Disney's "Finding Dory" Decision Is Bad News for SeaWorld

To be sure, the folks at Disney  (NYSE: DIS  ) Pixar are currently hard at work putting together Finding Dory, the widely anticipated sequel to their 2003 hit, Finding Nemo.

And can you blame them? After all, with a production budget of just $94 million, Finding Nemo brought in an incredible $921.7 million in box office receipts worldwide, including $380 million here in the United States.

If Finding Dory can do even half as well when it hits the big screen in 2015, it's safe to say The House of Mouse will be more than pleased.

Image source: movies.disney.com.

Murky waters
Earlier this week, however, reports surfaced saying Pixar executives are changing their previously planned ending of Finding Dory, a decision sources say was directly tied to their viewing in April of a little-known documentary titled Blackfish.

Blackfish, for its part, uncomfortably calls into question the health of killer whales held in captivity and has grossed a little over $1 million since it made its theatrical debut last month in just 81 theaters across the country:

Of course, the folks at recently IPO'd SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS  ) were none too pleased about the film, which delves into what may have caused a killer whale at the park to fatally attack a SeaWorld trainer in 2010.

In fact, just days before Blackfish's release, SeaWorld apparently also sent letters to critics panning what they deemed inaccuracies in its portrayal of their business.

Even worse for SeaWorld, Blackfish is also set to make its debut on CNN a few months from now, on Oct. 24, so you can bet audiences' ire will be raised as millions of new viewers will be exposed to the troubling documentary.

Where Finding Dory comes in
Apparently, though, the conclusion of Finding Dory had originally involved "some marine mammals" who were "sent to an aquatic park/rehab facility -- a SeaWorld-type environment," at least according to Louie Psihoyos, who directed the award-winning dolphin-slaughter documentary The Cove. 

But after viewing Blackfish, Psihoyos says, Pixar's chief creative officer, John Lasseter, and Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton spoke with Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who helped them retool the ending to give said mammals the option of leaving the park if they so chose.

Naturally, assuming these animals were somehow injured in the movie or otherwise required the care of such a facility, this seems like a great decision on Disney's part to remain sensitive to any negative fallout from what would otherwise likely stand as the second part of a massively successful movie franchise.

But for SeaWorld, this looks like yet another damaging blow in an already painful situation, especially as Disney, which is widely considered the world's leading entertainment conglomerate, is making the conscious decision to distance itself from the very attraction upon which SeaWorld effectively made its name.

Foolish takeaway
That's not to say Disney is intentionally working to damage its theme-park competition -- the company itself didn't release the information, and Pixar representatives have declined to comment on the news.

In the end, though, if SeaWorld's high debt levels and lack of organic growth weren't enough to turn you off from an investment standpoint, this bad publicity should certainly do the trick.

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  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 3:58 PM, Invest58 wrote:

    This is the dumbest thing I have read in awhile. The whole world is getting way too sensitive. This is an animated movie. At the end are they going to say no animals were harmed in the making?

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 4:01 PM, Invest58 wrote:

    Also, is anyone else getting tired of every Disney article having the phrase House of Mouse? Is this a requirement when writing about the company?

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