Pixar 37: Finding Dory (Spoiler Review)

Ok I figure most everyone has given their normal non-spoiler review at this point so I’m going all spoilery! I’ve seen Finding Dory twice and am ready to dissect and talk about more subtle messages and meaning behind our watery tale. Do not read this review if you have not seen the movie. If you want to know my thoughts watch my youtube review which is non-spoilery (I gave it an A, which on a second watch I might move down to A-).

Now we get all spoilery. You’ve been warned.

finding dory4There are a lot of ways to enjoy Finding Dory. My first watch-through I loved it as a film about a special needs fish and quite possibly Pixar’s funniest film. It’s right up there with Monsters Inc as Pixar film with the most jokes per square inch of screen time. But as I am want to do I dug deeper at some of the more subtle messages in the film. I even pondered on a connection between it and another popular Pixar film that may make Finding Dory more thoughtful than just a silly comedy.

Let’s start by talking about what we know about Dory going into Finding Dory. Obviously she has short-term memory problem. That’s clear in Finding Nemo but what is also clear is how her memory is aided by being around Marlin. Clearly love, support and a continuing presence helps with her memory.  She even remembers “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” from almost the minute that she is around Marlin. It is then no surprise that being with Marlin and Nemo for a year her memories would continue to improve and that’s what we get at the start of Finding Dory. We also learn that Australia is a much more lush and clean area than where she grew up…

finding dory 11Dory has some flashbacks of her parents and herself as a baby fish. Her parents are warm and nurturing- trying their best to raise their daughter and keep her safe.  Dory tells Marlin she must go and find her family and to be honest this surprised me at first. Dory has a family for all intensive purposes already with Nemo and Marlin but she feels a need to find her birth family anyway. With what we see later on in the film I wonder if as soon as she thought of them she was immediately struck with a sense of worry for her family and that is the reason she must hunt them down?

finding dory crushWe get a nice little visit from Crush which is basically the only real speaking part of Finding Dory from Finding Nemo. A lot of people were disappointed by that but I was glad they gave us new characters.  One of the things the film does well is it forgoes the linear storytelling of Nemo in return for a more bumpy narrative. What I mean by that is instead of having one goal and then Marlin finding a friend to carry him through that goal as in Finding Nemo, in Finding Dory, Dory is often alone and confused with what to do. Then she meets one character who helps her a little bit and then another and another. Again, I think there could be a subtle meaning in all of these characters that one solitary companion wouldn’t have shown.

So with Crush’s help they get to California and are at the Marine Life Institute.  This is where we get into the meat of my analysis. The first thing that struck me is how polluted the water around the institute is. Dory even gets stuck in a 6 pack can plastic holder.

dory polutionIsn’t that strange that the water by a marine life institute which supposedly focuses on conservation and saving fish would be so polluted? If we look at the water it looks dirty and gross.

finding dory oceanThen there are two unique things about the Marine Life Institute that stand out. First, the voice of Sigourney Weaver welcomes visitors to the institute. She says “welcome to the Marine Life Institute where we believe in rescue, rehabilitation and release”.  There’s a lot of fishy (pun intended) things going on with this statement and institute but the biggest is where do we also hear Sigourney Weaver’s voice in a Pixar film? Why she is the voice of the Axiom computer in WALLE! Now tell me there is not a double meaning behind that!

axiom walleNow let’s think about what Axiom does. It lulls humans into an acceptance of an imprisoned, satiated life. It is only when the Captain realizes all the breadth and depth of human experience that he revolts against the Axiom and we get the second half of the film. (That’s why I don’t get people who dislike the second half of WALL-E. It’s an amazing awakening for the Captain and the people. I love it!)

