CS got an early look at Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory movie at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium
Back when it was released in 2003, Finding Nemo was only the fourth original film Pixar Animation Studios and soon became their very first to bring home an Academy Award, helping propel the studio through a decade that would see it become a name synonymous with the best in feature film animation. How do you follow up what, to many, has become a cherished family classic? To answer that question, Walt Disney Pictures invited ComingSoon.net to California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium for a special early look at their upcoming Finding Dory movie!
“I had this [young fan] who was like, ‘I have a great idea for the next one!'” laughs Finding Dory movie producer Lindsey Collins. “…‘It’s Finding Nemo’s Mom, ..because you never find out what happened to her!’ I’m like, ‘Did your Dad always start it on Chapter 2?’ He’s like, ‘What?!’ ‘Never mind! It’s a good idea. We’ll think about it!'”
Although the very opening of the film was screened for press, Stanton requested that we not reveal exactly when and how it begins. As one might expect from the Finding Dory movie title, however, the focus this time around puts Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory front and center with a story that follows her on a quest to find her parents. Fans of Albert Brooks’ Marlin and his lovable son, Nemo, should fear not. While the characters were largely absent from the footage screened for press, Stanton promises that both clownfish are an essential part of the Finding Dory movie.
“I took some weird routes with them,” he explains, “Because they had to be separated. Because the whole thing is about how to learn, in a weird way. How to learn from being a supporting character to a main character and how to go from passenger to driver for [Dory]. They had to be separated so that she could be on her own and have to kind of start over.”
The story, which picks up not that long after the events of Finding Dory, was inspired by a line Dory delivers in Finding Nemo about not remembering what happened to her parents. Stanton found himself revisiting Nemo years later and the dialogue troubling him. All of a certain he wasn’t certain whether or not Dory would alright on her own and wanted to explore a way to give Dory a different ending.
“It’s not like I walk around with some author thing, like ‘This is my vision,”” Stanton smiles. “It’s more just like, I’m the only guy that smells there’s something here and I just keep digging… If all this stuff was preconceived, I don’t think anyone would want to do it. It’s the discovery that’s the drug and it’s the discovery of what the thing can be and we’re just very fortunate that we work for a company and people that get that that’s the drug and try to build a business around that. So that you can have the chance to do it again.”
Although Stanton and Collins can easily recall five completely distinct directions the Finding Dory movie nearly took, the realized narrative brings Dory to the Californian coast and the fictional Monterey Marine Life Institute, based largely on the real world’s Montery Bay Aquarium (which Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home fans may recognize as that film’s Cetacean Institute). It’s there that that Dory meets a host of new characters.
“It’s watching a kid grow up,” says Stanton. “Once you pick a story, it’s like now you’ve chosen that child and you’re like watching it grow up and you’re like, was it this child capable of. What is the best thing possible. How should we dress it up. Maybe it’s good at sports. Maybe it’s good at art. Maybe it’s good at music. You just start road testing everything with it, until it’s the best version of that thing you’ve discovered possible.”
“The running joke on our crew is any time I put something on a T-shirt or a hat for the crew, it would immediately get cut,” laughs Collins. “I’d put something on it and they’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s not in the film anymore.’ The last shirt we had had, I’m not even kidding, probably 80 things all listed out that had all been cut throughout the movie.”
“It’s like kids that went to your class for like one year,” says Stanton about some of the forgotten Finding Dory movie characters. “That’s what it’s like, you look back and between kindergarten and 12th grade, you’re like, “Oh, I remember that kid.”
Among the new characters featured in the Finding Dory movie is Hank, a seven-legged octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill.
“Hank came very early from our writer, Victoria Strauss,” says Stanton, “and she knew Dory needed a foil and some, and we also realized just physically we needed somebody ambulatory that can actually move Dory across manmade stuff but then you start doing enough research, whether it’s online or going to aquariums like we did and you just start seeing creatures and it’s kind of casting by sort of a visceral thing.”
As Finding Nemo did, the Finding Dory movie continues to explore differently abled characters with Hank the septapus and new characters like a beluga whale voice by Ty Burell and a whale shark voiced by Kaitlin Olson.
“Bailey, his echolocation doesn’t work,” says Staton. “Destiny doesn’t see well. Hank is a septapus and Nemo has a little fin. What I kind of love about it is that Dory doesn’t talk about really any of it. They all kind of confess those things themselves to her, and then she kind of goes, ‘I think you swim beautifully, anyway, blah, blah, blah…’ and she moves on and the only person she apologizes for, in the beginning, is herself. Kind of unintentionally, it was more about making sure that, at the end of this film, she’s not apologizing for herself and, in the same way, she treats her own kind of challenges the same way she treats everybody else’s.”
“We didn’t want to fix [Dory’s memory problems],” says Collins. “That was number one. We debated it. Is it something where she gets better? Then we were like, ‘No, it’s too much who she is. It’s fundamental to her. We’re not trying to fix her.'”
“That was sort of a universal thing to me,” says Stanton. “I always thought she was more of a metaphor for everybody has got a flaw or everybody has got something quirky about themselves that they see as a flaw, but oftentimes it’s their very strength, it’s their very superpower and it’s more about how they look at themselves and how they approach things and embrace that quirkiness about them, that makes them kind of move forward and conquer life a little bit more, be more independent, be more self-sufficient.”
Of course, advancements in technology over the last 13 years means that the Finding Dory movie can explore kinds of ocean life that would have been impossible to properly capture back in 2003.
“Andrew was saying the other day, ‘I feel like sometime soon, in 10 years or in five years, there’s going to be a generation of kids who are going to watch our movies totally out of order, the way we all would watch Disney movies,'” says Collins of the substantially more detailed Finding Dory movie. “There’s not going to be the knowledge of this one came first and then that one and then they did that one, which is how we all think about it now, because we’re all in it.”
“We used to say this when we were trying to figure out who we wanted to be, after ‘Toy Story,'” says Stanton. “I remember saying this a lot. The only thing that got us through ‘Toy Story’ was because we didn’t think we were going to get to do it again. We knew the technology better than anybody and we knew that it was going to be the ugliest picture we ever made and we knew it would look limited much sooner than anybody would want it to. So we said, ‘What are the films that are so clearly technologically limited, but we still watch?’ It was ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Snow White.’ We said, ‘That’s because it’s the story… You’re not in it for anything other than. When I’m gone, will somebody still want to hear this story? Can I tell something good enough that somebody will still want to hear it?'”
Check back as we’ll have more from behind the scenes of the Finding Dory movie between now and the film’s release in theaters June 17.