Thirteen years after the smash-hit Finding Nemo, Disney/Pixar returns to the ocean for the sequel Finding Dory, an entertaining film that suffers from similarities to its predecessor. More accurately titled Finding Dory's Parents, the film tells the story of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a regal blue tang that suffers from severe short-term loss, remembering and seeking out her parents, whom she hasn't seen in years.
After a prologue featuring an overwhelmingly adorable, tiny younger version of herself, Dory remembers her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) and seeks them out with the help of her friends, the clownfish Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and, begrudgingly, his father Marlin (Albert Brooks). Their journey takes them to the Marine Life Institute of Morro Bay, California, but they soon get separated so while Dory goes about finding her parents, Nemo and Marlin try to find her. Each are assisted by animals in and around the Institute, most notably Hank (Ed O'Neill), a cranky octopus (technically, a septopus) with chameleon-like abilities to change colors.
The roster of aquatic characters has expanded with delightful additions brought to life by the talented cast and animators. In addition to those mentioned above other highlights include Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a near-sighted whale shark; Bailey (Ty Burrell), an echolocation-capable beluga whale; sea lions Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West), and the loon Becky. The screenwriters do a very good job finding creative ways for the water-breathing creatures to get around on land.
Like the previous film, the search for their family members finds the characters becoming better, more complete individuals. Marlin grew braver, as he put aside his fears to search for Nemo. Dory also gained confindence after her journey, reminded that she "can do whatever [she] puts her mind to." Both are good lessons for children and adults.
The visuals pop with extremely vibrant colors and inky blacks. An extra mention is derserved for the easy transition of Hank's camoflague abilities. The effort that went into creating the texture details is very impressive. Becky's bucket that Marlin and Nemo travel in is a great example. The lip around the top isn't uniform and there are scuff marks causing discoloration. The tiny barnacles attached to are clearly defined.
Unfortunately, the animators have created lens flairs, apparently to make the computer graphics appear as if they were shot by a camera, but drawing the audience's attention to the fact they are watching a film is a terrible decision because it pulls viewers out of the moment they are experiencing.
The 7.1 offers an immersive experience. The dialogue is clear (even during whale speak). The surrounds fill with Thomas Newman's score and ambient effects. Sounds are well positioned and cross channels to create the world around the listener. Bass is noticable, but not overwhelming.
The extras have been rendered in HD. On Disc One:
- Audio Commentary - Director Andrew Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane, and producer Lindsey Collins gather for a thorough exploration about the creation of the film.
- Piper (6 min) - The short that accompanied Finding Dory in theaters is about a baby sandpiper who combats his fears in order to learn about the world. It's a sweet story and the art is stunning, most notably the photorealistic sand and crashing waves.
- Marine Life Interviews (2 min) - Clips of characters from the film talk about Dory with the footage made to appear like it's old and damaged.
- The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar (9 min) - A look at what went into bringing Hank, the most complicated character the studio has created, to life.
- What Were We Talking About? (5 min) - Exploring a character, who suffers short-term memory loss, that transitioned from sidekick to lead of the new story.
- Casual Carpool (4 min) - A bit where Stanton and some voice cast members drive around, but it doesn't deliver many laughs so not clear why they included it.
- Animation & Acting (7 min) - Stanton talks about working with the actors and the animators to create the characters.
- Deep in the Kelp (3 min) - A synergistic piece where Jenna Ortega of Disney's Stuck in the Middle shows viewers how the Pixar crew did research.
- Creature Features (3 min) - Five cast members offer details about the animals they play. This extra is referred to in Casual Carpool.
On Disc Two:
- Under the "Behind the Scenes" heading are five items:
- Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer (4 min) - The Character Art Director demonstrates his design process, from ideas to execution.
- Dory's Theme (5 min) - Director Andrew Stanton, composer Tom Newman, and music editor Bill Bernstein review tracks from the score.
- Rough Day on the Reef (1 min) - A bizarre bit of computer glitches during the making of the film.
- Finding Nemo As Told by Emoji (3 min) - An odd silly short that does just what the title states.
- Fish Schticks (4 min) - Some silly bits that were likely tests because otherwise their purpose is unclear.
- Living Aquariums - For those who want to turn their screens into underwater windows, there are four options to look upon: Sea Grass (184 min), Open Ocean (169 min), Stingrays (169 min), and Swim to the Surface (62 min).
- Deleted Scenes (50 min): Available to Play-All are seven scenes that "were never asked back," according to director Andrew Stanton, in his Introduction. They are titled: Losing Nemo, Sleep Swimming, Little Tension in Clown Town, Meeting Hank, The Pig, Dory Dumped, and Starting Over.
- Trailers: Sleep Swimming: United States Trailer (2 min), Theatrical Payoff: Japan Trailer (2 min), Can't Remember: Spain Trailer (1 min), and Journey: Russia Trailer (3 min). Could have used a Play-All option.
As a sequel, Finding Dory covers familiar terrain so it's not top-tier Pixar, but it still delivers the studio's trademark charm, humor, and adventure. The Blu-ray delivers a quality high-def experience with exquisite video, splendid audio, and thorough extras that delve into the film's creation.