Pixar lovers, rejoice! The long-awaited Finding Dory is finally in theaters, and for any families that loved Finding Nemo, this animated movie will definitely be a must-watch. Not only does it have all of the awesome elements an audience would expect from a Finding Nemo sequel — Ellen Degeneres, Pixar, and the return of a few fishy favorites — but there's another great reason to take your kids to Finding Dory this weekend. With a main character who deals with short-term memory loss, a near-sighted shark, and an octopus who's missing a tentacle, Finding Dory tackles acceptance of the disabled community in a beautiful way.
First of all, in Finding Dory, Pixar shows viewers how Dory — a fish with short-term memory loss — deals with her disability on a day-to-day basis. For a fish, she's surprisingly human and faces plenty of self-doubt in her abilities. However, she remains true to her optimistic "Just keep swimming!" motto, and as the movie progresses, she slowly learns to trust herself.
In a way, Pixar already delivered another version of this character arc in Finding Nemo, in which the main character had a disability of his own in the form of uneven fins. But Finding Dory delves deeper, and as much as the film is about Dory maneuvering her relationship with herself, it's even more so about navigating how the world treats her.
Take, for example, the scene in which Nemo's father tells Dory to "Go wait over there and forget. It's what you do best." His frustrated reaction prompts Nemo to explain to his father where he went wrong, saying, "You made her feel like she couldn't do it." It's a lesson that's delivered in a single, smooth line, but which still comes across crystal clear.
And that's something Finding Dory does beautifully. It delivers morals more subtly than most kids' movies do, but it gets the point across: often, the way the world treats those with disabilities is more limiting than the disabilities themselves are. As film critic Tasha Robinson writes for The Verge:
The film is exceptionally smart and careful, both about dealing with disability personally, and about dealing with other people. Dory's forgetfulness clearly exasperates and frustrates Marlin, but the film never portrays that as Dory's problem; it's up to him to learn tolerance and kindness, with Nemo (now played by Hayden Rolence) as his conscience.
Despite the strong lessons threaded through the movie, Dory's disability never takes over, nor is it treated as a stand-in for all disabilities. Instead, Dory's memory loss simply a character trait — just like the octopus has seven tentacles, Nemo has uneven fins, and the shark has blurry vision. Dory's memory loss is something that she needs to contend with throughout her journey, but it isn't the journey itself.
While many films would have made Dory's disability the overarching focus of the movie, Finding Dory doesn't let Dory's short-term memory loss stand in as the story's plot. By making disabilities simple character traits rather than dramatic plot points, Pixar and Disney give children a much more honest and empathetic view of disabilities — and the movie is so much stronger for it.