Pixar's upcoming sequel to "Finding Nemo" is reportedly going through some changes, and it looks like an acclaimed documentary on whales has something to do with it.
Advance reports say Pixar's "Finding Dory" will find forgetful Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) and nervous Marlin (Albert Brooks) searching for Dory's family, while making friends with some Bull Orcas (better known as killer whales) along the way. Originally, the whales ended up in a water park, but after watching the recent documentary "Blackfish," Pixar chief John Lasseter and "Dory" director Andrew Stanton are having second thoughts about how the story ends for the massive sea mammals.
[Related: D23 - Our 5 Most Anticipated Animated Worlds]
Filmmaker and animal rights activist Louie Psihoyos, who made the 2009 documentary "The Cove" about dolphin hunting in Japan, told the Los Angeles Times that "Blackfish" director Gabriela Cowperthwaite was invited to Pixar's headquarters to screen her film. "Blackfish" examines the dangers of keeping Orcas in captivity for the purposes of entertainment, both for humans and for the whales, and Psihoyos says in response to the movie, the filmmakers are retooling the ending of "Finding Dory."
"At the end of ['Finding Dory'], some marine mammals are sent to an aquatic park/rehab facility -- a SeaWorld-type environment," Psihoyos said. "After seeing ‘Blackfish,’ they retooled the film so that the sea creatures now have the choice to leave that marine park. They told Gabriela they didn’t want to look back on this film in 50 years and have it be their 'Song of the South.'"
(History lesson: "Song of the South" was a 1946 Disney musical about life on a plantation in the post-Civil War South. While popular in the 1940s and '50s, the film is rarely screened today because of its sometimes-demeaning portrayal of African-Americans.)
So far, Pixar hasn't publically commented on Psihoyos's statements. But Cowperthwaite has confirmed she did in fact screen the film for Pixar's creative team.
"These are obviously people who are dedicated to researching every topic they cover," Cowperthwaite said. "Whether 'Blackfish' affects their creative decisions, I can't say."
Since "Finding Dory" isn’t due in theaters until November 2015, there's plenty of room for all sorts of changes in the film's story. But given the environmental concerns that provided subtext for "Wall-E," "A Bug's Life," even "Cars 2," it wouldn't be out of character for Pixar's team to take the message of "Blackfish" to heart. The buzz about "Blackfish" and captive orcas should grow louder after the film is given its television premiere on CNN on October 24.
Watch an extended clip from the documentary 'Blackfish':