Sixteen years ago, “Finding Nemo” hit theaters, becoming an instant success and going on to earn over $940 million at the box office. Regardless of generational gaps, everyone was able to emotionally connect with the scrappy little fish and his father, desperately trying to find his missing son – audiences fell in love. But looking back over a decade and a half later, the character everyone remembers and shares the greatest affinity for isn’t Marlin, or even the titular Nemo, it’s Dory.
Dory, the lovable but forgetful Pacific Blue Tang fish, was voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, whose catchphrase, “Just keep swimming!” became one of the most quoted lines from the film. Her character was so popular that it inspired a spinoff, “Finding Dory,” released in 2016. The film was no slouch at the box office either. In fact, the spinoff went on to be the sixth highest grossing animated film of all time.
When Supporting Characters Steal the Show
This is hardly the first time this has happened, when a supporting character becomes a surprise hit from a popular film and subsequently spawns a spinoff. Hollywood executives are always fishing these concepts, after all, especially when it comes to sniffing out a potential profit. When Gru’s little yellow minions became a hit among audiences and merchandising goldmine after “Despicable Me”, Illumination Entertainment wasted no time in making an entire “Minions” film devoted to their exploits. Puss in Boots originated as a side character in “Shrek 2”, only to have a spinoff released a few years later. And fans of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” were so enamored with Russell Brand‘s hot mess of a musician, Aldous Snow, that the character received his own film with “Get Him to the Greek.”
Unlike pre-planned sequels and franchises, these spinoffs are interesting because they are borne from an unexpectedly positive audience reaction to an otherwise unremarkable secondary character. But when lightning strikes, why question it?