As with Monsters Inc., I didn’t feel like Finding Nemo needed a sequel or a prequel. It felt like a complete movie. But when I heard it would focus on Dory, it still piqued my interest. As much as I’ve wanted to see it for a while, I never got around to seeing it until just now. And that right there is one major reason why I like doing these blogathons.
The initial production for this movie is a bit of an amusing story. Director Andrew Stanton, who co-directed A Bug’s Life, and directed Finding Nemo, WALL-E and the live action John Carter, denied it when the news first broke. It was first reported in 2012 that Stanton was developing a sequel to Finding Nemo, with a planned release in 2015. The same day that story broke, Stanton posted on twitter “Didn’t you all learn from Chicken Little? Everyone calm down. Don’t believe everything you read. Nothing to see here now. #skyisnotfalling. Of course the next month, it was reported that Ellen DeGeneres was in talks to reprise her role as Dory. Stanton also spoke about how he planned to direct a second John Carter movie. Of course that movie didn’t do that well.
To be honest, I kind of liked John Carter. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but I would have watched a sequel. And it is true that Stanton wanted to help make a sequel, but Disney allowed their rights on the franchise to end. “I will always mourn the fact that I didn’t get to make the other two films I planned for this series.”
Of course with John Carter’s mediocre performance, the jig was up. Disney officially announced Finding Nemo in 2013. Although Stanton didn’t originally want to make a sequel, Disney politely requested one. Around 2010, when Finding Nemo released on Blu-ray for its 10th anniversary, Stanton rewatched it. “Something got lodged in the back of my brain and started to sort of stew. I started to think about how easily Dory could get lost and not find Marlin and Nemo again … I knew if I ever said Finding Dory or mentioned a sequel to Finding Nemo out loud, I’d be done. There would be no way I’d be able to put that horse back in the barn. So I kept very quiet until I knew I had a story that I thought would hold.”
For researching the movie, the production team visited various aquariums, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Center, and the Vancouver Aquarium (I’ve been to the Vancouver Aquarium and it’s great). After watching Blackfish, a 2013 documentary that focuses on the dangers of keeping orca whales in captivity, they changed the movie’s ending. Instead of some of the characters ending up in a SeaWorld-like park, they revised the ending so that everyone ended up in the ocean. This caused a necessary delay from November of 2015 to June of 2016. In turn, they delayed The Good Dinosaur to November of 2015 (which had its own production problems that made its delay necessary as well).
Pixar also completely re-engineered RenderMan to make the lighting more realistic, the biggest change to Pixar’s lighting software in 25 years. And it really shows. This is a beautiful movie to look at, with very realistic lighting, fog effects and waves throughout. Even if there isn’t too much else to specifically talk about from an animation standpoint, this almost feels like as big of a technical leap as the original movie. That’s how much of a difference that lighting can make in a CGI movie.
Apart from Nemo, whose original voice actor had aged and his voice deepened, Finding Dory retains most of its original cast. Albert Brooks reprises his role as Marlin the overprotective clownfish. Ellen remains as Dory, the regal blue tang with severe short-term memory loss. Director Stanton also reprises his role as Crush, the sea turtle who speaks like a surfer dude. And last but certainly not least, Willem Dafoe returns as the leader of the “tank gang” for a brief and hilarious cameo. I didn’t even notice that when I wrote about Finding Nemo and I regret that. Newcomers include Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents, Sigourney Weaver as herself, playing a periodic announcer at the movie’s fictional aquarium, and Hayden Rolence as Nemo.
Finding Nemo became Pixar’s second movie to cross the $1 billion earnings threshold, making it the third highest-grossing film of 2016 (the year when Disney took all of the top 5 spots, with 4 $1 billion plus earners). Seriously, that company is a monster. Looking at North American profits alone, Finding Nemo earned the biggest opening for an animated film in North America as of this writing, and tenth overall for all-time earnings in North America with $486 million. It’s worth mentioning that 5 of the other top 10 are also Disney released films. Did I mention that the Disney Corporation is a monster right now?
Finding Dory also performed well with critics and audiences. It earned a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.6/10. It’s generally considered funny and thought provoking, with beautiful animation. The Uproxx review stated “I never thought I wanted a sequel to Finding Nemo, but here we are and I’m pretty happy it exists. And, for me, it was a more emotional experience than the first film. The Wall Street Journal said “Finding Dory can be touching, sweet and tender, but it’s compulsively, preposterously and steadfastly funny.” That said, both The Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times gave it negative reviews.
As for myself, I really liked this movie. I don’t think it’s quite as good as Finding Nemo. It doesn’t feel as dramatic. But it’s still a fairly dramatic yet entertaining movie. The core story focuses on Dory, who despite her short-term memory problems, starts remembering hints and pieces of her own family. It doesn’t take too much convincing for Marlin and Nemo to help her find her family, even if there’s a brief debate between Marlin and Dory. Marlin still remains his overprotective self, although it’s clear that he’s loosened up since the first movie. Nemo also proves himself to be fairly useful in their search and helps his father loosen up a bit more. For me, the most fascinating part of this movie is how it expands on how Dory’s mind works. It shows her learning to cope with her memory problems, and to find different reminders in everything she sees and hears. It’s really well done.
I won’t say it’s as good as Finding Nemo, but fans of the original should check this out. It’s a worthy sequel that expands on its characters and some of the themes from the original. It’s best if I don’t explain anything else about this movie, so that you can discover it for yourself.
Next up is Cars 3, and I’m not sure how I feel about jumping into this one. I liked Cars more this time round than when I first saw it 10 years ago, but Cars 2 is the closest I’ve been to disliking a Pixar movie. After Cars 3, it’s Pixar’s most recent release, Coco. Then we’ll be done until this summer’s Incredibles 2. I might wait until after that comes out before I write up my list. Or I may just post the list after Coco, and then update and repost it after Incredibles 2 comes out. Whatever I do, we’re near the end of this Pixar blogathon. Of the three I’ve done so far, this has been my favourite.