Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a scene from “Finding Dory.” (Pixar/Disney via AP)

PIXAR has found the prescription to treat all common fears of “sequelitis.” And the best medicine, as always, is good storytelling.

“Finding Dory,” the sequel to 2003’s highly popular “Finding Nemo,” grossed $136.2 million in its domestic debut, according to studio estimates Sunday (final numbers are due later Monday). That represents Pixar’s biggest opening ever, topping “Toy Story 3’s” opening bow of $110.3 million in 2010.

“Finding Dory” also scored the biggest domestic debut ever for an animated film when not adjusted for inflation. 2007’s “Shrek the Third” opened to $121.6 million, which is around $140.9 million in today’s dollars.

(When adjusting for inflation, it’s worth noting, the highest-grossing run for an animated film remains another Disney film: 1937’s landmark “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”)

What Disney/Pixar has already accomplished with “Finding Dory,” though, is to help quell grumblings in recent years about Pixar’s turn toward sequels and prequels.

[Why Dory is one of Pixar’s most popular characters]

For many years, Pixar was known not only for its remarkable run of cinematic excellence, but also for its dedication to original films. Some fans began to kvetch after 2011’s “Cars 2” and 2013’s “Monsters University,” which were widely viewed as lesser Pixar films; only “Toy Story” sequels seemed immune from the critical carping over the studio’s follow-ups.

Now, the fan turnout for “Dory” should quiet most such criticism. The comedy — which returns the popular Ellen DeGeneres as the voice of Dory — received a positive 78 on MetaCritic; a score of 95 percent “fresh” on RottenTomatoes; and a CinemaScore of A.

[How Pixar enchants us, and moves us, with close-up emotional magic]

Such a launch also positions “Dory” to likely become the latest Disney animated film to top the billion-dollar threshold globally, joining 2013’s “Frozen” ($1.28 billion), 2010’s “Toy Story 3” ($1.06 billion) and this year’s “Zootopia” ($1.01 billion). “Dory” has grossed $50 million overseas.

Mostly, this bodes well for future Pixar sequels that have likewise had many years to germinate creatively. Over the next three Junes, successively, that slate includes “Cars 3” (2017), “Toy Story 4” (2018) and “The Incredibles 2” (2019).

Thanks to “Dory,” in other words, the studio can just keep swimming in sequels.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

*“Finding Dory” nearly doubled “Finding Nemo’s” $70.2 million debut in 2003 (not adjusted for inflation — the “Nemo” opening is $91.7 million in today’s dollars).

*The Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart comedy “Central Intelligence,” which had a solid $34.5 million debut, drew nearly a 50/50 split of men and women.

*“Warcraft” plummeted 73 percent in its second domestic weekend, to a mere $6.5 million. Foreign receipts now account for 90 percent of the film’s total gross ($377.6 million).

*Disney has had the top-grossing film for 11 of 25 weekends this year.

*“Dory” is Disney’s third film to debut above $100 million domestically this year, joining “The Jungle Book” ($103 million) and “Captain America: Civil War” ($179 million).

Read more:

How ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ deal beautifully with disabilities


From left, producer Lindsey Collins, writer/director Andrew Stanton, Ellen DeGeneres and co-director Angus MacLane arrive at the premiere of “Finding Dory” at the El Capitan Theatre on June 8 in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

 

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