Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. Finding Dory

Merry Christmas, everyone. I’m at Disney World today, soon to be watching Mary Poppins Returns, so I won’t be on much today.

In addition to this week’s entry, here is last year’s article on Mickey’s Christmas Carol:  https://the-avocado.org/2017/12/26/movies-building-entertainment-the-animated-films-of-the-walt-disney-studio-mickeys-christmas-carol/

Title: Finding Dory

Source materials : Based on characters from Finding Nemo

Budget: $175–200 million

Box office: $1.029 billion

Plot: Dory, a regal blue tang, gets separated from her parents as a child. As she grows up, Dory attempts to search for them, but gradually forgets them due to her short-term memory loss. In the flashback of the previous film, Finding Nemo, she joins Marlin – a clownfish looking for his missing son Nemo – after accidentally swimming into him.

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One year later, Dory is living with Marlin and Nemo on their reef. One day, Dory has a flashback and remembers that she has parents. She decides to look for them, but her memory problem is an obstacle. She eventually remembers that they lived at the Jewel of Morro Bay across the ocean in California, thanks to Nemo mentioning its name. Marlin and Nemo accompany Dory.

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With the help of Crush, their sea turtle friend, they ride a water current to California. Upon arrival, they explore a shipwreck full of destroyed cargo, where Dory accidentally awakens a giant squid, who immediately pursues them and almost devours Nemo. Marlin berates Dory for endangering them. Her feelings hurt, Dory travels to the surface to seek help and is captured by staff members from the nearby Marine Life Institute after getting entangled in six pack rings.

Dory is placed in the quarantine section and tagged. There she meets a grouchy, but well-meaning octopus named Hank. Dory’s tag shows that she will be sent to an aquarium in Cleveland. Due to a traumatic ocean life, Hank wants to live in the aquarium instead of being released back into the ocean, so he agrees to help Dory find her parents in exchange for her tag.

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In one exhibit, Dory encounters her childhood friend Destiny, a nearsighted whale shark, who used to communicate with Dory through pipes, and Bailey, a beluga whale, who mistakenly believes he has lost his ability to echolocate. Dory subsequently has flashbacks of life with her parents, and struggles to recall details. She finally remembers how she was separated from her parents: she overheard her mother crying one night, left to retrieve a shell to cheer her up, and was pulled away by an undertow current.

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Marlin and Nemo attempt to rescue Dory. With the help of two California sea lions named Fluke and Rudder and a disfigured common loon named Becky, they manage to get into the institute and find her in the pipe system. Other blue tangs tell them that Dory’s parents escaped from the institute a long time ago to search for her and never came back, leaving Dory believing that they have died.

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Hank retrieves Dory from the tank, accidentally leaving Marlin and Nemo behind. He is then apprehended by one of the employees and unintentionally drops Dory into the drain, flushing her out to the ocean. While wandering aimlessly, she comes across a trail of shells; remembering that when she was young, her parents had set out a similar trail to help her find her way back home, she follows it. At the end of the trail, Dory finds an empty brain coral with multiple shell trails leading to it. As she turns to leave, she sees her parents Jenny and Charlie in the distance. They tell her they spent years laying down the trails for her to follow in the hopes that she would eventually find them.

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Marlin, Nemo, and Hank end up in the truck taking various aquatic creatures to Cleveland. Destiny and Bailey escape from their exhibit to help Dory rescue them. Once on board the truck, Dory persuades Hank to return to the sea with her, and together, they hijack the truck and drive it over busy highways, creating havoc, before crashing it into the sea, freeing all the fish. Dory, along with her parents and new friends, return to the reef with Marlin and Nemo.

In a post-credits scene, the tank gang from the first film, still trapped inside their (now algae-covered) plastic bags, reach California one year after floating across the Pacific Ocean. They are eventually picked up by staff members from the Marine Life Institute.

Background and Animation: Disney had planned to make a Finding Nemo sequel without Pixar’s involvement, through Circle 7 Animation, however Circle 7 was shut down by Disney without ever having produced a film. 1 Director Andrew Stanton was set to direct a sequel to John Carter, but when the first film underperformed, the sequel was scrapped.

