After a staggering thirteen years of anticipation, rumors, and setbacks, the sequel to the acclaimed Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo finally hits theaters today. While enough time has passed that even the child actors of the original film (including the original voice of Nemo, Alexander Gould) have become too old to reprise their roles, the underlying themes and emotions from the original film can still be felt in Finding Dory. A little, anthropomorphized fish named Nemo taught a whole generation of children that having a little fin doesn’t make you any less courageous or heroic. His father, Marlin, taught parents worldwide that helping your kids grow up sometimes means letting them face the world on their own. These lessons and values are expanded upon in Finding Dory, with the same cast of colorful sea dwellers that have become cherished by families; plus some hilarious new characters that kids are sure to adore.

Originally an endless source of comic relief in a sometimes-heart-rending story, amnesiac Pacific regal blue tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) takes center stage in this latest adventure. While her flawed short-term memory was a much funnier hindrance than Nemo’s (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) damaged fin in the first film, Finding Dory explains how her forgetfulness caused her to be separated from her parents when she was young. When Dory suddenly has a memory of her parents and “the jewel of Morro Bay, California”, she sets out in search of her mom and dad with the help of Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo. Of course, the jewel she’s searching for is a marine life institute. Once she arrives, she realizes that the center is full of creatures that suffer from impairments, just like her. Dory befriends a surly octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neil), who’s missing a tentacle. She reconnects with childhood friend Destiny (Kaitlin Olson); a whale shark with a bit of a vision problem. Dory even receives help from a beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell), whose echolocation is on the fritz due to a head injury.

One odd thing about Finding Dory is that the title character isn’t the only one suffering from memory loss. It seems Marlin, Nemo’s father, has forgotten an important trait from the original film: patience. In fact, his frustration with Dory’s memory temporarily causes a rift between him and the precocious blue. While including a jerk clownfish into the movie may seem weird, Marlin actually helps underline the main message of the Finding Dory.

Dory has spent most of her life trying to overcome her short-term memory loss. Her redemption in Finding Nemo comes after she remembers who Nemo is, taking a large step towards getting rid of her disability. Even the friends she meets at the marine institute feel like it’s their differences and shortcomings that have landed them there. Each one of them seeks to overcome their impairments. But ask any parent of a child with special needs, and they’ll tell you that’s the wrong way to think about it. For many people around the world, there is no overcoming disability. You can plead and anguish at the altars of science and religion, but sometimes there is no “cure”. There’s only acceptance. Only by embracing these differences, these obstacles, can children be truly happy and fulfilled with themselves. Some even find that it opens up a new world of possibilities that remains hidden from people who take too much for granted.

That’s exactly the message that Finding Dory sends to audiences, through the kind innocence of a Pacific regal blue tang named Dory. When Hank inks himself out of fright, Dory reassures him that “everybody does it; nothing to be ashamed of.” When Destiny bumps into something due to her poor eyesight, blaming herself for being a bad swimmer, Dory replies “I think you swim beautifully.” When Bailey gets embarrassed because his echolocation doesn’t work quite right, Dory reassures him that he’s doing great, just by trying. And even though it takes him a while to see things clearly, Marlin discovers that Dory’s forgetfulness is responsible for her infinite kindness and compassion.

Don’t forget to catch this soon-to-be Pixar classic while it’s still in theaters! Find showtimes and buy tickets right here.