Story of a... Theme Park Performer

As worrywart dad Marlin, Robby Pigott, 45, entertains and inspires in Finding Nemo—The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.



Roberto Gonzalez

Growing up in Maui, Hawaii, Pigott caught the acting bug at age eight when his parents enrolled him in the Maui Youth Theatre’s summer program. “I played a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. I loved it. From then on, all I ever wanted was to be an actor.”

Pigott has been a cast member at Walt Disney World since 1995, getting his start at the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue. In 2008, he auditioned for the up-and-coming Finding Nemo show and was cast as Marlin, Nemo’s father. “It was exciting to audition because we had an outside director, Peter Brosius, who had won a Tony Award. We also had Robert and Kristen Lopez, who would eventually go on to win an Academy Award for the music in the film Frozen.”

Throughout the 40-minute show, Pigott sings, dances, acts, flies suspended on a harness, and carries a fish puppet. “The trickiest part of the show for me was learning to do puppetry on top of everything else.”

“The secret to performing is the ability to make it feel like the first time, every time. It’s my job to take the journey with the audience. It’s the part of my job that I take the most seriously.”

Pigott is invested in the show’s family-centric story. “About three years ago, my dad passed away; he was just the best. He loved this show. And Marlin’s journey is so cool; he’s trying to learn to not be a nervous-wreck father, which my dad never was.” When Pigott was writing his father’s eulogy, he had a realization: “I feel like my dad is Crush [the sea turtle] from Finding Nemo, telling me everything’s cool and just to relax. One of the biggest lessons Marlin learns from Crush is ‘kids are going to grow up, just go with the flow and guide them the best you can.’ And I feel like that’s my dad. It really connected me to this story.”

Pigott enjoys meet-and-greets with families in need through charitable organizations like Give Kids the World. “We had someone request if they could meet with us because their son had a birth defect with his arm, so they were in a support group called The Lucky Fins. Because of that, Nemo has always been his hero. He really wanted to meet us after the show, so we signed autographs and took pictures with his family. It’s easy for us to take a couple of minutes out of our day, and they have a memory for a lifetime.”

“It’s telling the story that is so rewarding. It’s such a great story arc that I’m never bored acting it out, even after all these years, almost 3,000 performances. Seeing someone cry at the end makes my day. If I can look down [into the audience] and see a dad wipe away a tear and hold onto his son a little, that means I’ve done my job.”

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