Pixar: the animation powerhouse that forced Disney to accept a new mantra, “If you can’t beat em, buy em.” Always reticent to embrace the idea of sequels for their properties, they went back to the well (ocean?) this year for a followup to one of their greatest successes, 2003’s Finding Nemo. Despite that film taking nearly $1 billion at the box office, writer/director Andrew Stanton was always on record as resisting making a followup. “We’ll only make a sequel if the idea is that good,” he said. Well, with Finding Dory, Stanton had a very good idea.
Despite a few blips (Cars, urgh), Pixar have had an unparalleled run of excellence. and Finding Dory continues their tradition of wonderful storytelling, impressive vocal talent. and beautiful animation. Its familiarity to the original film can’t be argued – it’s a similar scenario – but this time it’s Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) setting out in search of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). It’s her tale, and one tinged with tragedy. Her fragmented memory starts to rebuild memories offering us her backstory, showing glimpses of her childhood and loving parents Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton) and how she came to be separated from them. With this realization, she sets out, determined to be reunited with them.
It’s Dory’s journey that reshapes the film into something more unique, a sad tale made all the more poignant as memories drip in and she meets friends, some old, some new, who help her on her journey. It’s one that’s met with the flourish you’d expect from Pixar in terms of visuals, humor, and heart. DeGeneres is perfect once again, her Dory imbued with a cheery and often obvious nature driving her onward. Al Brooks again provides the more crotchety counterpoint. The standout in terms of new additions is Ed O’Neill, whose ninja-like “septopus” Hank threatens to steal the show. Also making their marks are Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as whale shark Destiny and Ty Burrell (Modern Family) as beluga whale Bailey.
It’s this balance of being familiar and fresh that makes Finding Dory work, reinforcing the themes from the original film and deepening them while allowing us to revisit some cherished characters and meet some new ones. Adventure combines with sentiment and humor. Some may find it too repetitive, but the film is so polished and charming it washes much of that sentiment away.
THE PACKAGEPixar Blu-ray releases are usually great choices to show off a new TV, such is the quality of the visuals and clarity of the transfer; and Findng Dory is no different. Colors are vibrant, popping off the screen. Details are sharp; it’s as close to flawless as transfer as you’ll get.
The release contains two Blu-ray discs, the first containing the movie and a handful of extras, the second being home entirely to special features.
- Piper – One of Pixar’s delightful animated shorts, this time observing a young bird attempting to overcome its fear of water and leave the nest.
- Marine Life Interviews (All-New Mini Short) – Amusing animation shorts of the various characters from the film reflecting on their relationships with Dory.
- The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar – A look at the efforts that went into bringing the new character Hank to life.
- What Were We Talking About? – A breakdown of how Dory was approached as a character, focusing primarily on how to handle her memory loss.
- Casual Carpool – Stanton takes the wheel in a little ride-about town with a number of cast members joining. Nice banter but dispensable fare.
- Animation & Acting – A short featurette showing how the cast, director, and animators collude to bring their talents to the screen.
- Deep in the Kelp – A short piece about how the animators researched marine life to create their own digital versions.
- Creature Features – Short interviews with the cast about their respective characters.
- Audio Commentary – with Andrew Stanton, Co-Director Angus MacLane, and Producer Lindsey Collins. A interesting commentary that gives a lot of insight into how the sequel was approached, tweaking ideas and characters as well as the technical aspects of making the film.
- Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer – One of Pixar’s top animators talks about his career and approach to character design.
- Dory’s Theme – Director Andrew Stanton, Composer Tom Newman, and Music Editor Bill Bernstein discuss their approach to music for the film.
- Rough Day on the Reef – Sometimes computers render things incorrectly, or glitches creep in. This short shows some of he more bizarre things to crop up while making the film.
- Deleted Scenes – Seven scenes, with a total run-time of around 50 minutes. They are incomplete, but each is introduced by Stanton with an explanation for their exclusion.
- Living Aquariums – Four nifty animated sequences, each lasting in excess of an hour, so you can have a Pixar fueled fish tank on your TV whenever you like!
As you can see, it’s a frankly absurd amount of material stuffed into this release. It’s a reflection of the care and detail that went into making Finding Dory that the process was captured in so much detail and subsequently shared with its fans.
THE BOTTOM LINEDisney/Pixar once again show their mastery of the home video release. Finding Dory is a delightful tale, beautifully brought to life with stunning visuals and a lot of heart. This Blu-ray enriches your appreciation for the film and insight into how it was brought to life with a cornucopia of content. A truly impressive release.
Finding Dory is available on Digital HD on October 25th and Blu-ray on November 15th.