Thirteen years after “Finding Nemo,” Disney’s “Finding Dory” found an audience across a broad age span and set a North American opening weekend record for an animated movie with a box office take of $136.2 million, besting DreamWorks Animation SKG’s 2007 $121.6 million “Shrek the Third” opening in 2007.
“The 13 years between installments meant younger moviegoers attended alongside older patrons who saw the first film as children. (Disney executives refer to that latter group as ‘generation Nemo,’” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s EVP of distribution, Erich Schwartzel writes for the Wall Street Journal. “Evening show times pulled in almost double the business of Pixar’s ‘Inside Out,’ [Hollis] said — an indication of older moviegoers showing up.”
“‘Finding Nemo’ director Andrew Stanton returned to helm ‘Finding Dory’ alongside co-director Angus MacLane. Ellen DeGeneres also returned to voice the title role of Dory alongside ‘Finding Nemo’s Albert Brooks. This time out, Hayden Rolence voices the character Nemo, recounts Pamela McClintock for the Hollywood Reporter. “The sequel is set six months after the events of the first pic, and focuses on Dory's attempts to reunite with her family even as she battles an endless cycle of amnesia.”
“Critics loved the movie with 95% giving positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com,” reports Bloomberg’s Anousha Sakoui, and that evidently pushed it beyond expectations. “While Disney said it expected a domestic debut north of $100 million, Doug Stone, president of Box Office Analyst, estimated a tally as high as $135 million. BoxOfficePro.com predicted $131 million, while the Hollywood Stock Exchange indicated a debut total of $122 million as of Thursday.”
Made by Pixar, the film “beat the animation brand’s opening weekend record of $110.3 million set by ‘Toy Story 3’ in 2010” and “could be the biggest of the summer, according to Bloomberg Intelligence,” Sakoui writes.
“Finding Dory just showed total domination this weekend,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian tellsUSA Today’s Bryan Alexander. “The ‘Finding Nemo’ brand has been building with audiences for 13 years, first on the big screen and then on the small screen. That set the stage for this spectacular debut, bigger than anyone expected.”
Sixty-two percent of the audience consisted of women and girls, according to comScore, Alexander reports. “It was girl power all the way with this terrific female character,” Dergarabedian tells him.
“‘Finding Nemo’ is still Pixar’s biggest ‘adjusted for inflation’ hit ever, and it has remained one of their defining achievements,” writes Scott Mendelson for Forbes. “That means [‘Finding Dory’ is] playing as much to people my age (who saw the original in college) as it is to younger kids who saw the original growing up (it was the first movie my daughter watched repeatedly) and those who are relatively new to its respective charms.”
But not everyone was as enamored of the sequel.
“Because no one compensates for a thin concept like the people at Pixar, there is a lot to admire in the animated ‘Dory,’ including stunning undersea visuals and an ocean full of eccentric and engaging aquatic creatures. But, as the 13-year gap between ‘Nemo’ and ‘Dory’ indicates, this was not a concept that cried out to be made,” writes Kenneth Turan for the Los Angeles Times. He says “the results are only sporadically encouraging” and concludes it “remains a mid-range effort, not a game changer like ‘Wall-E,’ which was also directed by Stanton.”
But the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern finds ‘Dory’ to be “great fun” and points out that it is “very much about disability, and full of life lessons, gently taught, about family, friendship, celebrating differences and accepting one’s self — lessons that could, in their totality, sink a less buoyant production than this one.”
“Just as a cigar is never really just a cigar, a Pixar movie is never really just a Pixar movie, writes Stephanie Zacharek for Time. “Grownups delight in pointing out that these painstakingly crafted entertainments are always, deep down, about important things: the inner life of preteen girls, the need for family and community, the recognition that it’s O.K. to be different or to feel overwhelmed by everyday life. Meanwhile, kids just come for the talking fish.”
And when they get home, let us not forget, they want the merchandise.