One of the motivations for the film, according to THE REEF writer Scott Clevenger, “Was to have a Western under water.” Using such classic 50’s Westerns as The Tin Star, starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Perkins, “with a little bit of mysticism thrown in the mix,” Clevenger developed and rewrote an existing draft of the underwater tale that was written by Anurag Mehta, for producers Ash Shah and Mark Dippé’s Wonderworld Studios. Clevenger elaborates that “The basic idea of an idealistic protagonist seeking the help of an older and wiser recluse, in a town where neither of them were understood” helped mold the backbone of the story, which is the relationship between Pi and Nerissa.
David Hillary, who co-produced the film along with Tim Peternel says that “One of the great lessons of THE REEF is that it shows us that no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, or how alienated and alone you might find yourself, through determination you can overcome any obstacle.” Peternel, who shares credited for the story as well as co-producing, notes that one of the biggest challenges that they faced in getting the film off the ground, was “Creating an original and intriguing story that not only set itself apart from other animated movies, but created a world that would allow your imagination to run wild in.”
“The story works on several different levels, the most obvious being a character’s struggle to find his place in the world,” Chris Denk, who collaborated with Peternel polishing the script, comments. When asked about his favorite scene, Denk replies that he liked the training sequence between Pi and Nerissa, “To achieve something difficult, you can’t just go through the motions; you must be willing to work your butt off to achieve that goal, which Pi did, and it paid off for him in the end.”
Clevenger continues, “The main thing that separates THE REEF from other animated films is that unlike being a quest between one or two characters and the individual goals that push that quest forward, this story largely revolves around the community element of the Reef.” In THE REEF, the population of the Reef starts out as many individuals looking out for their own interests and safety, which keeps them from banding together and making a stand against Troy and the fear he thrives on. “Ultimately, it took an outsider who didn’t know any better to question the way that the community lived, and to make them realize that things could be different,” Clevenger adds. In the end, a community of individuals unites as one and helps free themselves of the tyrant that controlled them. Clevenger concludes that “Sometimes it just takes one person to bring about change,” which is a lesson we can all learn from.