“When you look into their eyes you know someone is home.”

Thus begins the trailer for the controversial documentary Blackfish, a sentiment apparently shared by the creators of the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory who are adjusting the movie’s plot line in response to the content of the film.

According to Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove who recounted this story to the LA Times, after watching the documentary this spring Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and the director of Finding Dory, Andrew Stanton sat down with Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

What resulted was a change in the yet-to-be released sequel’s plot.  The film was originally set to end at Marine Park, described as a “SeaWorld-type environment.” While the film would still end in the same place, the  animals are now given the option to leave if they so choose.

While Pixar declined to comment on the exchange, the company did confirm screening Blackfish and noted that employees were “impacted” by the film.

Blackfish offers a glimpse into the treatment subjected to the orcas, or killer whales who entertain the masses at SeaWorld.  It focuses on an orca named Tilikum, said to be responsible for the death of three people – including senior SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The film, currently playing in select theaters across the country, has already received a harsh rebuke from SeaWorld who hired publicists to help ensure that journalists covering the documentary were made well aware of their response to what they refer to as a “dishonest movie.” Filmmakers in turned issued a point by point response to SeaWorld’s claims.

Yet the truth is that Tilikum’s first attack took place in 1991, nine years before the death of Dawn Brancheau, and resulted in the death of Sealand of the Pacific trainer Keltie Byrne. At the time it was reasoned that re-releasing Tilikum back into the wild was problematic due to fears he would not be able to survive in the wild.

That concern would be moot if he had never been brought into captivity in the first place.

More recently footage of a dolphin lying on the concrete beside its tank made its way to YouTube.

Blackfish will be airing on CNN on October 24th.  In the meantime, click here to find screenings in your area.

Sara Haile-Mariam

Sara Haile-Mariam

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