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Given how long it can take for an animated film to be plotted and processed, it’s rare that a headline-grabbing current event changes a feature-length cartoon’s direction. But a recent documentary and the negative reaction it is generating put Pixar Animation Studios on its heels, and forced the animation giant to rewrite the ending to an upcoming sequel.
That would be Finding Dory, the animated follow-up to Andrew Stanton’s Finding Nemo that returns Elle DeGeneres to the role of the forgetful fish. According to the New York Times, the events documented in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s shocking doc Blackfish have prompted Pixar to change its film’s conclusion, set in a Sea World-esque marine park. The Times says that now “that part of the story [has been restructured] so that the fish and mammals taken to its aquatic center have the option to leave.”
That isn’t the case with the orca whales showcased in Blackfish, a disturbing documentary that claims “all whales in captivity are psychologically traumatized.” Watch the Blackfish trailer and try to argue against that claim. It’s hard to do.
This change in direction for Finding Dory is an excellent PR move for Pixar, distancing itself from a documentary that’s grabbing a ton of press by shining its light on a serious problem in the aquatic community. We don’t know what the ending of Dory is (or was), but if it involved an orca in a Sea World park, then yes, it would have been tough to explain away the connections several audience members would have made when Dory hit theaters.
On a much larger scale, I can recall the sheer number of films that had to be altered following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Men In Black 2 completely changed its ending, which was supposed to take place at the World Trade Center, to take place at the Statue of Liberty. And there was this terrific teaser for Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie that heavily featured the Twin Towers.
Thankfully, Dory is in the early production stages, and only needed a rewrite instead of a complete animation overhaul. The sequel still plans to reach theaters in 2015. And for more on Pixar’s upcoming films, check out our live blog from Disney’s D23 in Anaheim, where they revealed news on Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur.