Pixar’s sequel to their 2003 hit Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, is one of the best movies made in some time, a plot specializing in humor and heart.
The movie’s premise is the life of Dory, who cannot remember more than a few seconds at a time. She suddenly remembers that she has parents. As stupid as that might sound, Ellen DeGeneres as a fish using common sense turns into a wild adventure as she attempts to get back to the zoo she called home as a child. As the fish makes her way into the zoo relatively quickly, old characters such as the manta ray and generic surfer sea turtle make a cameo appearance. As one might expect, it’s tough for a fish to navigate through an aquarium that isn’t located in or around Atlantis. This is where interesting characters come in: three seals, a pigeon, Dori’s two whale friends, and, most importantly, the octopus.
The octopus, easily the best character in the cast, has a cynical, hilarious, smart-ass attitude that keeps it safe for the kids, but mature viewers won’t notice a difference. Even when octopus Hank goes through a change of heart, it doesn’t feel entirely forced, rather the character development seems necessary and is all based on the character making a choice. In fact, all of the character development, especially the hard-hitting parts, are written almost flawlessly, touching the heart of the audience in a relatable, deep, and overall powerful form of storytelling.
What shines in the movie, however, isn’t the events that happen in the movie, but the journey along the way. As such, the plot is rushed towards the end in order to tie up loose ends and create a happy ending. The plot also concentrates exclusively on Doryand her adventures with Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neil, so the previous main characters, Nemo and Marlin, seem almost unnecessary; in fact, Nemo’s dialogue seemed far more interesting than Marlin’s, who was the main character in the previous movie. Also, just so we’re clear, the ending has fish hijack a truck and crash it into the ocean. Whether that is kickass or ridiculous, I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s incredibly out of place in comparison to the rest of the plot.
Slight criticisms aside, no one can deny how expertly this movie was crafted down to the finest detail. The music, visuals and dialogue are some of the best you’ll find in animated cinema. If you didn’t like the first movie, I wouldn’t recommend it; however, even if you merely liked Finding Nemo, you’re bound to love Finding Dory.
Disney has been drawing a lot of aces lately. From “Doctor Strange” to “Zootopia” to “Finding Dory,” the studio has amassed an impressive streak of blockbusters. “Moana,” its latest animated offering, will continue that hot hand.
The adventure about a girl from the Pacific islands who journeys across the ocean with a demigod will be the de facto choice for families when it debuts over Thanksgiving. The film is expected to sail to the top of the holiday box office, earning $75 million over the five-day period. It will premiere in more than 3,800 theaters, the majority of which will offer 3D showings. Disney didn’t release a budget, but most of the studio’s animated films cost north of $150 million. “Moana” features the voice of Dwayne Johnson and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton.”
The biggest competition for “Moana” will be the second week of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the Harry Potter spinoff that debuted last weekend to a hefty $75 million. It could do nearly as much business over the holiday, but will attract a slightly older crowd given its PG-13 rating. Most box office watchers expect the fantasy film to pull in between $50 million to $60 million for the holiday stretch.
There’s not a lot of breathing room this Turkey Day, given that four wide releases will elbow their way into crowded multiplexes. The sheer onslaught of gaudy titles featuring the likes of Brad Pitt and Warren Beatty, to say nothing of the Disney and Potter fans who will be lured to the theaters, will boost revenues, but probably won’t be enough to establish a new record. The previous Thanksgiving holiday high point was set in 2013, as the combination of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Frozen” drove the box office to a massive $294.6 million over the five-day period.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
‘Fantastic Beasts’ Box Office Debut Draws on Aging ‘Harry Potter’ Fanbase
“That would be a tough number to beat,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “There’s a great lineup of movies from a quality perspective, though I’m not sure we can post huge numbers like some of the bigger Thanksgiving weekends.”
In 2013, there were a lot more options for moviegoers with children. This Thanksgiving is more focused on adult ticket-buyers. For starters, there’s “Allied,” an R-rated spy thriller with Pitt and Marion Cotillard adding some sizzle as a husband and wife team of double-crossing agents. The $80 million production was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who could use a hit after his 3D drama “The Walk” flopped last year. It should pull in $20 million for the five-day period. Paramount will release the film across 3,000 locations.
Parents will also likely be steering their kids clear of “Bad Santa 2,” a follow-up to the 2003 cult hit about a sozzled department store Saint Nick. Billy Bob Thornton, who oozed whiskey and invective in the first film, returns as the title character with Kathy Bates taking on the role of his mother. Broad Green and Miramax teamed on the picture, which should make $16 million over the five-day holiday. The very raunchy comedy cost $26 million to make.
