I love Pixar.
I love that they have a short before the feature film. Before Finding Dory, there is Piper, the wordless story of a young sandpiper learning to find food on its own. The animation is so stunning that in the first moments I thought it was photographed rather than animated. The story is also incredibly endearing, which is another Pixar trademark.
I love that there are bonuses, like references to other Pixar films and little final scenes after the credits. It was a shame we were the only ones left in the theater to see the special Finding Nemo flashback scene at the end of Finding Dory.
What I love most, though, is the richness of the storytelling. All Pixar movies work on multiple levels. They certainly appeal to children and impart life lessons as all worthy tales do, but they also appeal to adults across the age spectrum with further layers of meaning.
Finding Dory is about finding family, both in the sense of family of origin and the family that we can make for ourselves through deep friendship. The resilience of family bonds in the face of great challenge is on full display.
For me, there was an additional family connection. One of the key elements of Dory’s character is that she suffers from short term memory loss. In this film, there is an added element of vivid distant memories that re-surface. It reminded me of the stage of Alzheimer’s disease where the person can’t remember what happened a minute ago but can remember what happened many years before.
It was especially poignant because my 91-year-old dad just lost his last sibling, who like their father and two other siblings, had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. We have also known other people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and are familiar with the frustrations, fears, and dangers it causes, both to the persons with memory loss and the people around them.
There isn’t a cure, just ways of compensating and adjusting as best one can, moment to moment, trusting that , somehow, the bonds of family will be strong enough to draw us together and back to ourselves.