Can Nemo sequel turn out hunky-Dory?
MONTEREY, UNITED STATES
WITH the phenomenal box-office achievements of Finding Nemo a fading memory, Pixar is attempting to succeed where many studios have failed - with a hit sequel years after the original.
When Finding Dory, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Idris Elba, comes out in the United States on June 17, a full 13 years will have passed since Marlin the clownfish delighted audiences with his quest to find his disappeared son, Nemo.
Studio bosses will be aware such a long gap can be a real buzzkill, with numerous follow-ups to huge blockbusters bombing at the box office because the appetite for their themes and characters faded with time.
Bambi II, which came out 63 years after the original, was a relative failure/
Critics said Fantasia 2000 was a pale imitation of the 1940 film.
More recently, there have been a few successes like George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road and Sylvester Stallone's much-praised latest Rocky Balboa instalment, Creed.
But for every Mad Max or Rocky, there is a Zoolander, Shaft or Tron, which makes the task of following up distant hits look almost impossible.
Finding Dory is set six months after the events of Nemo and follows the travails of Marlin's forgetful companion Dory, a Pacific regal blue tang.
Jeff Bock, a box-office expert at statistical website Exhibitor Relations, said love for Nemo had actually grown over the years.
He expects Dory to reel in about the same as its predecessor - in the region of US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion).
Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at marketing data company comScore, said: "It's never too late to introduce a spin-off, sequel or reboot, with one caveat: It had better be an authentic attempt to bolster or maintain the legacy of the source material upon which it is based."
Dory director Andrew Stanton, who was also behind Nemo, said Pixar had been clear when it was in negotiations for the buy-out by Disney that it would make sequels only if it had "a story that really holds up".
Stanton's writing credits include all three Toy Story movies, with the fourth instalment due out in 2018.
He has directed, produced and voiced numerous Oscar-winning animated films over a 30-year career.
"Each movie is four years of my life. So I have to ask: Do I really want to spend 16 years of my life with fish movies? It really has to be something I want to spend four years on," the 50-year-old told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The premise underpinning Dory - an underwater odyssey to find lost family - is the same that paid off so handsomely for Nemo.
A crew of almost 250 have been taking the sequel from script to screen via 108,000 pages of storyboard and the conception and animation process for new characters.
A big challenge has been to stay true to Nemo's visual universe while integrating technological advances that have taken place over the last 13 years.
As Dory and Marlin meet in Finding Nemo, the water which surrounds them is invisible and without texture, evident only in the undulations of algae and the movement of the characters' fins.
The characters meet again in Dory but this time the audience is treated to a marine world of incredible detail featuring tiny plankton, shadows and sunlight dancing on reefs and algae, air bubbles and displaced sand clouds.
Talk-show host DeGeneres reprises her role as Dory, with Elba taking the part of sea lion Fluke in an all-star cast which also includes Diane Keaton and Michael Sheen.
Finding Dory opens in Singapore on June 16.