A small documentary released this summer has created a reputational riptide for SeaWorld. Blackfish, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, combines park footage and interviews with trainers and scientists to explore the impact of keeping killer whales for entertainment – and, ultimately, examines the possible factors that led one such whale to kill three people in captivity. The film has outraged animal rights activists and casual audience members alike with footage of brutal whale-on-human attacks at the parks and haunting tales of a natural order torn apart to keep 12,000-pound animals in captivity. SeaWorld’s attempts to head off criticism by emailing an itemized rebuttal to critics has drawn widespread publicity, but many have interpreted the move as defensive and further damning.
This week, it became clear that Pixar has taken note of the movie – and the backlash. The animation studio decided to rewrite part of the upcoming sequel to Finding Nemo that referenced a SeaWorld-like facility.
The plot is reportedly still in flux for Finding Dory, currently scheduled for release in November 2015. Ellen DeGeneres is set to star as Dory, an amnesiac blue fish who cannot remember who raised her, according to the L.A. Times. Initial plans for the movie saw characters ending up in a marine park for fish and mammals. But now, the aquatic center will be differentiated from SeaWorld by giving the animals the option to leave.