Pixar’s “Finding Dory” Consulted University of Washington Professor
In 2003, viewers watched as a Clown Fish embarked on an aquatic adventure to find his son, Nemo.
Now, in 2016, people can finally watch the highly anticipated sequel, “Finding Dory”, which will focus on the forgetful fish learning about her old life, and finding her family.
Recently, at its opening, “Finding Dory” garnered over $136.2 million from more than 4,000 theaters. It’s the only animated movie to ever break into the list of Top 20 Openings.
This Pixar-Disney film landed the biggest domestic opening of all time for an animated film.
It’s no surprise then to learn that the studio had actually brought in expert help to make their film more authentic and a success.
Dr. Adam Summers of the University of Washington has been studying fish for more than 20 years.
Dr. Summers has a degree in math and engineering, but he got a second degree in biology when he went diving in Australia. There, he met a marine biologist who helped peaked his interest in exploring marine life.
He now spends most of his time in a research lab in Friday Harbor, under the employ of the University of Washington.
Dr. Summers was consulted for the film, for his expertise in bio-mechanics, which is the study of the mechanical laws related to how living organisms move.
Dr. Summers was consulted when the animators began working on Finding Nemo. In an interview with Geekwire, the scientist said,
“When I was a post-doc in Berkeley my land-lady was the one who ran Pixar University. I found the consultant for her for ‘Monster’s Inc.’ And then later when she asked if I knew anybody who studied fish I said, ‘Well, that’s what I do.’”
Dr. Summers also talked about how important it was for animators to work on the movements of their characters, whether big or small.
He said that the film “The Incredible Hulk” could’ve done better animation for showing how such a large creature could move.
The film used human capture technology, which, to Dr. Summers, merely looked “clunky using people-sized movements for such a large character.”
The Pixar animators were not looking to make their film the same way. They dedicated many sessions to getting the movements – gliding, darting, and diving – right for the particular kinds of fish involved in the animated movie.
“Four or five months in — this was a three-year production process — they were asking me to judge which frames were from a real reef and from a computer. And they were already at a point that I could not tell which one was which.”
Finding Nemo viewers remember the characters’ expressive facial reactions, but according to Dr. Summers, it was one difficult compromise, as fish don’t have muscles of facial expression.
The film had to show those expressions, though, so the producers and Dr. Summers, went to a fish museum. They felt up the fish heads and “found plausible bones that could move and be eyebrows without destroying the ‘fish-ness’.”
While highly satisfied about Pixar’s production, Dr. Summers wishes that the studio would release a lot more aquatic-centric animated films to inspire and encourage younger audience to learn more about marine life, and to study and preserve them as professionals in the future.