‘Finding Dory’: 5 Reasons the Pixar Sequel Smashed Records

Finding Dory
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

'Finding Dory': 5 Reasons the Pixar Sequel Smashed Records

Finding Dory” shattered box office records this weekend, setting a new high-water mark for an animated film debut with its $136.2 million opening.

The sequel to 2003’s “Finding Nemo” succeeded where many followups this summer have failed, nearly doubling the original film’s $70.2 million launch. Its impressive results come amidst fears that the movie business is suffering from “sequelitis,” as one by one spinoffs and fresh installments such as “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” sputter at the box office.

Here are five reasons that Disney and Pixar were able to make a big splash with “Finding Dory.”

1.) Pixar is the Movie Business’ Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval

Over the course of 17 films, Pixar has established a reputation for excellence that is nearly unparalleled. Perhaps only Miramax during its ’90s heyday rivals the Pixar association with quality films, and its run of “Pulp Fiction,” “The English Patient” and “The Crying Game” was pitched to a markedly different demographic.

With the exception of the “Cars” films, critics have embraced the company’s films, treating them as works of art, not craven cash grabs. And audiences have responded in kind, handing every film the studio makes an A CinemaScore rating. Consequently, moviegoers know that when Pixar’s name is attached to a film, attention must be paid.

2.) Girl Power Matters

Dory, the short-term memory addled fish voiced so memorably by Ellen DeGeneres, swims into center stage in the sequel. Disney films have historically catered to young girls. After all, the Magic Kingdom’s riches come from its Disney Princess franchise. But in recent years, the studio has done an admirable job of moving beyond royal wedding wish fulfillment. Characters such as Judy Hopps (“Zootopia”), Riley Andersen (“Inside Out”), Merida (“Brave”) and, yes, Dory represent a wider range of female experiences and boast character traits beyond simply waiting around for their prince. They are archers, cops, teenage girls, even forgetful fish.

That diversity has paid off at the box office. “Inside Out,” “Zootopia” and “Finding Dory” have all drawn more females than males, with comScore’s post-track service reporting that 62% of the opening weekend crowd for the “Finding Nemo” follow-up was comprised of women. After a summer where major movies such as “Captain America: Civil War” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” have largely centered on men, having a woman in the central role is a refreshing change of pace.

Having one of the most powerful women in entertainment didn’t hurt matters. DeGeneres worked her passionate network of fans, debuting trailers for “Finding Dory” on her talk show and tweeting about the movie to her 60.4 million followers.

3.) Where’s the Competition? 

With school getting out, there’s been a dearth of films geared at families. Well, at least films that people wanted to see. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” were rejected by audiences, and it’s been a month since “Angry Birds” debuted. The lack of compelling entertainment options had audiences primed to hit the multiplexes for Pixar’s new release, and expect healthy business on Sunday as dads and kids hit the theater in celebration of Father’s Day.

Looking ahead, “Finding Dory” will continue to benefit from a lack of competition. “The BFG” doesn’t open for another two weeks and is tracking poorly, and the next likely family fueled smash doesn’t land until July 8 when “The Secret Life of Pets” debuts.

4,) Adults Came Too 

Pixar films aren’t just for little kids. “Finding Dory” attracted a diverse crowd, with adults making up 26% of its audience and teenagers accounting for 9% of ticket buyers. In another sign of its all-ages appeal, “Finding Dory” continued to do well in later showtimes when younger children are typically in bed. The sequel did $4 million worth of business after 7 p.m. on Friday and roughly the same amount after that time on Saturday. That’s double what “Inside Out” did in those opening weekend slots, and a signal that adults are nearly as eager to see Dory reconnect with her long-lost parents as kids are.

5.) Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

In the 13 years since “Finding Nemo” became a blockbuster success, the film has expanded its fan base. The kids who made the first film a smash may have moved on to high school, college and young adulthood, but they still showed up to support the sequel. Plus, thanks to a steady stream of showings on television and home entertainment platforms, new generations have been turned on to the ocean creatures who populate the animated hits.

More importantly, at a time when there have been sequels to films that people didn’t enjoy the first go round (see: “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) or ill-conceived followups that felt like rush-jobs (we’re looking at you “Allegiant” and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”), “Finding Dory” co-writer and co-director Andrew Stanton took the time he needed to have his eureka moment. Too often these films seemed to have been jerry-rigged by committee, tossed together in the hopes of meeting some arbitrary release date, selected so a studio can hit its quarterly numbers. It’s not like “Finding Dory” was a difficult greenlight for Disney, but Pixar deserves credit for having the patience to let Stanton and company cogitate until they could find a fresh way to continue the saga of Dory, Nemo and Marlin.

For audiences and for Pixar, “Finding Dory” proves that some things are worth the wait.

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  1. Wiggle1250 says:

    It was simply a good story meticulously executed.

  2. Monkey Xena says:

    It should be noted how loved finding nemo was to movie goers! Pixar isn’t known to make numerous sequels like its rival animation studio…Dreamworks, who has made a sequel for almost every film. Not to mention them milking their characters into low quality tv series.

    Pixar is known in the animation industry as a studio who cares about their work and not the money. The story and reaching out to the audience is the highest priority for these artists. Toy Story 2 was half way through production when John Lassetter saw it was headed in the wrong direction and took the movie back to story board.

    Though there are many economic factors that may have affected the amazing box office results I would say the main reason is the relentless care and quality work these creative minds work everyday to achieve.

    Pixar is a one of a kind company. They are a breath of fresh air in this corrupt money making society.

  3. Dory says:

    i love nemo and i will love this too…………….

  4. EricJ says:

    “Finding Dory co-writer and co-director Andrew Stanton took the time he needed to have his eureka moment.”

    Well, that’s what -he- told you, anyway–Truth is, TS3, Monsters University and Dory were all made to fulfill legal obligations dating back to when Michael Eisner tried to create a competing CGI studio to try and “crush” Pixar. After the merger, three competing scripts became Disney/Pixar property, and Lasseter had to make three original films under those titles to establish original authorship.
    More to the point, he made three good ORIGINAL ones.

  5. Gussy says:

    A dad here who saw it with my wife and six year old on Father’s Day. The CGI has hit magical levels and this film was so heart felt and sweet, without being sappy (one of PIxar’s specialties). I’m very glad we went to see it in the theatre. This is one of the films that gets better the more you think back on it.

  6. anne says:

    One reason Finding Dory is popular is because it’s neither obscene or violent—Many people are sick of the filth coming into our theaters.

  7. EricJ says:

    The correct answer is 1+3.

    Although 1) also comes from the fact that Pixar, who normally doesn’t like sequels and tries to twist them even when they “have” to, develops -original- stories in committee, with a better agreed-upon idea of what the majority of an audience wants to see.
    Even before the Pixar movie showed up, WDFA’s Zootopia remained the Last Movie Standing among the other movies attempts to start “new linked franchise tentpoles”, that all dropped like flies when they forgot to consider why an audience would actually go to their new “franchise” in the first place.

    If there’s one bruised, bloody, beaten lesson studios should learn from the Massacre of ’16, it’s to stop being afraid of an original-story script. I don’t mean Sundance or indie, I mean “Let screenwriters MAKE UP something and surprise us!”
    Pixar and WDFA do, and that’s why they wipe the floor with every other studio.

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