Why Does Finding Dory Keep Getting Snubbed?

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Ah, Finding Dory. The highest grossing animated film of 2016 and the sequel to one of the most beloved films of all time. Why has it not gotten any major awards?

Seriously, it’s only won at the People’s Choice Awards and the Teen Choice Awards. Not very major. It did not make a big splash at the Annie’s and only time will tell if it will win anything at the Visual Effects Society. It got snubbed at the Golden Globes (for Sing of all movies) and again at the Oscars.

I’m a little miffed. What gives? I mean, it’s not like people hate the movie, it has a 94% critical score and 85% audience score on rotten tomatoes (the only people who seem to hate the movie are IMDb reviewers, but honestly, IMDb reviews are where humanity and good taste go to die). Why is it not getting any serious recognition?

Well, I have a two theories.

One, and perhaps the most major one, is Pixar sequel/prequel fatigue. When people want to watch a Pixar film, they’re hoping for something completely original, nothing derivative, familiar, or continuing of a previous project. The only sequels that people honestly want are Toy Story and The Incredibles sequels. Notice how, after Toy Story 3, no other Pixar sequel/prequel has been nominated for an Oscar or won any awards. The last Pixar movie to win an Oscar was Inside Out, an original movie. The message is pretty clear.

Second is that, honestly, Zootopia is eating up all the praise. This is actually a trend I’ve noticed throughout the years; ONE animated film would typically get all the recognition and praise and awards, while the rest would get a passing glance. That’s not really fair. 2016 had a lot of good animated movies, but because Zootopia is original and has a ~*timely message*~ (that people apparently forgot when it was time to vote), it gets all the awards. I’m not saying Zootopia is a bad film, it’s pretty good (even if it’s not my fave), but I don’t think it needs to win everything.

Still, I’m pretty mad about this because, when you get down to it, Finding Dory is a really important film. Sure, it’s not as grand or epic as Finding Nemo, but it’s LEGIONS better than Brave, Monsters University, Cars 2, or the goddamn Good Dinosaur. It’s a movie that deals with loss, disability (and how, while it is part of you, it does not define you),and, as Ellen DeGeneres put it, helping others in need. It takes important and heavy themes and handles it in a graceful manner (if this movie was told with humans, let’s be honest, it would be too depressing). The scene where Dory is reunited with her parents is probably the most beautiful Pixar moment ever. And yes, I stand by this, but it does a better job handling mental illness better than Inside Out. While I like Inside Out‘s main message of how it’s okay to cry and important to talk about your feelings, Riley is barely a character, Joy is aggressively unlikable, and poor Sadness is treated like a burden until the very end (and Joy doesn’t even apologize to her). Finding Dory focuses on the character with the mental problem, addresses the hardships she faces, but empowers her by giving her solutions and allowing her to stand up to those who doubt her. She’s positive, she’s optimistic, she never gives up. She’s seriously one of Pixar’s best characters (female or not). But, because Inside Out is ~*original*~ it gets all the praise.

So yeah. I guess the reason why I’m bothered because disability is often a neglected issue and the movie that talks about it the most candidly has been getting snubbed (and for some people, seen as ‘boring’). We’re okay with films that handle allegorical themes (Zootopia) or where the metaphors are ableist (Kubo and the Two Strings and linking goodness and appreciating the beauty of the world with vision) but the movie that respectfully talks about disabilities is not worthy. And that’s just a shame.

Well, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s more important for an animated film to stand the test of time than to get all the awards, and that’s something Finding Dory will likely excel in. I’m just upset that it didn’t even get a NOMINATION for a Golden Globe or Oscar, which is something that it deserves at the very least.

Finding Dory Review (or, how Talking Fish Made Me Cry)

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING FOR THE ENTIRE THING! Also, harsh criticisms against Pixar’s 2015 offerings.

I made it no secret that I hated Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. So, that’s why I didn’t buy into the hype for Finding Dory. I was sure it was going to be disappointing. Still, I got a chance to go to a private screening for it, so I did. And man, I am so glad that I did. Finding Dory–as well as its short, Piper–achieved what Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur could not.