I can see some of that same behavior here in Finding Dory. If we think about the largest building at the institute has Quarantine written right on the side.  What happens at quarantine? Not really catch and release like they say. The fish are imprisoned in aquariums and sent off to Cleveland where guess what there is no ocean!

finding dory 12And not only that but what have they succeeded to do? They have convinced Hank, our sentipus friend that he desperately needs to go to Cleveland and that the open water is a bad place. It doesn’t sound like the kind of place that is living up to their mission statement! Also, why is Hank missing a tentacle? That seems a little suspect too.

finding dory9It’s also interesting that all of the marine life immediately agree to help Dory, Marlin and Nemo. If they were in such a great, loving place you’d think they would be resistant to helping.Dory’s parents also set up their home outside of the institute when really to find Dory it makes more sense to go back into the exhibit. I get now why there is no villain in Finding Dory because the INSTITUTE is the villain!!! (Just like in Wall-e)

finding dory homeI think at the very least the Marine Life Institute is a sham! They aren’t releasing fish back into the ocean. In fact, I don’t know if they are even rehabilitating them at all.  Think about Dory. She is taken from the water, given a tag and immediately going to be sent off to Cleveland. That seems strange! There doesn’t seem to be anything happening in quarantine but people overly concerned about the missing octopus, making coffee and coordinating the trip to Cleveland.

finding dory8When Dory has to convince Hank to leave the truck it reminded me a lot of Woody talking to Jesse in Toy Story 2. She has been manipulated to accept a life of imprisonment by Stinky Pete. Woody tells her ‘wouldn’t you give anything to be played with by Emily once again?’.  It’s a similar speech from Dory. Yes, the ending is very silly with an octopus driving a truck but it has a new tension to it when you see it as a desperate escape from a compound!

finding dory destiny and baileyWe also have Destiny and Bailey who are interesting characters.  They are very sweet and funny but they clearly are not being rehabilitated by the institute. In fact, they are just as convinced of their frailties as Hank. Is that not what Axiom would do? It’s Axiom’s voice telling them they are ok and cared for rather than it actually being true.

getting homeHere’s an idea that will blow your mind. What if it is the pollution and treatment by Axiom that caused Dory to lose her memory? I mean short-term memory loss doesn’t happen every day and it makes sense when you think about Axiom. What better way to control subjects than to make them lose their memory?  They are able to successfully make everyone forget in Wall-e so perhaps Dory is just the beginning of that process?

finding dory2At the very least what if the beginning of the Axiom takeover is happening in America and the Marine Life Institute is proof of that type of control? Who knows Cleveland could be the home of the BNL corporation that creates Axiom? We know it is American and Fred Willard certainly has a midwestern voice.

finding dory sea lionsSo could it be that Finding Dory is as much a prequel to WALL-E as sequel to Finding Nemo? That may be a stretch but it’s interesting to think about. It certainly adds a layer of thoughtfulness to all the jokes and enjoyable scenes.

finding dory7On another note, one of the things I loved about the film is the way it dealt with a special needs character. Marlin and even Dory’s parents acknowledge the difficulties of being with someone who has a disability.

There is no doubt it is hard and I like they didn’t sugar coat that but the disabled also see the world through a different lens. We see that with Dory and with Bailey who’s unique vision helps save everyone. Marlin and Nemo even start asking ‘what would Dory do?’ What a great message for kids and families that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they are bad.

DoryI can’t give a review of Finding Dory without talking about the stellar voice cast featuring returning voices Ellen DeGeneres as Dory who is perfect in the role and Albert Brooks as Marlin. Then as new voices we have Ed O’Neill as Hank, Kaitlin Olson as Destiny, Diane Keaton as Dory’s Mom Jenny, Eugene Levy as Dory’s Dad Charlie,  Idris Elba as Fluke the hilarious sea lion and many more.  They are all outstanding and like I said very funny.

finding dory6It also has to be said that Finding Dory is stunningly beautiful. The seascapes both in the aquarium and back in Australia are beautiful. I particularly loved a scene where the stingrays are migrating and they move along and sing like a men’s choir.

sting raysAnd like I said Finding Dory is super funny and sweet on a surface level as well, so it’s got something for everyone!

I hope this review showed you some new layers in Finding Dory. What do you think of the connections to WALL-E?  What was your favorite part about the film? It’s a beautiful animated film from Pixar and one I will definitely be purchasing on blu-ray.

