Popular marine park chain SeaWorld has come under a significant amount of fire in recent weeks after two videos released in quick succession provoked questions about the treatment of animals in the parks. The first video showed a short-finned pilot whale stuck on a ledge in shallow water during one of the shows, struggling to get back into its pool. Another video showed a dolphin that had been knocked out of its enclosure whilst performing a stunt lying bloodied on the concrete walkway outside.
The videos have certainly been making a splash amongst animal lovers, and some of the controversy is spilling over into the film world. Blackfish, a documentary that focuses on the treatment of orca whales in captivity at SeaWorld, has been generating a lot of buzz and some strong reactions at early screenings, prompting Pixar to rethink their portrayal of marine wildlife parks in Finding Dory, the upcoming sequel to Finding Nemo.
A Pixar employee told the New York Times that the original ending of Finding Dory had a scene in a marine wildlife park similar to SeaWorld, but in the light of Blackfish and the publicity nightmare that has followed, the ending of Finding Dory has been restructured so that the mammals and fish at the park are given the option of leaving if they want to.
The film will feature the return of Ellen Degeneres as the voice of the lovable but forgetful blue tang fish, and Variety reports that Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy and Ty Burrell have now joined the voice cast as well.
As well as the small insight that this offers into the plot of Finding Dory, it’s also interesting considering the ways in which Finding Nemo explored the lives of fish in captivity and even touched a little on animal cruelty, specifically in the form of the well-meaning but destructive Darla, who once accidentally murdered a pet fish by shaking it too much in the confines of its plastic bag.
Blackfish explores the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed after being attacked by an orca whale named Tilikum. The documentary features interviews with marine biologists, who argue that keeping orcas – who in the wild will travel up to 100 miles a day – in captivity will significantly increase their aggression (Brancheau was not the first trainer to be killed by Tilikum) and reduce their lifespans. Ex-SeaWorld employees also give some insight into how the whales are captured and treated once in captivity, and a former whale hunter who was hired to capture wild baby orcas breaks down in the documentary and describes it as “the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
In response to the documentary, SeaWorld released a statement saying that the film is “inaccurate and misleading,” that it exploits the death of Brancheau and presents a biased and distorted view of events, and cites SeaWorld’s reputation as a “respected zoological institution.” Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has said that she reached out to the company many times in an effort to interview a spokesperson for her documentary, but SeaWorld never responded.
Blackfish is said to be both powerful and harrowing, and is currently rated 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. But would you rather take a look at the potentially grim reality of life for the orcas at SeaWorld, or just relax with old friends in Finding Dory?
Finding Dory is out in theaters on November 25th, 2015.
Blackfish is currently out on limited release.
Source: NY Times