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SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Finding Dory. If you have not yet seen the film, and do not wish to know any details of its plot before you have the opportunity, we recommend clicking away to another one of our wonderful articles!
There is a point in Finding Dory when everyone in the audience is meant to have the same thought: Oh man, they actually killed Dory's parents. Ultimately this isn't the case, as it's revealed that the Blue Tangs are just on their way to Cleveland -- but that wasn't always the case. Before it was decided that they would wind up alive and back together with their forgetful daughter, director Andrew Stanton and screenwriter Victoria Strouse did contemplate the idea of having Eugene Levy's Charlie and Diane Keaton's Jenny be dead.
I delved a bit into spoiler territory when I had the opportunity to interview Andrew Stanton one-on-one during the Finding Dory press day in Los Angeles earlier this month, and one of the big questions I had was about the fate of the titular fish's parents. I was curious if there were ever drafts where Charlie and Jenny had died, and the filmmaker confirmed that it was considered at one point during development. Said Stanton,
My writer, Victoria, really wanted that for like a hot minute and I was like, 'We can't.' And then it forced us to go, 'Well, listen, what we're really enjoying and we're really thinking is great for the character's arc is truly making her feel alone. You can't bring her to a lower point in her life, where you put her back into the ocean by herself, forgetting everything and emotionally knowing there's nobody to go back to. That is the lowest.
This turn of events surely would have not only been devastating for Dory, but obviously audiences as well -- which is why Andrew Stanton felt that direction needed to be balanced out within the finale. It was in thinking about this that Stanton and Victoria Strouse wound up developing the ending that audiences are seeing in theaters now. The director explained,
So I couldn't argue with her that this was a great thing to do - but it's like, 'We've got to find a way out.' This was early on, so it led us to how they would be found and how that would all be - the track would be laid for that. It just gave us one of the best endings we never intended.
Pixar movies are known for pulling at the heartstrings and getting audiences to cry, but it's easy to see how this would be considered just a tad bit too much. It's one thing to have sad deaths at the beginning of a movie, like Finding Nemo or Up, but putting that key death at the end of the story -- and, as a result, negating the entire mission of the plot - is a lot to put in a family film.
Do you think that Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse made the right decision, or do you think it would have been okay for Finding Dory to have Jenny and Charlie be dead? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.