How ‘Finding Dory’ found it’s way to the top of the box office

It’s not surprising that “Finding Dory,” Pixar’s follow up to “Finding Nemo,” broke a record on its opening weekend.

Finding Dory and Hank

Finding Dory and Hank

Dory, the wide-eyed blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, lured movie-goers into her ocean adventures earning $136.2 million in three days.

This is the all-time highest opening for an animated feature film.

Dory doubled “Finding Nemo’s” opening of $70.1 million in 2003. It easily surpassed “Shrek,” the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001, which grossed $42.3 on its opening weekend.

“Toy Story 3,” Pixar’s previous record-holder, earned $110 million in 2010. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

The tide was right for this happen.

The long anticipated sequel to one of the most beloved movies in the Pixar vault, was a success waiting to happen for several reasons; chief among them is the non-existent supply of “G” rated movies.

Though “Finding Dory” is rated PG, it is the closest movie depicting “G” rated content we’ve seen in a theater in a while.

The AMPAA definition for a G rating is: General Audiences. All ages admitted.

A PG rating means: Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

It would appear that families are hungry for films that are short on violence, peril and over-blown action sequences.

In the sea of summer 2016 movies, nothing has emerged as a movie appropriate for the whole family until “Finding Dory.”

Searching the murky waters of today’s family movies, one plagued with unexpected violence, gags, innuendo, and too much action for tiny toddlers, it’s hard for parents to find something genuinely appealing to all ages.

We know the film industry has moved away from the gentle “G” rating to the money-making “PG-13” rating, which sadly excludes not just the youngest members of a family from going to the movies, but entire families.

Adding to the high opening numbers for “Finding Dory” is cost. Going to the movies remains one of the most affordable forms of family entertainment. Yet the supply, offering a chance for a family to experience a non-offensive film, is short.

Consider the cost of leaving the youngest child at home while the rest of the family goes to a PG-13 film.

Hiring a sitter for a minimum of two hours runs about $20. This is the most expensive part of a movie outing without the toddler – and costs about as much as the price of two movie tickets. The only savings for a family in this situation is the hassle of wrangling a bored toddle in a dark theater.

Finding a baby sitter adds stress to a family’s movie-going experience — and one I imagine Walt Disney himself intended to relieve with his original “G” movies. Sometimes it’s easier to just forego the outing altogether and simply “Netflix and Chill,” as they say today.

Admittedly, there are movies and outings that merit going through this aggivation, but it use to be a lot easier to take the whole brood back in the “G” rated movie days.

Lets look at the slate of what Hollywood considers family films this summer:

“Alice Through The Looking Glass” PG

“Captain America: Civil War” PG-13

“X-Men: Apocalypse” PG-13

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” PG-13

“The Angry Birds” PG

“Finding Dory” PG

“The BFG” PG

“The Legend of Tarzan” PG-13

“The Secret Life of Pets” PG

“Ghostbusters” PG

“Ice Age: Collision Course” PG

“Pete’s Dragon” PG

“Star Trek Beyond” PG

“Kubo and the Two Strings” PG

Though I haven’t seen “Ghostbusters,” I have a hard time understanding how both Dory and the ghost hunters are in the same ratings category.

How many of these movies could the whole family watch together? It depends on the ages, of course. In the case of “Finding Dory,” age was less of a factor since everyone can enjoy this type of film.

Sequels are rarely as good, or better, than the original films. But “Finding Dory” is a masterful film tugging at our sentimental memories of that little clown fish that surfaced in 2003, and left us wanting more of this heartwarming story line.

Except for the absence of Darla and the menacing sharks in Nemo, Dory has both old and new characters swimming along with her.

For the average family, summer time begins when school is out and parents plan activities and travel with the kids. They are also looking to fill in idle time with activities the family can enjoy together.

There is a noticeable shortage of family-friendly films with whole-family appeal to help fill the summer activity list.

I noticed the appetite for this genre of movie at a recent screening of “Finding Dory” in 3D. I saw more than a handful of small children sitting on their parent’s lap ready to watch their very first film in a theater. Most watched the entire movie completely blurred because they aren’t ready to keep 3D glasses on for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Yet, I didn’t see anyone walk out of the theater. This was unlike the screening of “The Good Dinosaur” where a toddler in front of me begged his mom to leave because the movie was “too scary.”

Jonas Rivera Pixar Producer of Inside Out. CIFF 2016

Jonas Rivera Pixar Producer of Inside Out. CIFF 2016

At the Animation Panel at the Coronado Island Film Festival in January, the Oscar and Golden Globe winning producer of “Inside Out,” Jonas Rivera, and Tim Johnson, DreamWorks Director of “Home,” said that they don’t make movies with kids in mind. “If you do that, you’re done,” said Rivera.

Sadly, this partly explains why there hasn’t been a “G” rated movie in years.

During presentations of my recent book, “101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up” (“Finding Nemo” is number 15), the question I’m asked most frequently is why there aren’t more “G” rated movies for kids in theaters these days.

The only other explanation I can offer them is money. In a world dominated by the bottom line, the entertainment industry is one that constantly splashes us with the numbers.

Well, the bottom line to this short rant is this: If you keep making family movies with the same formula used in “Finding Dory,” your bottom lines will likely keep on swimming to the top, too.

Do you wish there were more “G” rated films for young children?


  1. Sophia says:

    Yes I want to take my son to see this movie, I liked Dory in the Finding Nemo in the first film.

  2. Cathy Mini says:

    Finding Dory was such a cute movie! I’m glad to hear that it was at the top of the box office this weekend.

  3. Cassandra says:

    My husband and I loved Finding Dory – I agree! We need more true family-friendly films.

  4. maya says:

    This was a very interesting post. I was really surprised at your list of how many movies are rated higher than G! And seriously, although I haven’t seen it, how is it in the same ratings catagory as Ghostbusters?? I just love that these kids movies are containing a little bit of something for the adults that are forced to watch them a thousand times!

  5. Aarika says:

    Great post! It is so informative. Thanks! We took my nephew to see Finding Dory, and we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful storyline – good for children and adults.

  6. RaNesha says:

    Like all Disney movies this is now one of my favorites.

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