Ever since I first saw Finding Nemo 13 years ago (yipes), I’ve been anxiously awaiting a sequel. It’s definitely in my top five all-time favorite Disney movies, so when I heard Finding Dory was in the works, I pretty much could not contain my excitement. However, after watching the first trailer for the movie, I found I was filled with mixed emotions. Not because I don’t think it will be anything less than a masterpiece, but because it shines a light on a recent animal issue about which I find most troubling.
That issue is SeaWorld’s flagrantly poor treatment of their park animals, especially the orca whales. For decades, they’ve kept these creatures confined in small tanks, separated moms from babies, forced inbreeding on them, withheld food and drugged them on a regular basis. While several animal rights groups repeatedly tried and failed to bring animal cruelty charges against them, the amusement park giant was able to evade persecution for years, that is, until a documentary called Blackfish came out.
The film laid bare all the grisly details of abuse that took place in the parks ever since the orca program’s inception. As such, the film garnered significant attention from the media, and SeaWorld finally began to be held accountable for their inexcusable actions. Within the same year of the documentary’s national release, SeaWorld’s revenue took a major dive. They offered discounts and broadcast commercials designed to redeem them, but to no avail. As of last fall, they put an end to their orca shows and are presently winding down the orca breeding program for good.
You might be wondering how Finding Dory fits into all this. Well, a significant portion of the film takes place in a SeaWorld-like setting called Monterey Marine Life Institute. While on a mission to find her family, Dory winds up there among various other marine animals who all seem desperate to escape the theme park prison.
Yesterday, the official Finding Dory Facebook page released a new trailer, and it definitely shed some insight as to just how heavy their anti-SeaWorld theme would be.
At one point, a whale and a whale shark actually lunge toward the display tank’s barriers, as many real whales have often been found doing at SeaWorld in the past.
Even Ellen Degeneres has eluded to the film’s pointed message at SeaWorld. She herself fervently believes what they do to animals is wrong and inhumane, and hopes this movie will bring some much-needed attention to the issue, but in a family-friendly way.
“I think that fish should be in the ocean,” she told Yahoo. “It’s what this whole sequel is about: It’s about rehabilitation and putting them back in the ocean… And we have to protect our oceans. Hopefully that discussion starts with this film, because we really need to protect that environment.”
And what better animal to lead this discussion about saving our marine life than everyone’s favorite forgetful fish, Dory?
As I said up top, I am so pumped for this sequel, and while its message definitely struck a chord at first trailer viewing, it’s ultimately made me that much more eager to share it with everyone I know.