Finding Dory served up a sequel/spinoff of the world that Nemo inhabited, with Ellen DeGeneres’ squeaky regal blue tang heading off in search of the family she had long forgotten about. With the help of Nemo and his dad Marlin, as well as a new cast of characters including the near-sighted whale Destiny, the echo-location-free beluga whale Bailey, and the scene-stealing red octopus Hank, Dory treks from the exotic wild back to the Marine Life Institute. Along the way, she splashes through wild adventures and colorful seascapes that will delight children and adults.
While the film itself could be silent – the visuals that writer/director Andrew Stanton provides in the latest entry to his long Pixar career (Toy Story franchise, Wall.E, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, etc.) are breathtaking – but it has genuine laugh-outloud moments thanks to DeGeneres and a host of other well-cast voices. In addition to Ed O’Neill’s Hank, there are the two sea cantankerous sea lions, Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba and Dominic West), and the batty seagull, Becky. That’s a powerful combination for an animated flick already – hilarious adventures and stunning visuals.
But like Finding Nemo, Finding Dory doesn’t settle for simple entertainment. Here, we have a long look at what it means to be family (both Dory’s adoptive family and her ‘birth parents’), and what it means to live with mental illness (her short-term/middle-term memory loss). Throughout the story, we see different characters interact with Dory’s forgetfulness with varying degrees of grace and understanding (Nemo is helpful and kind; Marlin… not so much all the time). One might even say that Destiny’s blindness and Bailey’s temporary concussive/PTSD-related problems make them a better team because they work together. It’s a reminder of the way that we work in community, and the way that we care for the “least of these.”
In the end, Dory gets where she needs to go because the community comes together. Without help, Dory doesn’t make it, and if we’re realistic and honest with ourselves, neither do we.
Special features on the Blu-ray combo pack include my favorite PIXAR short film ever – Piper – about a baby sandpiper learning the ropes. There’s also a short about the Marine Life creatures discussing Dory, and several looks at the way the animators put together an undersea world that really seems alive. Ironically, Hank’s character proved super difficult – his characterizations get their own feature, “The Octopus that Nearly Broke Pixar.” Overall, Disney nails special features in a way that puts other home media to shame!