When one hears that Pixar, a studio that built its empire on original ideas, entered the game of turning there most beloved properties, Finding Nemo, into a franchise, a wave on uncertainty starts to creep in. Yet, as mentioned months ago on Celluloid Cinema, Pixar remains as one of the only studios that understands how to make films properly. In effect, Finding Dory reminds audiences how great sequels can actually be. Finding Dory not only serves as a great example of how one should build off of a film in order to create a sequel, but it also highlights many of the key factors that Pixar executes in order to create an engaging story for every age group.
One of the issues that many sequels face is that the filmmakers try to recapture the success the original film. While logically this method of thinking makes sense and the saying goes, “If it’s not broken don’t fix it,” this way of thinking doesn’t make sense in the context of cinema. More often than not the success of the original film was based in large part of its originality. As a result, in order to make a sequel film successful, filmmakers must make sure that the film stays in the same realm of the original, but also different enough so it is fresh to the audience. As one could understand this is a difficult position to be in. Yet, in Finding Dory, the filmmakers behind the film were able to perfectly put their film into this crucial middle ground. While many sequels face the problem of putting supporting characters from previous films in too big of a role, in Finding Dory most of the previous film’s characters that audiences want to see, are shown very early on in the first act and do not serve any large roles that are meant to impact the story. While this may seem like the smartest way to appease the audience and move on with the film, it also puts a great deal of stress on the filmmakers as they must now create a new supporting cast of characters that can take the place of characters audiences have loved for several years. Again, the filmmakers at Pixar are able to complete this task by not trying to replace the old characters with similar versions that they know the audience will love, but instead by just creating organic characters that aide the story. This resulted in original characters that appear as if they were created for their own standalone film and not part of a greater franchise.
The next difficult challenge that faces many sequels is deciding if the film’s story should center on the main characters of the first film, or attempt to make the film’s story center around a supporting character from the first film. In this case, Pixar decided the best story could be told if the film centered on Dory, a supporting character in the first film. This is a more ambitious route as Dory was seen as the comic relief in the first film, which means the filmmakers would have to make sure that they instilled some sort of dramatic elements to her story in order to build suspense. This is why right of the bat, Pixar hit the audience with one of their patented heart wrenching openings. By this point audiences should not be surprised when Pixar opens its films with emotionally devastating scenes, yet just as Wall-E, Up, Inside Out, and even Finding Nemo, Finding Dory’s opening scene hits us like a ton of bricks. In the first film Dory’s ability to forget things instantly acts as comedic relief in order to progress plot points or put her and Marlin in precarious situations, but in Finding Dory it is apparent how much this curse has plagued her life. After showing in the opening seven minutes the effects that her forgetfulness has placed on her family and the course of her life, the audience is left with feeling the need for Dory to succeed and find happiness, thus easily getting the audience on board with everything else that she does throughout the course of the film and feeling the appropriate emotions throughout.
The next talking point is not necessarily one that is exclusive to just Finding Dory, but most Pixar films in general. While most would categorize an animated film about talking fish as a children’s film in the same way one would categorize a drama about parent’s losing their mentally challenged daughter as a mature film, Pixar is able to make both of these stories by satisfying both audiences with one film. On one end of the spectrum Pixar is able to play with the innate fear of losing one’s parent which allows for children that are watching the film to feel sad and symphonize with Dory while on the other end of the spectrum adults are able to see the difficulty Dory’s parents face with raising a child that has to deal with a mental disability. Because the film does not pick one side of the narrative as more important than the other and uses flashbacks to reveal both sides of the narrative, the film is able to effectively satisfy both audiences and really explore the complexities of the situation. This combination also exists in the story telling of each scene where whenever there is a tense moment that may be too much for children to handle a joke is interested to lighten the mood. Conversely, this same method is used in reverse when the film starts to become too light hearted a shockwave of reality is inserted to grip the adult’s attention.
For the second straight year, Pixar looks to be the front-runner for best-animated film of the year, as they clearly understand every facet of filmmaking and story telling. Finding Dory appeals to such a wide demographic mostly in part because of how little it relies on its predecessor to be entertaining but mostly because it offers so much for all age groups. The film is perfect in every aspect and without errors throughout making it a crime for Celluloid Cinema to give it any less than 5 out of 5 Reels.
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