The Good Dinosaur is supposed to be about facing your fears. It tries to convey that message,  but mostly comes across as “how many times can we hurt and traumatize this poor little dinosaur?” and made the film unpleasant as a result. Piper, on the other hand, has a good message on facing your fears and finding something beautiful and new out of it, and executes it in a way that is charming and gets its point across without being overly sadistic. There’s also the fact that the character design and the set pieces actually work together (rather than making the backgrounds hyper realistic and making the characters look like plastic toys), which results in making the short much more enjoyable. So I was pretty blown away with that. Plus the short was absolutely adorable too. Then it was time for the full length movie to play.

And oh god, was I in for a ride.

While it’s not QUITE as thrilling or awe-inspiring as the first movie (and I don’t think the animation has anything necessarily NEW to offer, with the exception of Hank the amputee octopus) Finding Dory is still a really intense adventure, with lots of emotion. You really get invested in Dory’s quest to find her parents, and the characters she meets resonate with you pretty strongly as well. What I loved most was just how loving and caring Dory’s parents are, how much they support her and do everything they can to make sure Dory can succeed (take note, parents of neurodivergent and disabled children: THIS is how you raise them). Therefore, when Dory gets reunited with them, it is very rewarding. And it made me cry.

I also loved the climax so much. It was filled with all the spontaneity and creativity and randomness and sheer “screw the rules let’s have an octopus hijack a truck and drive it into the ocean and people will love it” found in classic Pixar and managed to really draw you in.

The whole world is just so vivid and full of life. It actually makes you want to go to the Marine Life Institute. This was so relieving because I find the set pieces of Inside Out so bland and dispassionate (Imagination Land is just a bunch of fries and clouds and cards and imaginary boyfriends. Really?) so to see them put more effort into making the set piece here stand out was refreshing.

But the main reason why Finding Dory is so much better than Inside Out is because of how it handles mental illness.

In Inside Out, Riley is barely in the movie and doesn’t demonstrate a whole lot of autonomy or even personality (besides “I want to go back to Minnesota”) and most of the movie focuses on Joy (who can burn in Hell for all I care) and Sadness (who is genuinely sweet) going on an adventure to get back to Headquarters. Throughout the whole thing, Sadness (who can be seen as a metaphor for a depressed person) is given the short end of the stick (at one point Joy is willing to leave Sadness to die) but never once stands up for herself or says “I don’t need to take this. I am important”. And Joy only becomes nicer to Sadness when she realizes she serves a purpose (not because, you know, all people, especially those who are sad all the time, deserve respect), and doesn’t apologize to her at all. Yikes. And at the end, after Riley vents to her parents, we skip over a year to see her all happy and adjusted, no lingering problems. THIS is the film we’re praising as a beacon of mental health representation? Gross. I don’t accept that.

Finding Dory, on the other hand, actually empowers our mentally ill protagonist and makes her a three-dimensional character. You see her actually struggle with her disability but on her own (without TOO much help) she realizes that while she can’t do EVERYTHING, that doesn’t mean she can’t do ANYTHING. She is able to find her parents, to use her resources to help her, and help save other fish. And when other characters are mean to her, she doesn’t just sit there and take it. She actually calls them out on it! We get to see her be happy, confused, despaired, and overjoyed. I’m so glad that they were able to expand Dory’s character.

Now does the film have problems? Well, yeah. The characters are a little snippy at each other (though they do get sweeter as the film progresses), Bailey the beluga’s echolocation problem gets solved almost immediately for the sake of the plot (and it doesn’t make sense for him to end up in the coral reef, since belugas live in the arctic) and Gerald (the sea lion that is clearly coded to be intellectually disabled) is treated very meanly. I’m not sure why they felt the need to make this character a punchline. I’m just glad he (sort of) gets revenge on his bullies later on, but still. I want a short where Gerald is shown in a better light.

Overall, though? Finding Dory is fantastic, and it certainly deserves the hype it gets.