That leaves “Rules Don’t Apply,” a romantic drama that represents Beatty’s return to filmmaking after a hiatus of more than a decade. The love story about a two young people who fall in love while employed by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes is being distributed by Fox. It has been a passion project of Beatty for nearly as long as he’s been in the business. However, tastes have changed since Beatty was making the likes of “Shampoo” and “Reds.” Star power isn’t what it once was and studios are more interested in backing superhero films than movie for grown-ups. To get the project off the ground, Beatty tapped a Rolodex of one-percenters that includes Brett Ratner, Steve Bing, and Steven Mnuchin, one of the rumored candidates to become treasury secretary under Donald Trump. Reviews have been mixed, but Beatty remains a Hollywood legend with a following. Look for “Rules Don’t Apply” to bring in $8 million over its first five days.
For Disney, the success of “Moana” puts the studio tantalizingly close to an industry record. The company has already achieved its best-ever year, and should pass the $6.89 billion high-water mark that Universal established in 2015 over the coming weeks. Not only does Disney have “Moana,” there’s a little film called “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” set to take the Christmas box office by storm. Thanksgiving will be a mere appetizer for the house of Mickey.
Finding Nemo, its predecessor, was the second highest grossing film of 2003, grossing $867 million worldwide. And Ellen DeGeneres—who voiced Dory, a forgetful but lovable blue tang—shamelessly and enthusiastically campaigned for a follow-up film, using her daytime talk show to rally support. The brain trust at Pixar was listening, but there was just one problem: Due to Dory’s absentmindedness, making her the lead character would be risky.
Thankfully, Andrew Stanton has never been one to back down from a challenge.
“The truth is yes, all that nervousness was there, but I knew it was going to be there, because that’s what it felt like on Toy Story 2. And we’ve made several sequels in between then,” the director says, “so we’re very aware of what we’re up against when we venture out on a sequel.”
So the director and his team did what Dory would do: They blindly and optimistically faced their fears. “In order to have fighting chance to make a decent sequel, you have to forget it’s a sequel and try to make it the most self-standing film, as if there was never a film before it,” Stanton, who also voices Crush the sea turtle, tells E! News exclusively. “It takes anywhere from three to six months when you’re working on those projects to get to that place, and then once you do—you usually have about three more years left—it’s an original picture to you and everybody else, and it’s just as hard. Sometimes it’s even harder simply because the characters are already figured out—at least half your cast is. And so you have parameters you have to stick to. You can’t suddenly just decide to change something about them to make it work for your story.”
Unlike the characters in Toy Story or Cars, Dory presented a unique challenge.
“She was built to be a side character. She was built to be the best sidekick and the comedic foil for a whole movie,” the filmmaker explains. “When you’re the main character of a picture, it means you have to be the character with the big problem that everybody has to be emotionally invested in and has to have things at stake, and so they just invariably end up having to be a little bit more serious. So, the tough part was, ‘How do we make Dory even remember that she has issues and that she’s changing?’ Because the only way you can express that, usually, is that you have the ability to self-reflect. You have the ability to tell somebody, ‘Yesterday I was depressed when I had breakfast, but now that I’ve talked to some friends, this morning I feel better.’ But that requires you to remember!”
“That was our hardest problem, that took my writer, my co-director, my editor, my producer, my head of story—it was the smartest team I’ve ever worked with story-wise—and it brought us to our knees,” he says. “It just took a long time for us to find this sort of grocery list of solutions of how to make her stay on track with her emotional issues.”
To fix the problem, Dory was tweaked a little bit. “She’s like a car that was rebuilt on the inside to work a little differently so that she could play the role of a main character,” Stanton explains.
DeGeneres was on board immediately, and it soon became clear that Dory‘s story was the right one to tell. “The truth is, she doesn’t ad-lib much—or at least not in the way that you would expect. She doesn’t come up with new lines all the time,” Stanton says. “She’s pretty respectful, because she ran a sitcom herself before she was on a talk show. She’s very respectful of the written word and how much we are already beating ourselves up.”
“Ellen’s style is sort of respect the written word, but what she does is she plays with how it’s said,” he adds. “So all these little invisible things that maybe aren’t even valued when you’re watching the film are hers: the hesitancies, the pauses, the interruptings of herself, the little fluctuations. That’s something that you find out she gives that make it specifically Ellen.”
“We’ve worked very hard to make an environment at Pixar where we think we are truly making the movie just for ourselves and will never be showing it to the outside world,” Stanton says. “I think there’s an honesty as an artist when you really feel like you’re alone in your studio, your writer’s cabin or amongst your friends in your backyard. There’s an innocence and a truth that has a chance of making it to the finished product.”
