI wasn’t easy, adds the director. “When you are in a glass box with water in it, the reflections are warped in a really weird way. It breaks the image. We’re all familiar with the resulting look—audiences expect it—but don’t consciously think about it. Fortunately, we were able to use technology available to us today to do refraction and reflections in a believable way.”

Which location are you most excited to experience in Finding Dory? Leave a comment below or chat about it with other Dory fans in the Pixar Post Forum.

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Pixar Post: The Reef, Kelp Forest & Marine Life Institute - Exploring The Worlds of 'Finding Dory'
The Reef, Kelp Forest & Marine Life Institute - Exploring The Worlds of 'Finding Dory'
Explore the worlds of Finding Dory with this look at Dory's Reef, the Kelp Forest and the Marine Life Institute.
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