Overall Grade- A-

PS. And notice how I got through this entire review without mentioning The Good Dinosaur once! (I love that movie btw).


Did the Right Film Win? 2008 Animated Oscars

Hey guys! My next video in my analysis of the Animated Oscars is up.  This is 2008 and for a lot of you my thoughts won’t be a surprise as I have reviewed both Wall-e and Bolt on this blog.  I went on a little bit in this video but if you like it I’d love a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Overall, I think all 3 of the nominees in 2008 are strong; although, Kung fu Panda was not as strong as I remembered it on the rewatch.  I even gave it 2 chances and it didn’t wow me.  Particularly the humor isn’t my favorite, but it’s fine.  I can see why others love it and it’s not bad.  Just didn’t love it as much as I did when it first came out.

Bolt is an enjoyable film, if a bit forgettable.  The set-up takes too long but the characters are likable and overall it is entertaining.  I think it was a huge step in the right direction for Disney’s CG films and helped give them the confidence to make better films like Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen and Tangled.

Wall-e is Pixar’s most bold and daring film.  It’s beautiful and I actually love both the silent film and science fiction sections.  Unlike Kung fu Panda it’s a movie that I appreciate new things about it each time I watch it.  I love how the Captain’s eyes are opened and he see’s the fuller life he could live.  It’s really quite moving and tense as they fight the computer to live a better life.  And then scenes like the space ballet with Wall-e and Eve is just breathtaking.  I think it is the most beautiful artistry of Pixar’s history and the best CG has given us from any studio.

So in this case I clearly think the right film won.  What about you?

Pixar Review 23: Wall-E

wall-e-posterIt is very rare a movie will take my breath away.  Wall-e is such a movie.  It is so bold, lovely, magical, sweet, and everything else.  One of my all time favorites.  I know some people think it is boring.  I don’t understand those people.  I really don’t.  Wall-e manages to be at the same time a great sci-fi, romance, silent and animated movie and it does all of those genres proud.

It’s funny because I’ve heard people say that Wall-e is too grown up for kids but in my experience kids seem to be more receptive to it than many adults.  I have yet to watch it with little kids that weren’t completely engaged. A couple of kids described what they liked about it

5-year-old Alex listed it among his favorites: “Wall-E floats in space and he meets a best friend. I love meeting best friends.” His twin, Max, agreed: “Wall-E can float! And he makes square stuff come out of his belly.”

Isn’t that interesting? It’s a mistake to believe kids need a complex plot to engage them.  They need characters they like, doing things they like.  I’ve seen small children watch movies of cows eating for an hour or a bulldozer clearing away land  and be riveted.

So it appeals to kids.  Now we must ask the question- does it appeal to me.  The answer is YES!  Like I said, it is bold and completely charming.  Let’s talk about why I like it .

To begin with Wall-e has one of the strongest introductions of any movie.  Immediately you are immersed in this world of trash and we see Wall-e going about his compacting ways.

Once Wall-e gets home we learn he is a romantic at heart.  In fact, he loves the musical Hello  Dolly, which honestly is much better in this movie than on its own. You can feel Wall-e is lonely and who wouldn’t be with only a cockroach for company for 700 years.   These early sections are virtually dialogue free except for the Dolly songs and I think they are completely brilliant.

On one of his rounds of compacting Wall-e finds a plant inside a fridge and we can tell from his reaction he has never seen such a thing before in all his duties.  Just about that time a visitor arrives.  It is a girl robot that is more futuristic than Wall-e.  Her name is Eve (or Wall-e says EVA).

wall-e4At first Eve  is kind of hostile to Wall-e.  She operates completely by directive and not by the seemingly free choice that Wall-e does.  She shoots at him and doesn’t want him to touch her.  Even after he shows her his home she’s still very jumpy.  She also takes the plant and that sends her into a green mode where she needs to get home and notify the spaceship of the plants.

But Wall-e persists and eventually the two have a moment.  Again there is almost no dialogue during this whole time .