“I really take that seriously—almost like a philosophical level when I work. I really want to hypnotize and convince myself, ‘Nobody’s going to see this.’ That will allow me to be stupid, in the worst-case scenario,” he tells E! News. “And in the best-case scenario, it’ll make me very brave and put something up on the screen that really is effective, really works.”
“Whenever something sticks like that,” he says, “I translate that as, ‘Wow, we managed to get a truth on the screen without it getting contaminated.’”
This sequel to “Finding Nemo” is less of an assault on the tear ducts, but the laughs and thrills more than compensate
Over the years, we’ve come to expect Pixar features, at their best, to function as delivery systems for laughs, tears and adrenaline. And even if “Finding Dory” is less of an assault on the tear ducts than some of its predecessors — I’m still not ready to talk about Bing Bong’s selfless act in “Inside Out” — it more than compensates in the other two departments.
Sequel-wise, that puts this follow-up to 2003’s “Finding Nemo” leagues ahead of “Cars 2” and “Monsters University” if not quite at the level of the second and third “Toy Story” entries. Still, the studio has figured out an organic reason to bring back the forgetful fish voiced so memorably by Ellen DeGeneres, and they’ve crafted a story that puts her comfortably front and center.
In the time since the last movie, Dory(DeGeneres) has moved in next door to her crotchety pal Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence); it’s on one of the young fish’s field trips to the stingray migration that she begins having memories of her own family. Raised by Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy), who did their best to keep little Dory (Sloane Murray) safe and to show her how to find her way home, the small fry suffering from “short term remember-y loss” accidentally made her way into the undertow, taking her away. And the further from her parents she got, the less she remembered them.
Suddenly flooded with recall — and determined to find the mom and dad she assumes must still be worrying about her — Dory sets off with a reluctant Marlin and an excited Nemo to track down her parents. Their journey takes them to a seaside theme park and research center where Dory grew up. (There’s a great running gag about the actress who can be heard on recordings everywhere in the facility — as voices of god go, it’s a pretty great one.)
Naturally, our search party gets split up, but they all find allies: Dory gets help from Hank (Ed O’Neill), a grouchy octopus who wants nothing more than a solitary glass tank away from grabby hands, while Marlin and Nemo befriend a pair of slacker sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) who hook them up with a seen-better-days seabird who can provide bucket-in-beak transport for the two fish.
The screenplay (by Victoria Strouse and director Andrew Stanton) is packed to the gills with close calls, ticking clocks and unexpected strategies – it’s a recurrent motif that Dory isn’t just forgetful, she’s also a master of thinking outside of the fishbowl, to the point where Nemo helps Marlin negotiate their way out of a jam by simply asking, “What would Dory do?”
Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane augment the hilarious characters — which also include a pair of bickering whales played by Kaitlin Olson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Ty Burrell — with visual grandeur (who knew there were this many shades of blue?) and comedy, particularly from Hank’s chameleonic and contortionist skills. It’s a sequel, an origin story, and a celebration of what author Armistead Maupin would call “the biological family, and the logical family” all in one.
DeGeneres finds the well of loneliness within this jokey sidekick character, and her yearning for the home she forgot she had is palpable, but “Finding Dory” never quite hits that sweet spot of sadness. The film definitely pushes our buttons as it portrays loss and separation, but it never slows down enough to let us ache.
Even so, “Finding Dory” is rousingly entertaining, with side-jokes and supporting characters that will take their place in the pantheon alongside the “Mine! Mine!” seagulls and surfer-dude turtles (both factions turn up briefly here) from the original. In a year full of sequels nobody really wanted, this is one that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the first one; for that alone, it just keeps swimming against the current.
Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ has crossed the $1 billion mark. One animated flick may gross even more this year.
Their own mammal metropolis isn’t the only place Nick Wildeand Judy Hopps have won over; the bunny-and-fox duo have also dominated the world, with Disney’s Zootopia reaching the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office earlier this week.
It’s the top-earning animated feature of 2016 thus far, well on its way to making twice as much as Kung Fu Panda 3, which is at #2 among animated films this year.
Will Zootopia be king of the 2016 jungle? Or can another animated flick top it?
Box office experts agree: Finding Dory is likely to surpass Zootopia’s $1 billion+ to become the top-earning animated movie of 2016.
A small, unscientific poll of mine also shows that for parents, Finding Dory is the most-anticipated animated film yet to be released this year. It is the most-often mentioned movie from the handful of parent bloggers I emailed asking what animated film they and their kids are most looking forward to. “My family and I are eager to see Finding Dory this month because Finding Nemo is one of our favorites, including just about every Disney Pixar movie too,” Amy Bellgardt, creator of MomSpark.net and mother of two boys told me via email.