I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time. I’m not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating Toy Story 16. But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It’s got a lot of heart, it’s really funny, and the best part is—it’s got a lot more Dory. -Ellen DeGeneres

“I don’t watch my films that often after they’re done because I have to watch them so many times before they come out. So about 2010 when we were getting Finding Nemo ready for the 10-year re-release in 3D, it was interesting to watch again after all that time. Something kind of 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. She basically was in the same state that she was when Marlin found her. I didn’t know where she was from. I knew that she had spent most of her youth wandering the ocean alone, and I wanted to know that she could find her new family, if she ever got lost again. It’s almost like the parental side of me was worried.”- Andrew Stanton

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The fictional Marine Life Institute depicted extensively in the film is based on the production team’s research trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Center and the Vancouver Aquarium. The film’s ending was revised after Pixar executives viewed Blackfish, a 2013 documentary film which focuses on the dangers of keeping orca whales in captivity. To make the light more realistic, RenderMan was completely re-engineered, its biggest change in 25 years.

Music: The film’s soundtrack was composed by Thomas Newman

Voice Cast: Several members of the original film return including Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Jerome Ranft and Alexander Gould (although he was Nemo in the original film, he has a cameo in another role). Idris Elba, Sigourney Weaver, and Bill Hader, who previously appeared in other films, voiced roles in the film as well.

Ed O’Neill as Hank. He is best known for playing Al Bundy in Married… with Children and Jay Pritchett on Modern Family 2 Film roles include Dutch, Little Giants, The Bone Collector, Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2. He appeared on television in Dragnet, The West Wing, and John from Cincinnati. Kaitlin Olson as Destiny. She is best known for playing Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. She has also appeared in Leap Year, The Heat, and also portrayed the lead role of Mackenzie “Mickey” Molng for two seasons on the series The Mick.

Ty Burrell as Bailey. Burrell is best known for his role as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. 3 His first feature film role was in Evolution. He also appeared in Black Hawk Down, Dawn of the Dead, Muppets Most Wanted and The Incredible Hulk as Doc Samson. Diane Keaton as Jenny, Dory’s mother. Her first major film was as Kay Adams in The Godfather followed by two sequels. She appeared in Play It Again, Sam, Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, 4 Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Reds, Marvin’s Room, Something’s Gotta Give, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, Father of the Bride Part II, The First Wives Club, The Other Sister, and The Family Stone.

Eugene Levy as Charlie, Dory’s father. He became known from the sketch program SCTV. He appeared in Splash, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Club Paradise, Stay Tuned, Multiplicity and the American Pie series. He appeared in Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. He is the co-creator and star of Schitt’s Creek. Dominic West as Rudder. He is best known for playing Jimmy McNulty in The Wire and for playing Noah Solloway in The Affair. His film credits include Chicago, 300, Punisher: War Zone, John Carter, and The Square.

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Kate McKinnon as Stan’s wife fish. She is a cast member on Saturday Night Life She is also known for her film roles as Dr. Jillian Holtzmann in Ghostbusters, Mary Winetoss in Office Christmas Party, Pippa in Rough Night, and Morgan The Spy Who Dumped Me.

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger? John plays the husband crab

Pizza Planet Truck: can be seen as underwater debris

A113: the license plate on the semi truck

Critical Reception:

  • Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, saying: “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. Finding Dory got me—it made me cry.”
  • A. O. Scott of The New York Times said that while the film lacks “dazzling originality”, he overall wrote, “it more than makes up for in warmth, charm and good humor”.
  • In his review for Variety, Owen Gleiberman wrote, “It’s a film that spills over with laughs (most of them good, a few of them shticky) and tears (all of them earned), supporting characters who are meant to slay us (and mostly do) with their irascible sharp tongues, and dizzyingly extended flights of physical comedy.”
  • Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal said that “Finding Dory can be touching, sweet and tender, but it’s compulsively, preposterously and steadfastly funny.”

My take: One thing about sequels is that you get to go back and play in an old sandbox. Sometimes they can feel like a cash grab, but sometimes it’s a chance to explore a world that has been created.

It’s Dory that makes it work, particularly Degeneres’s enthusiasm and her ability to make every experience seem new and fresh. Hank is a great foil to her, much in the same way that Marlin was in the first film

Next Week: We’ll see how far we’ll go.