When Finding Dory was announced, many were sceptical. Two years prior, the dreadful Cars 2 marked a low-point for Pixar while Monsters University was due for release. Between 2010 and 2013 only the lacklustre Brave was an original.
Finding Nemo was always a complete film, famous for a heart-wrenching opening and a dark plot involving lost children and the struggles of parenting. Thankfully, Finding Dory captures again the joyful nature and personal themes that made Finding Nemo such an unforgettable success. It’s no surprise that, inevitably, fans will be clambering for the final part, in ‘Finding Marlon’, in the future.
Dory was an adorable supporting character in Finding Nemo. Her “just keep swimming” mantra the forward-thinking approach Marlon needed whenever he struggled in his search. Finding Dory begins when Dory is a child, with her supportive parents strengthening her struggling memory. But, torn away from her family, she’s finds herself lost at sea and desperate to find her way home. We learn that ‘just keep swimming’ is more than a catchy phrase for kids to repeat; it was Dory’s safety blanket when she was scared. She swam further and further out to sea, slowly forgetting her parents and losing track of what she was swimming for. That is until she smashes into Marlon, neatly tying together this film with the events of Finding Nemo. Years later, Dory’s recalls her family after the mention of “the underflow”; something she had been warned of as a child. Marlon, Nemo and Dory, set off then to find her parents. Along the way they meet grumpy octopuses, familiar faces from the first film and a Californian Marina that includes many colourful and whacky sea creatures we’ve never seen before – including a pair of whales that complement each other in the most comical manner.
Finding Dory effortlessly weaves together themes that resonate yet differ poetically to Finding Nemo. In flashbacks, for example, Dory’s parents are acutely aware of her short-term memory loss. They strive every day to support her. There’s no sugar coating the disability here and her memory-loss is not exclusively the butt of the joke. Training her and playing with her, their overbearing love is crucial to her survival. In Finding Nemo, Marlon is overbearing too and hyper-safety-conscious in such a manner that it is a flaw he must overcome. Dory, on the other hand, requires stability and security – otherwise she is helplessly vulnerable (proven by her years lost at sea).
The early Pixar films were celebrated for the incremental improvements in animation. Toy Story as the first full-feature in digital animation. The detailed fur on Sully in Monsters Inc. was an impressive texture that seemed so soft and real. Finding Nemo recreated the fluid, organic flow of the vast ocean. The DVD even had a ‘feature’ of a fish tank that could be left on your home screen if you wished. Finding Dory’s animation remains exceptional, but not in a manner that’s ground-breaking. Instead, it adds detail to a busy, exciting environment. Akin to Monsters University meticulous and inviting campus, Finding Dory has a fun, entertaining Marina as a key location for the majority of the film. So many set-pieces are thoroughly engaging and welcoming, with an explosive finale that will forever associate the Pixar sea creatures with Louis Armstrong’s gravelly voice.
The themes of love and family are heart-breaking and hopeful, while the Marina’s mantra “Rescue, rehabilitation and release”, while appropriate for animal welfare, can also be applied to the criminal justice system (Nb. The U.S. locks people up at a higher rate than any other country). This ties in nicely with Hank, the grouchy seven-tentacled octopus, who we’re never sure whether to trust. Finding Dory expertly manages to showcase issues that are much deeper than mere childish hooey, and wraps them in vivid colours and hilarious characters to make another classic Pixar tale to watch time and time again.
This was originally written for Flickering Myth in July 2016