I’m using so many clips because you have to see the beautiful imagery.  That will sell you on the movie much more than my explanation of what it is.  Eve finally gets picked up with the plant and Wall-e follows her, hanging on to the spaceship.  It creates one of the loveliest scenes ever in animation with Wall-e and Eve in space.

Once they arrive on the ship we do get a minor change in storytelling but to me it still maintains the tone and characters Eva and Wall-e that had been developed in the beginning of the movie.  It turns out when the Earth was destroyed the people were sent to a spaceship with all that is needed for them to relax for what was supposed to be 5 years.  Unfortunately 5 years turned into 700 and the people became very lethargic on the ship.

wall-e8They don’t even realize they are being inactive because they are always looking at the screens in front of them on their chairs.  When two characters John and Mary get knocked off their chairs they realize for the first time there is a pool in the ship.  That’s how focused they are on the displays in front of them.

wall-e15We also get introduced to the Captain voiced by Jeff Garlin.  He is seemingly going through the motions but we see him grow in bits as he awakens to the stupor he’s been living in.  He’s been reliant on an autopilot that looks a lot like Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey. This is an easy way of the directors to let us adults know the Autopilot is probably not going to be in the best interests of the people.

Autopilot, Captain and Eve

wall-e14When Eve gives the plant to the Captain the Autopilot goes into a ‘recolonization process’ but it quickly becomes clear the Autopilot has been programmed at the start to not allow a return to Earth.  This creates a battle between Eve, Wall-e, The Captain and a few other machines that they are able to recruit. I really like the team of robots they end up getting together.

W-117:       (left to right) VAQ-M, PR-T, BRL-A, WALL•E, L-T, EVE, HAN-S, M-OAt one point Wall-e is separated from Eve and they end up in space and we get an amazing space ballet of sorts. Again for me one of the most beautiful sequences of any animated film:

Some people might see this as a different tone than the beginning of the film but I don’t.  We still get those sweet moments between Wall-e and Eve especially when Eve thinks Wall-e is gone several times.  To me it is a building of tone and like any great story it starts subtle and builds to a climax. Plus, we get lots of little hints at the ship and leadership in the early scenes with the piles of trash and so to me it makes perfect sense to have both sections of the movie.

It also has moments of humor mixed in especially with Mary and John.  I love when they stop the babies when the ship is tilted and she says ‘Get ready to have some kids!’.   I guess if I was going to nitpick Fred Williard seems like a strange choice to play the CEO that sent the people to space.  He is such a humorous actor I keep expecting him to do something funny but it really isn’t a comedic role at all.

wall-e16As we get to our ending Autopilot has been shut down and the plant found.  The ship is landed and there is a real sense of hope that the people, fat as they might be, are going to make a go of it and that they will start a real life instead of just being floating nothings.

And we get one of my favorite scenes in all of movies.  Wall-e has a new memory chip and at first he doesn’t recognize Eve. It’s so beautiful!

Make sure to stay around for the credits because we get to see Wall-e and Eve through the history of art.

wall-e creditsTo me Wall-e has everything you could want in a movie.  It’s stunningly beautiful. One of the most gorgeous animated films ever made- CG or 2D.

wall-e6It teaches a very important message about taking care of our environment and not forgetting it because of our devices.  Even more it reminds us to continually challenge ourselves and that just doing nothing as fun as might be is not a fulfilling life.  We see that with the Captain when he starts to learn about Earth and he gets more excited with each new discovery.  At the end he glows ‘we can grow a pizza garden!’.  I know I am sometimes tempted by doing nothing and there is a place for that but it doesn’t really lead to lasting happiness and you may miss things right in front of you that could give you joy- like Mary and John missing the pool.

wall-eAside from the message it covers so many genres and does them all well.  It’s sci-fi, silent film, romance, space opera, and more.  It blends it all seemlessly and with such heart that I find myself tearing up at the fate of these robots for goodness sake!

Director Andrew Stanton made a truly unique work of art that is certainly one of my favorites.  The score by Thomas Newman uses the songs from Hello Dolly, La Vie en rose and Stardust along with unique themes.  I agree with Hello Dolly composer Jerry Herman who called ”its incorporation into the story is genius”.

