Ages 11 and under
Male and Female
It all appropriately starts with Dory as a cute little tyke being taught by her parents how to explain her short-term memory loss to others. Then this touching opening turns immediately devastating as she wonders if she would ever forget her parents. Mom and pop simply affirm to her: follow the shells to find her way home. Then suddenly, she unexplainably appears in the middle of a dark kelp forest, separated from her parents. What happened to them? Where are they? How can she find her way home?
It would be easy, except she doesn’t remember.
Now little Dory has nothing to do other than wander the ocean asking random fish where her mommy and daddy are. Yes, only five minutes in and it’s already the second most devastating way to start a family movie (number one being Up). Eventually, she forgets what she’s even searching for, left only to wander the ocean for the rest of her life, questioning her own existence. Here is where Marlin comes in.
One year later, she’s living in a coral bed across Marlin and Nemo’s anemone. Life seems just fine, until a freak accident causes her to remember something: her parents are in California! Thus, she talks Marlin and Nemo into going with her across the ocean to find her parents. Once a traumatizing giant squid attack follows after a trip through the East Australian Current, Dory gets separated from her clown fish friends, ending up in the Marine Life Institute, quarantined and tagged for shipment to the Cleveland aquarium. Yet she’ll stop at nothing to find her family!
Yes, it is unbelievably tragic to see how her short-term memory loss got her into such a bad place; it makes her character in Finding Nemo so much deeper, accomplishing exactly what any sequel should accomplish. But she thankfully has some friends to help her along the way. There’s Hank the cranky septopus, whose slippery tentacle movements create some phenomenal visual gags with his camouflage ability. There’s Destiny the ditsy whale shark, who can’t stop running her head into things. There’s Bailey the beluga whale, who adds some fantastic comedic material with his whale shark friend. There’s Becky the silent loon, who pecks at anything that moves. There are Rudder and Fluke, the lazy sea lions who are relatively weak in spite of some definite hard-hitting laughs. There are the irresistibly cute otters who you just want to cuddle with. Then there are Dory’s loving parents, who undeniably care for their little girl.
Along with the memorable new characters and intense emotion, the world’s setup also adds tremendous influence on Dory’s journey of literal self-discovery. While it’s not in the ocean, it’s for the majority of the part in the amusement park reminiscing Sea World. The film’s director Andrew Stanton has stated that Finding Dory features a new upgrade from their usual RenderMan system, allowing the animators to craft indirect light. Now let me tell you something: it pays off—each individual location has its own set of colors and textures to brim its own unique feel, making you feel like you’re there. It’s incredible to see how the barnacles and kelp decorate the environment, as well as how the soft, vivid memories of Dory are rendered as they come back to her. The aquarium’s brilliant blue fish tank looks the most visually satisfying of all the set pieces, all even more of an immersive delight in 3D. It almost seems like computer animation exists specifically for underwater animation.
In the end, the stunning animation adds so much power into Dory’s discovery of her past. It’s all a matter of asking, “What would Dory do?” I felt surprisingly empowered while seeing a seemingly hopeless fish like Dory resolved a major issue independently by learning the way around her disability. Contrary to my thoughts coming into the theater, the mentally disabled can learn quite a bit from Finding Dory.
To tell the truth, I was at first worried about how Finding Dory would turn out. I originally feared it would become nothing besides the writers taking advantage of nostalgic fan service to overuse the famous character’s short-term memory loss solely for laughs. Worst of all, it would dumb her down into an offensive stereotype toward people who actually have her condition. But you know what? Finding Dory instead did the opposite, showing how tragic short-term memory loss can really be for a poor little fish.
While the film does have moments that play off her disability for laughs, for the most part, her disability is shown for what it is: a block in the road that prevents her from having the same conveniences as others. But Dory was still able to bring back some scattered memories by looking at other relatable objects, such as the seashells that help her to find her way home.
As for myself, I too have mental drawbacks that prevent me from having the same social conveniences as my peers. It takes me longer to register a person’s feelings, and I can’t always tell whenever I say something to somebody that comes off as offensive. It has gotten significantly better for me over the years, but if you met me as a teenager, you would almost wonder if I would ever control my inappropriate verbal comments. Yet that wasn’t my most prominent issue. My autism also made it challenging for me to understand the rules of friendship. To this day I am still figuring out how a proper friendship sustains over time.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #75: Practice, Practice, Practice! Progress Will Happen.
But that’s when I got my own personal methods to help me out. After going through some self-accommodation courses, I decided that I need to limit my social time. I do enjoy meeting with people and getting to know them, it’s just that there’s a point after a few hours when too much becomes too much.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #98: Give Them Time on their Own.
Every person with something unique that holds them back has the ability to find ways around that roadblock. We should never think less about whoever is facing those complications, or even worse, demean them for lacking what others don’t have.
Which leads me into my next point relating to the most controversial element of Finding Dory, two of the comic relief characters: George and Becky.
George is a mute sea lion who isn’t very bright. Because of his difference, he is bullied by the other sea lions in moments played strictly for laughs. Becky is a loon who seems a little “looney,” and that character trait alone makes her the funniest character in the film. But what do I think of that treatment of two characters who are a little different from the others?
To be frank, Finding Nemo was also rather irresponsible in its treatment of disability as comic relief. Dory’s short-term memory loss was played for laughs the entire time, causing us to laugh and mock her for what made her apparently weaker than the nondisabled. Therefore here, in Finding Dory, the same routine is followed all over again, except with two minor characters who have only a few minutes of screen time. I do agree with several who complain about how the treatment towards George and Becky contradicts the message of celebrating differences, but compared to the first movie, the treatment of the title character proves an enormous step forward in acceptance of disabilities.
So whether if you have Alzheimer’s, dementia, down syndrome, autism, Asperger’s, blindness, deafness, muteness, or even are a bit short on remembering things, keep in mind one philosophy: whatever seems to hold you back from everyone else will never hold you back from yourself. If Dory can ignore her mental situation to make it all the way to a Californian aquarium, then you can do similar. If Dory can remember little things by seeing related items, you too can do similar. Dory has her own unique way of remembering things which works toward her survival. As for you, you too have that one unique thing to help you to overcome your one unique obstacle. It proves that nobody is really disabled, but rather challenged to attack the issues of life from a different angle.
- If you have a child with a mental or physical disability, discuss with him or her about what tangible approaches could help get around the disability, similar to how Dory’s parents used seashells to help her remember things.
- Don’t think of a disability as being unable to function. It just means that there is a lifelong trial that requires participation from all friends and family in order to comfortably live life surrounded by loved ones.
- Unlike some of the characters in this movie, do not ever demean or pick on somebody who looks more incapable than you. You don’t know what the other people around you are going through, or what they are capable of doing.
If there is a specific movie in my Review List you’d like me to do an autism lesson on, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
EXCLUSIVE: Interview with FINDING DORY Director Andrew Stanton on Diving Into Pixar's Big Sequel. Everything Pixar. The Walt Disney Company, 1 Mar 2016. Web. <http://www.everythingpixar.com/home/exclusive-interview-with-finding-dory-director-andrew-stanton-on-diving-into-pixars-big-sequel>.
Finding Dory. Disney. Web. <http://movies.disney.com/finding-dory>.
Weintraub, Steve. Pixar CTO Steve May on ‘Finding Dory’ and the New RenderMan Software. Collider. Complex Media Inc., 1 June 2016. Web. <http://collider.com/steve-may-finding-dory-renderman-pixar-interview/>.