Chief Science Correspondent
Pixar President Jim Morris released new details last week about the company's highly anticipated sequel to its 2003 filmi Finding Nemo.
Finding Dory will chronicle the famously absentminded Pacific regal blue tang's (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) quest to find her family. Morris revealed that Dory will return to her birthplace, the California Marine Biology Institute. According to Hypable, the film was orginally set to take place at a park similar to SeaWorld. This setting was reportedly revised partially as a response to the documentary Blackfish.
Finding Dory presents an excellent opportunity for Pixar to expose young viewers to the exciting world of science research. CMBI is not a real institution, but it could easily be modeled after many of the well-established marine university research centers in the state.
Humans, especially adults, are not portrayed in a particularly dynamic (or even flattering) light in this film. They are fairly one-dimensional and difficult to understand. And, like in Wall-E and Toy Story, this shift in perspective adds to the story's charm. However, this foundation sets up Finding Dory to potentially convey a dangerously anti-science message.
Human interference has undeniably led to the tragic widespread loss of the Earth's marine wildlife - 90 percent, in fact. And removing animals for science research certainly might seem contradictory to our efforts to save these species. But the truth is that, in many instances, bringing a small sample of individuals into a laboratory setting is often scientists' best opportunity for gathering more information about how various species feed, reproduce and interact. It is often also the only way scientists can hope to gain knowledge of the mechanisms in which these species function genetically, biochemically, and physiologically. All of these different sets of data are often critical in designing conservation guidelines, especially in regards to fishing policy.
As a researcher I, like the fictional scientists at CMBI, catch fishes on a vessel and transport them to a laboratory center (my work takes me to Antarctica, but that's another story). But my goal isn't to interfere with a fish's life quest to find her family; it's to better understand the mechanisms that may alter these species' abilities to acclimate to warmer environmental temperatures.
Stories with anthropomorphised can be fun, but they don't reflect reality. They generally don't hold up as models for real-life situations. This disconnect can be confusing for young children, and these types of values can remained in our minds as adults. That is why I hope Pixar makes every effort to portray CMBI's research as accurately as possible.
Regardless, I am pleased that an effort is being made to integrate science research into the world of the Finding Nemo story. To see how Pixar chooses to frame the movie's message, I will be certain to watch this film when it premieres in June 2016.
What do you think of the setting for Finding Dory? And what do you think of other children's movies that integrate science research into their plot? Share your thoughts in the comments below or contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.