It only takes a moment after all to last your whole life through…

Overall Grade- A+

Most Romantic Disney Movies

Happy Valentines Day friends!

valentinesTonight I am going to see Song of the Sea at the theater but I thought I might give you some romantic inspiration Disney-style.  There have been many great couples in Disney but which one’s are the best for Valentines Day?

Here we go!

12. Nightmare Before Christmas-

Got to pick something different but the love story between Jack and Sally is actually quite sweet. Gives us hope that even the strangest of us have a match.

jack and sally2

11. Bambi

I don’t give enough Bambi love on the blog.  It really is beautiful.  The instant love trope would be brought out so many times by Disney but this was the first and it introduced us to being twitterpated long before twitter!

10. Rescuers Down Under

I think the only Disney Canon with a proposal in it? Help me out if I’m wrong.  Bernard tries over and over again to propose to always be thwarted. I love how Bianca has such faith in Bernard even with the rugged Jake around.


9. Snow White and the 7 Dwarves

Hoping your prince will come?  Why not watch Snow White sing about it?  Have a little hope on Valentines if you are currently single. When the Prince sings One Song it is one of the more underrated Disney musical moments.

8. Tarzan

Tarzan and Jane have lovely chemistry together as they try and understand each other’s world view. Hey and maybe it will help you ladies think twice about those ape-men in your life 😉

tarzan and jane

7. Aladdin

The whole movie is basically a guy trying to impress a girl who has sworn off men.  Perfect for Valentines Day!  We also get a magic carpet ride, A Whole New World and one of the best Disney kisses.

aladdin and jasmine

6. Cinderella

I feel like you almost have to put Cinderella on a list like this.  I mean it’s Cinderella finding her Prince Charming…but I actually think it’s more about a woman getting rescued from an unhappy life.  But it is a beautiful princess falling instantly in love with her Prince and getting married at the end.  Can’t go wrong with that.

Another underrated Disney song-

Pretty much these next 5 are equally loved by me so they are ties for first place!

5. Tangled

Disney’s stab at a romantic comedy and it is great. The banter between Flynn and Rapunzel is so well written . They have great chemistry and we see them grow together the entire movie.  When they get to the lanterns it is such a lovely moment.

tangled flynn and rapunzel

4. Lady and the Tramp

Probably includes the most iconic Disney romantic moment and the scene that made spaghetti synonymous with a hot date.  It is such a sweet and gentle movie that will make even the most grumpy person smile.  I dare you not to smile!


Another one I think you might have to be made of stone to not appreciate.  Wall-e simply loves Eva. It’s as simple as that.  He will do anything for her and it is sweet and innocent and completely lovely.  As Hello Dolly tells us in the movie ” it only took a moment
To be loved a whole life long”

walle and eva

2. Beauty and the Beast

Tale as old as time, tune as old as song.  Bitter sweet and strange finding you can change. Learning you were wrong. Certain as the sun rising in the east…Beauty and the Beast.   Yep. It’s the time when one heart understood another despite him having a ‘hideous’ appearance. We all hope someone will see our heart and love us flaws and all.  No movie exemplifies that hope better than Beauty and the Beast.

1. Up

Usually if people ask I tell them Up is my favorite movie.  It’s certainly in the top 3.  It’s a movie I could watch once a week for the rest of my life and never get sick of.  What it does in the first 10 minutes is my favorite moment of film ever. To show a whole life of a couple is something that always makes me tear up and I’ve seen the movie a lot.  But what moves me even more is how Ellie remains a palatable force in the movie.  Carl talks to her and you feel her presence.  When I first saw Up it was like a hug from my Grandpa who I miss dearly.  It reminded me that he is close by and rooting for me.

up cake
This is how much I love Up. I had this cake made for my housewarming/birthday party when I moved into my house.

If you want to go live action either of the Parent Trap movies are excellent choices with great chemistry from the leads.  Why not have a party and watch both!


What are your favorite Disney romances? What did I miss?