Outside of superhero fare, 2016 has thus far been a rough year for franchises, with audiences turning rather anti-sequel, or perhaps having no tolerance for sequels that just aren’t much good. Zoolander 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and Divergent Series: Allegiant have all flopped. Kung Fu Panda 3 wasn’t a total failure, but it has somewhat underperformed, earning less than each of the two other films in the franchise.
But as David Mumpower of Box Office Prophets told us via email, “2016’s anti-sequel consumer behavior shouldn’t impact Finding Dory.”
For seven years, Finding Nemo reigned as Pixar’s highest grossing film, until Toy Story 3 came along. Last year’s Inside Out is the only other film from the studio to surpass Nemo’s box office tally. It still stands as the seventh highest-grossing animated movie of all time at the worldwide box office.
Finding Nemo remains one of Pixar’s most beloved films, frequently topping or nearly topping both fan and critic rankings of the studio’s movies, so Finding Dory will bring the solid established audience not only of Pixar devotees but also fans of Nemo especially.
With Finding Dory coming out 13 years after Nemo, it’s not quite at the point where there’s a sizable number of people who saw it as kids who now have kids of their own to take to the movies — as was the case with The Lion King’s massively successful 2011 re-release — but “it’s pretty close,” Bruce Nash, founder and publisher of The Numbers, pointed out.
Finding Dory topping Zootopia’s gross would make the Pixar sequel the fifth animated movie to cross the $1 billion mark after Toy Story 3, Frozen, Minions, and Zootopia.
The creators of those animation box office champions all have new films coming out this year: Disney’s got Zootopia and Moana. Disney•Pixar has Finding Dory opening a week from now. And Illumination Entertainment, the makers of Minions and the Despicable Me movies, will release The Secret Life of Pets next month.
Secret Life is a kind of Toy Story for dogs and cats and bunnies, showing us what goofy antics our pets are up to when we’re not looking. Zootopia proved that another non-sequel, original concept could join Frozen in the $1 billion club, albeit with the proven brand recognition of Disney.
“Secret Life of Pets can also be a success mid-summer, although $1 billion is too much to expect from it,” Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru said via email.
Just how much will Secret Life’s family relations to Minions boost its box office success? It’ll help, though the box office experts I consulted have divergent thoughts about just how much it’ll help.
Secret Life’s invocation of the film’s connection to Illumination’s uber-popular little yellow guys with the words “from the humans behind Despicable Me” is, according to Mumpower, “one of the strongest marketing slogans imaginable right now. Putting that note in the trailer spikes the box office dramatically.”
Meanwhile, Pandya said, “Tapping into the Minions fan base is a smart starting point,” and Nash said efforts to make mainstream audiences aware of the Minions connection “won’t make a huge deal of difference.”
Nash also noted that DreamWorks Animation wasn’t able to translate the popularity of its Shrek films into success for the movies that followed the first couple of Shrek installments. How to Train Your Dragon and the Madagascar franchise is where DreamWorks later found box office success, though the four Shrek movies still top the animation studio’s list of highest grossing films.
Though Mumpower has confidence in the power of Secret Life’s link to Minions, he added, “I suspect that Secret Life of Pets would have succeeded if it had come first [among Illumination’s films]. The attachment humans have for their pets fosters continued interest in such concepts, and this movie in particular has a terrific ad campaign. The prim [poodle] rocking out to heavy metal is a perfect animated comedy gag.”
Universal Studios, which is distributing the film, is tapping into that dog-lover and cat-lover audience with a huge partnership with PetSmart.
Looking back at Zootopia, what accounted for its success? It was a film praised by both critics and audiences, and it had a long stretch of time without any competition from other family movies.* Moana has the strong potential to find success for similar reasons, along with the Disney brand recognition. It hits theaters on Thanksgiving weekend, following Trolls’ early November opening and ahead of the Christmas week premiere of Sing, Illumination Entertainment’s movie about animals in an American Idol-esque competition. So Moana doesn’t have quite as much space to itself as Zootopia did, but it’s safe to bet it’ll be the reigning animated movie of the holiday season. Moana, ostensibly introducing the House of Mouse’s first Polynesian princess, features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Nash does not expect Miranda’s involvement to be a box office boost in and of itself, despite the massive popularity of Miranda’s Hamilton. Disney musicals are already recognized for their quality tunes, so the film already has its draw for the music (which we may be hearing for the first time in the trailer set to hit the web this Sunday).