City Lights: Library found Nemo but needs help finding funding

Last year — twice, actually — I cried during "Toy Story 3."

Yes, I'm not too big a man to admit it. During that last scene, when Andy gingerly passes his childhood toys on to the girl, I pretty much lost it, even though I've stayed dry during "The Killing Fields" and countless weightier movies.

The bottom line is, Pixar is powerful. Not only does it reduce grown men to tears —Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, a critic so rugged he named "Natural Born Killers" the best film of the 1990s, has also confessed to weeping at "Toy Story 3" — but it elicits critical raves and hundreds of millions of dollars with each new release.

So let's hope Pixar's magic streak continues for the Huntington Beach Central Library, which has reached out for the community's aid with a little help from "Finding Nemo."

For nearly 20 years, the library at 7111 Talbert Ave. has sported a large, doughnut-shaped aquarium next to the children's department. The city's upcoming budget cuts $10,000 from the $15,000 usually allotted to cleaning and maintaining the aquarium, and the library has started a fundraising drive to keep it operating.

The aquarium features coral, fake seaweed and about two dozen fish, including several percula clownfish and at least one blue tang.

Which is to say, Nemo and Dory.

If you've seen the 2003 Pixar hit, you remember them. Nemo — voiced by Alexander Gould — is the young clownfish who goes exploring and sends his father on a wild pursuit, while Dory — voiced by Ellen DeGeneres — is the blue tang with short-term memory loss who does her best to help on the journey. After "Finding Nemo" hit theaters, the library added those fish to the tank, and they've been centers of attention ever since.

"This is a regular occurrence," Director of Library Services Stephanie Beverage said Tuesday as kids and their parents surrounded the tank. "After storytime, the kids gather around the aquarium and watch Nemo and Dory bounce around."

Has "Finding Nemo" helped to drum up interest in preserving the aquarium? Children's librarian Janet Judson said it undoubtedly played a part. But whether it's Pixar or just community spirit, the library has gotten a boost already from families, who have so far donated $891.

That nearly covers the $1,250 the library seeks each month to pay Aquarium Doctor Inc., the Huntington Beach company that checks the pumps, changes the water, maintains the pH level and replaces fish and equipment when needed.

Everyone who donates $1 or more gets to write their name on a brightly colored paper fish and stick it to the side of the aquarium, and the library is considering selling $20 to $40 ceramic fish for a wall mural by the children's department.

If funding runs out, the library may have to drain the tank and return the fish to Aquarium Doctor, Administrative Assistant Kathy Blassingame said.

To avoid that, she and her colleagues plan to keep selling the paper fish indefinitely in lieu of a larger sponsorship.

Anyone who wants to contribute can call Blassingame at (714) 960-8836 or visit And if Pixar wants to spur more interest, it can always rush "Finding Nemo 2" into production. I'll be waiting with my box of Kleenex.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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