Sequel, Prequel, Moneymaker: ‘Finding Dory’ and the Business of Moviemaking


Anis Vijay Modi
Staff Writer

It happens every couple of years. You’re thinking about going to the movies to fill up another evening. You browse through the list, looking at the promo pictures featuring your favorite actors. Wait, what’s that? “Die Hard 11”? “Toy Story 5”? This time, it is time for “Finding Nemo” to get a new ending. The 2003 animation film enchanted crowds all over the world, won an Oscar and made the Walt Disney and Pixar animation studios loads of money on its way to being one of the most memorable animation movies of the last decade. You loved the first one, but how long has it been? And why even make another movie? We all know this feeling. Some of our favorite childhood movies have been given sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and so on. Why is it that successful movies tend to return for another round in the box office?

The film industry enchants millions around the world with its romantic story lines, breathtaking action scenes and incredible animation. The visual effects, the big screens and the all-encompassing theater experience are designed to invite audiences into a different reality, where Nemo, Woody, and Buzz are real, and one man can save the entire planet with his own two hands. In the real world, creating this magic is all about the cold, hard, and financial bottom line.

Making a sequel for a fan favorite makes a lot of sense for movie studios. Audiences already know the characters, the plot, and the movie stars. If “Finding Nemo” number one was a box-office mega hit, why not make a number two? On the surface, this is a win-win situation for everyone: audiences will get to see their favorite characters in all new adventures, and movie studios will get to rack up some more cash. Making a sequel that is connected to an older successful movie is both cheaper and a sure money maker, which is why studios choose to make more sequels, prequels, and trilogies.

Does it work? Well, as with every new movie, results are mixed. “Toy Story 3” is the landmark example of a sequel worth waiting for. Despite the fact that much of the audience has grown quite a bit since the first movie was released way back in 1995, the final installment of the trilogy has brought the series to the closure many fans were waiting for. Giving us the opportunity to watch Andy go to college helped Pixar a great deal, garnering a revenue of over a $100 million dollars and breaking the record previously held by “Shrek the Third” (another sequel movie) for biggest opening day for an animated movie.

On the other side of the scale, some sequels seem as if they were made with the soul purpose of getting some extra cash out of the audiences’ pockets. Some of them actually were made for that purpose, and audiences can smell that from miles away. Another problem that sequel movies face is the high threshold of expectations set by its predecessors. If the first “Iron Man” was an extremely enjoyable movie, how can a new movie compare? Audiences are not looking for a movie that would simply equal its predecessor—they are looking forward to an adventure that would be worth the wait. This level of expectation that comes with the legacy of a favorite movie can be too much for movies that would otherwise be considered enjoyable. Making too many movies based on the concept of a first-time success can also get really old as more movies pile up on the ticket. Sometimes, it is better to put some heroes to rest—just ask John McClane.

What about “Finding Dory”? Will it be a “Toy Story 3” success or a “Die Hard” burden? Fans will have to wait until the expected release date, set for November 2015, to find out. With this level of expectation coming early on—it better be good.