Was happy to go to the movies this weekend with three of my kids, not just because it may have been the last time before the second one heads of to college and I’m left with only my two younger ones at home. We saw Finding Dory, which is the very long-awaited (13 years) sequel to Finding Nemo. It’s got to be one of the longest timeframes between sequels in Disney-slash-Pixar history. My 13-year-old, in attendance, noted that the original film had come out the year she was born and that she and her brother had only ever seen it “on the Disney channel or wherever.”
Raising four kids, you see a lot of children’s films. Something you notice about Disney movies, between growing up with them yourself and watching them with your kids, is that the common theme throughout all of them is parental death. Disney loves a dead parent. From the violent, brutal death of Bambi’s mother right of front of the poor deer back in 1942, Lion King's dad in in the middle, all the way through the violent deaths of Elsa’s parents in Frozen in 2013, and for so, so many movies in between, parents just die. Or they’re evil stepparents. Or they’re just missing, like Belle’s Mom, Ariel’s Mom, Aladdin’s parents, Snow White’s parents, and so many others. Rare is the Disney character with intact, married parents. Mulan had them. Aurora from Sleeping Beauty has them for about five minutes before she got torn away from them to be raised in the forest by fairies who can’t make a cake or decide which dress she should wear before they got her turned over to the evil witch.
Nemo’s mom died tragically in the 2003 film, so here we are in 2016, and I’m wondering who’s gonna get it this time. Ellen DeGeneres is once again wonderful as the voice of Dory, and the film is well-written and directed, thankfully by the film’s original Director/Writer Andrew Stanton; the story is good and many of the original characters return, along with some new ones, like a great “septupus” (seven-legged giant squid) named Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neill. There’s a funny ongoing thing with Sigourney Weaver as the marine life center narrator. Also, the Pixar short film in the beginning (this one about a Sandpiper) never disappoints.
Dory has short-term memory loss, which was a comic bit in the first film, but now has made her realize she wants to find her family again, and the film’s plot revolves around her efforts to find her mom and dad. Knowing Disney’s history with parental reunions/relationships, I thought the entire time that this wasn’t going to go well for her. No way was she going to end up finding both of these fish alive… after 13 years? It’s a fun movie to watch. The exciting adventure-meets-heartwarming-plot, cute characters and script keep adults and kids alike in the audience entertained.
I won’t spoil the ending except to say that after seeing Toy Story 3 and this movie and ending up dabbing at tears by the end of both (aside: Andy didn’t have a dad in Toy Story) and knowing that the writers and directors of these movies now have kids and grandkids of their own, I have to say my theory is that the folks at Disney who used to kill parents off in scripts like it was a fun hobby must be now long gone.