Nigel was friends with the Tank Gang, and also met Nemo after he ended up joining them (due to being taken from his habitat by the dentist). However, he is usually driven out by the dentist shortly thereafter. Nigel later told Nemo about his dad Marlin's attempt to find Nemo after hearing it from his pelican friends, which gave Nemo a new drive at sabotaging the filter. He is also annoyed by the Seagulls.
Nigel eventually meets Marlin and his partner Dory when they end up nearly being eaten by his friend Gerald, and after discovering who they were, he quickly makes Gerald spit out Marlin and Dory. He tries to explain to them that he knows Nemo, but they attempt to flee as they weren't willing to be eaten by him. However, Nigel helps Marlin and Dory escape certain death by the Seagulls and brings them to the dentist's office. When he, Marlin and Dory think that Nemo is dead, Nigel takes them to a nearby buoy, puts Dory and Marlin back into the water, and leaves saying, "I'm so sorry. Truly, I am."
Nigel is last seen in the ending credits (apparently after learning Nemo is alive after all).
Nigel appears as a large puppet in Finding Nemo: The Musical and in the promotion for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, appeared as an animatronic attached to the Sub Bus and introduced Crush for a traveling version of Turtle Talk with Crush. He also appears as a float in the Mickey's Storybook Express parade with Marlin and Dory in his mouth.
- Nigel's voice actor Geoffrey Rush also plays Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
- Brown pelicans' (Pelecanus occidentalis) geographical distribution don't extend to Australia; they are only found in the Americas.
- Nigel was voiced in German by Thomas Fritsch. In German, his name is Niels.