Pixar's newest adventure sees one of the most popular characters the studio has ever created, Dory, go off on an adventure all her own in Finding Dory . And unlike its predecessor, Finding Nemo, most of the action in the new film doesn't take place in the ocean. Instead, Dory ends up at a "fish hospital" called the Marine Life Institute in California, where she meets several new friends like Hank the octopus, Destiny the whale shark, and Bailey the beluga whale. After seeing the movie, you'll definitely want to pay the place a visit, but is the Marine Life Institute real?
Not exactly. However, the institute was based on a very similar real life facility located in Monterey Bay, California. The creators of the film had to think about a logical place where Dory's parents would be to explain some things from the first movie (like her inability to find her family and her ability to read) and they settled on a treatment center based upon the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The production team took multiple research trips to the aquarium, according to Peter Sciretta of Slashfilm, and loosely based the look of the institute on the appearance of the aquarium. They took several photos, including from the animals' perspective, to give them a better idea of how to portray the setting.
Other than the basic look of the facility itself, another setting the film takes from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the kelp forest. The movie features the dense vegetation outside the institute, and the real life Monterey Bay Aquarium is well-known for having its own kelp forest exhibit. In fact, so similar is the Marine Research Institute to the actual Monterey Bay Aquarium, that several news outlets reported that the real life aquarium was the setting of the film after the first details of the movie began to emerge last spring.
If you were to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium after watching Finding Dory, you would definitely see the influence. The aquarium has a giant pacific octopus exhibit, and the creatures really do look a lot like Hank. There's also the aforementioned kelp forest, as well as their Rocky Shore exhibit, which allows visitors to touch certain animals like in the film. However, two animals you won't see at the aquarium are beluga whales and whale sharks. Belugas live in Arctic waters, not in California, and whale sharks are simply two large. The biggest fish at the aquarium is the great white shark, who tops out around 21 feet — about half the size of a whale shark.
Although it may not be an exact match, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the closest thing you'll find to the Marine Life Institute seen in Finding Dory. So why not pay a visit to the "Jewel of Monterey" the next time you're in the area?
Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Giphy