Pros & Cons: “Finding Dory”

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”

Ten full years have passed since the release of Pixar’s Finding Nemo, one of the greatest and most heartwarming films, let alone animated films, in recent memory. The giant, human heart that beats through this aquatic film surrounding a worrisome father searching for his missing son has not lost a single ounce of its charm, wit, originality, wisdom, and overall quality in the decade since the original theatrical release. Finding Nemo is an undeniably special film and one that really catapulted the already riding-high Pixar Animation Studios into an otherworldly realm of moviemaking. While no one is trying to knock the original two Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life, or Monster’s Inc. (my personal favorite non-original-Toy Story Pixar film), no one can deny that it was Andrew Stanton’s directorial debut that catalyzed Pixar becoming the animating juggernaut that it is today.

To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Finding Nemo, Pixar re-released the film into theaters fully converted into 3D, allowing audiences to relive the magic of Stanton’s film all over again. Plus, it gave younger viewers, who may have been too young for Nemo in 2003, the opportunity to see the film in a theater. As expected, it was a hit and showed the incalculable love the film has earned over time. To further the film’s double-digit anniversary, Pixar announced today the effective-immediately production of the Nemo sequel, Finding Dory. Putting director Andrew Stanton back in the director’s chair and with a selected release date of November 15, 2015, it seems like we will soon be revisiting the underbelly of the deep ocean and catching up with these characters that we have come to love and care about so very much. As the title would imply, this sequel will focus on the original’s most memorable and beloved character, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).

Per the standard when new segments of a franchise are announced, a Pros & Cons for Finding Dory is of the utmost necessity:

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Pros:

“When I’m with you, I’m home.”: As the title suggests, this is going to be a Dory-centric movie. The press release infers a plotline regarding Dory’s family and her coming to be whom she is when Marlin runs into her during the early parts of Finding Nemo. “One thing we couldn’t stop thinking about was why she was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In Finding Dory, she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way,” says Stanton himself. This is a very promising premise, because even though Finding Nemo had adventure elements, it was very much a coming of age story with a dash of familial growth due to the bond between Marlin and Nemo. It was an animated film starring fish but it included very human concerns, and though the human idea is worked into all of Pixar’s films, Finding Nemo did it in a way seen maybe only once before (The Iron Giant is the most human animated movie ever made). Finding Dory may divert from the adventure but it is going to have an extra helping of character, especially if we are introduced to Dory’s family, who I’m sure will be very colorful and excellently voiced. Like Toy Story 3, I think Finding Dory could be a highly emotional Pixar outing, and if handled correctly, it may turn out to be their most emotional yet. I envision a dialogue-less sequence showing Dory growing up, a la Up, before fast forwarding to the present. How about that to set the stage?

“I shall call him squishy…”: Setting aside the misfire of Cars 2 for just a second, when Pixar goes for its sequels (or prequels) they have a good sense of how to recreate the humor that was embedded within the original. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 expand upon what John Lasseter & Co. invented the first time around and the sense of timing, delivery, and overall comedy was only enhanced in the later installments (even though nothing beats the original Toy Story in terms of quality). Finding Dory will likely be a similar case. Finding Nemo is a hilarious film with comedy written for all generations, which is why rewatching the film at different ages only makes the movie better. With the writing bodies at Pixar understanding the pressure of delivering on round two, I foresee them kicking into high gear here and delivering something just as funny as it is magical. Finding Dory has a lot to go on, but it has a lot to deliver as well. I have faith.

This is the Ocean, silly, we’re not the only two in here.”: Dory is a charismatic character and spotlighting her this go-round as the main character is an understandable move, but Finding Nemo has a Robert Altman-like ensemble of characters with each one being just as important as the other. Though Marlin was the protagonist, and Dory the co-lead, Nemo himself was a prominent character as was the entire Tank Gang, Nigel the seagull, the sharks, the sea turtles, etc. Finding Nemo would not have been Finding Nemo without all of those individual characters, each one written so well and hilariously voiced by notable Hollywood actors. Thus, by extension, with the need for all of the characters to come back, the voices must come back, and in the press release posted today the characters and voices are poised to return. Reuniting the golden pair of DeGeneres and Albert Brooks is one thing, but they are not the only driving force of Nemo, therefore they cannot be the only driving force of Dory. Good thing Pixar has this covered.

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Cons:

Cars 2 Syndrome: Say what you will about Pixar’s horrendous failure, Cars 2, and chances are everyone around you will agree. It was an unnecessary continuation of Pixar’s least popular standalone film. I actually adore Cars and I thought the new one was a nearly unwatchable bore. However, no one can deny how spectacular Cars 2 looked. It was a visually stunning piece of animation, and for all it lacked in story and character, it was close to making up for in its visual appeal. Finding Dory has a lot going for it and the last thing I want to see happen is it crash and burn because it forgets the rich characters it has to work with and instead goes all out with the visuals. With the advancements made in animation over the last ten years, I find it hard to think that the visuals will be of a major concern to Stanton and his co-writers, but the fear of another Cars 2 should always be present in the Pixar Animations office.

Alternating Character Functions: Dory is a co-lead in Finding Nemo. Dory operates just as Dr. King Schultz does in Django Unchained: Though generally regarded as supporting characters, Dory and Schultz are on screen nearly as much as Marlin and Django, respectively. Therefore, calling Dory the new leading character of the upcoming sequel is a right and wrong classification. She’s definitely the main character, and the titular character, but she may be just as much of a lead as she was in Finding Nemo. There’s no telling at this very early juncture if Marlin will be sidelined to a definite supporting role. Everyone’s screen time in Finding Dory is all based on speculation. Still, with giving Dory the ‘lead’ spot, there is an amounting concern that the character of Dory works better as comedic support and relief rather than the main character. Could this be like if Alan from The Hangover got his own starring movie? Would the novelty of a character like Alan be destroyed if he becomes the lead instead of a supporting character? The same question goes to Dory? Does Dory have the capability to lead a film on her own? DeGeneres definitely has the pipes to lead the film, but it’s the character in question and we have to hope that she gets the writing treatment she deserves.

More Cars 2 Syndrome: Finding Dory will be the fourth time Pixar has continued one of their stories as a franchise come its release. Toy Story was beyond successful as a trilogy that spanned fifteen years, but there’s an undeniable ‘something’ about Toy Story that allowed it to carry on over such a long period of time and over multiple films. The continuation of Pixar’s original property, plus the amount of time between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, also the storytelling strategy of the toys’ progression as directed by the growing Andy who eventually headed off to college. All of that made Toy Story’s longevity possible. The same could not be said for Cars 2, which did not need to be made and then proved to be the worst Pixar film to date. By a significant margin, Cars 2 is an indubitable stain on Pixar’s oeuvre and the upcoming Monster’s University will be a telling sign if Pixar should really continue making prequels and sequels to their existing properties. Was Cars 2 just a one-time thing? Will Monster’s University set things right or continue the decline? Whatever the case, will Finding Dory be able to follow that? Thankfully, Pixar has some original films in the queue between Monster’s University and Finding Dory, but like I said before, the Cars 2 syndrome should be of constant concern.

Are you ready to find Dory come the Fall of 2015?

Article by Mike Murphy

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