Today the official title of Disney/Pixar‘s “Finding Nemo” sequel was unveiled, along with select plot details and a confirmation that at least one big time cast member (Ellen DeGeneres) is set to return (Albert Brooks will be back too). Andrew Stanton‘s “Finding Dory” will hit cinemas in the fall of 2015, which was enough for us to wonder what, exactly, the high profile sequel will mean to Pixar (and we came up with some pretty interesting answers, admittedly). Grab your scuba gear and get ready to go back down into the big blue world.
1. A Return To Glory For Andrew Stanton
Andrew Stanton was always one of the most well regarded of Pixar all-star filmmakers, having had a significant creative hand in every feature from the studio since their first, 1995’s groundbreaking “Toy Story,” and scoring what was, at one point the highest grossing animated feature of all time with 2003’s “Finding Nemo” (based on a script he had developed and written on his own). Stanton is also creatively restless, following up the phenomenal success of “Finding Nemo” with the more difficult, almost experimental “WALL-E,” which featured very little dialogue and sharply pointed satire. When he wanted to make an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ “John Carter of Mars” both Pixar and Disney got behind him (for a while anyway). It was only after the eventual “John Carter” (released without the Pixar name but remaining, for all intents and purposes, the first live action Pixar movie) lost a reported $200 million for Disney that his place in the hierarchy was called into question. Disney, for its part, was desperate to have him remain and Stanton, who a lengthy New Yorker profile revealed to be singularly driven to an almost unhealthy degree, was desperate to have another hit. A period of time originally scheduled for the writing and pre-production of another “John Carter” was quietly allocated, instead, for work on another “Finding Nemo.” “Finding Dory” will undoubtedly restore Stanton to his vaulted place in the Pixar chain of command and has a shot at once again becoming a massive hit. It also guarantees that, combined with “The Avengers 2” and the seventh “Star Wars” movie, Disney is pretty much going to outright own the 2015 box office.
2. This Is The First Time Two Pixar Movies Have Been Released In The Same Year
For a while there was a fuzzy thought that a Pixar “mystery movie” had been scheduled for the fall of 2015, although this was far from certain, considering that the way that Disney is currently structured, Pixar movies come out in the summer and Walt Disney Feature Animation projects come out in the fall (of which there are a number in active development, including the Rumplestiltskin riff “The Name Game“). So the mystery slot could have just as easily gone to one of the Disney projects (or something else entirely – keep in mind that Disney owns Marvel and Lucasfilm, and that a rich library of characters and titles can be found in both). Many online film journalists claimed that the fall 2015 slot would be occupied by a fourth “Toy Story” movie (our sources, back then, claimed that this was “possible but unlikely”). Instead, it’s “Finding Dory,” which makes much, much, much more sense. If Pixar continues with this aggressive production and release schedule, it will more actively compete with DreamWorks Animation, which currently releases two movies a year (this year it’s “The Croods” and “Turbo“) and has flirted in the past with kicking that number up to three (it seems unlikely now, given the studio’s financial woes, but is still a possibility). We hope the Canadian Pixar campus is ready for the extra workload…
3. What Now With That “Mystery Project?”
So with the “fall 2015” slot occupied by “Finding Dory,” that means that the remaining project for 2016 is going to be what most are calling “The Untitled Pixar Movie about The Día de los Muertos” from Lee Unkrich that’s currently undated. (“The Inside Out” from “Up” director Pete Docter and “Toy Story 3” screenwriter Michael Arndt is dated for June 19, 2015). This means that the fall 2016 slot previously occupied by “Finding Dory” is wide open. Like we said, that spot could just as easily go to a Walt Disney Feature Animation project or something else entirely (Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel, god-knows-what – remember that “Planes” was a direct-to-video “Cars” spin-off until a few weeks ago, now it’s a big time late summer theatrical release). We honestly cannot begin to speculate what the project would be, which means that journalists far lazier than us will start saying things like “Toy Story 4” and “Incredibles 2,” neither of which seem like even remote possibilities. There is, of course, the project that “Safety Not Guaranteed” writer Derek Connolly is penning for the studio (to be directed by Teddy Newton, who did the great “Day & Night” short film), which could easily slide into that 2016 slot and apparently Marti Noxon, former Joss Whedon confederate, has another, as-yet-officially announced project brewing. We just need an official announcement from the studio, to at least narrow the scope of the speculation.
4. This Is The Second Time A “Finding Nemo” Sequel Has Been Attempted
We would be remiss if we didn’t bring up the fact that this is actually the second time that a sequel to “Finding Nemo” has been attempted. Back when talks between Disney (led then by Michael Eisner) and Pixar started to break down, Disney set up a contingency plan. When it looked like Pixar was going to leave Disney for good, Disney reacted in force – they established Circle 7 Animation, a new, state-of-the-art computer animation facility that would almost exclusively be responsible for churning out Disney-developed sequels to Pixar-originated films. Most famously, there was a version of “Toy Story 3” being developed that had the gang traveling across the globe to rescue Buzz from a Taiwanese recall. One of these sequels was a “Finding Nemo 2.” They had even hired a writer, Laurie Craig, to do the screenplay for the film (plot specifics have never been revealed). When Disney bought Pixar for more than $7 billion, plans for these sequels was scrapped and Circle 7 quietly closed for good.
5. Get Ready For Even More “Finding Nemo” Stuff, Everywhere
“Finding Nemo” is unquestionably, along with the “Cars” and “Toy Story” franchises, one of the top Disney/Pixar brands. And that’s with only one movie. In the press release announcing “Finding Dory,” they make note of the fact that Dory is the most “liked” Pixar character on Facebook, with 24 million likes. Already the movie’s presence is hugely felt – in Walt Disney World there are several attractions devoted to the property spread across several parks (an entire EPCOT pavilion, The Living Seas, was re-themed around Nemo and his underwater posse); the same is true at the parks in California (where the iconic Submarine Voyage now has a cheery “Finding Nemo” overlay), Hong Kong, and Tokyo. There’s an entire wing of a newly opened hotel at the Florida property themed to “Finding Nemo.” And if you have a room on one of the newer Disney cruise line ships that doesn’t have an actual window, then you can look out the “virtual porthole,” which features a live video feed of the ocean and (you guessed it) “Finding Nemo” animated characters (there’s also a “Nemo’s Reef” water park area). This kind of synergistic, cross-platform saturation will only increases and intensify with the release of “Finding Dory,” which will see a whole new slew of products and attractions sweep across Disney’s various media platforms. By the time “Finding Dory” comes out everyone is going to be soaked.
Keep in mind that in 2015, Disney will be unleashing “Finding Dory,” “Star Wars: Episode VII,” “The Avengers 2” and (conceivably) the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean,” to be written by “Catch Me If You Can” scribe Jeff Nathanson and, should “The Lone Ranger” turn out like everyone wants it to, see the return of Gore Verbinski to the director’s chair. If one studio is virtually guaranteed box office dominance in 2015, it’s Disney. In other words: buy your stock now.
“Finding Dory” opens on November 25th, 2015. Just keep swimming.