Cast & Crew Discuss Pixar Film Complexity During FINDING DORY Press Day

FINDING DORY may be advertised as a sequel to Pixar’s 2003 animated feature FINDING NEMO, but it actually works more as an entertaining and emotional spin-off.  Sure, the two main characters from the first film, Nemo and his Dad Marlin, are present throughout the story, but it is far from their film.  This time out the movie belongs to the well-intentioned little blue tang fish who suffers from a bad case of short-term memory loss, Dory.  At the FINDING DORY press day, the cast and crew gave a behind the scenes look at the complexity of the film.  Click here if you’re looking for our review of FINDING DORY.

Disney•Pixar's FINDING DORY

With FINDING DORY set one year after it’s predecessor, the story finds Dory now living with Marlin and Nemo in their cozy part of the ocean.  Still suffering from short-term memory loss, one day she miraculously begins having flashes of her parents – flashes that trigger a need within her to find out what happened to her family.  With this, the adventure begins as the film brings back many of the old characters from FINDING NEMO, while also introducing us to a bunch of new ones.

Finding Dory Cast
Although audiences will have to wait until Friday June 17, 2016 to discover how Dory’s adventurous search for her parents unfolds, Disney and Pixar invited members of the press to a special event to share some of the behind the scenes details of the film.  The event was split into two parts.  First, writer/co-director Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO) and producer Lindsey Collins came out to discuss bringing the world of Dory and Nemo back to the big screen after such a long hiatus.  They were then followed by cast members, including Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ed O’Neill (Hank), Eugene Levy (Charlie – Dory’s Dad), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Kaitlin Olson (Destiny) and Ty Burrell (Bailey), to give their own take on the film and all of it’s themes.

Finding Dory Filmmakers

The junket started off with director Andrew Stanton giving his explanation regarding why, after all these years, he finally decided to make a sequel to FINDING NEMO and how come he decided to have the story be about Dory who was only a sidekick in the first film.  “I just wasn’t expecting to ever go back.  Four years with fish is a long time to work on a movie and I always thought that (FINDING) NEMO was a closed little circuit, a nice finished little picture…  But, the brain is an interesting thing.  So, suddenly I was watching the movie again, cause I hadn’t watched the movie in years and in 2011 we had to see the 3D version and I walked out very worried about Dory.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how she needed closure.”  He continued, “I always knew that the film was going to be about her (Dory) accepting herself… The premise I ultimately came up with is that your not at peace until you can truly accept who you are.  I think that she was always going to be unsettled until she experienced what it was like to succeed on her own and I don’t think she ever really had.  She had learned to survive in the wild by being the best co-pilot ever (in FINDING NEMO).  That meant she was always dependent on somebody else to be successful and so I knew that the only way she was going to feel completely fulfilled was if she, like a little kid, did it all by herself.  So that was really the grand design, to just do that simple thing for her.” Producer Lindsey Collins added to this by saying, “We also felt as if she needed to grant herself the same grace that we feel she grants everybody else and I mean that only in that she kind of apologizes for herself, always with her first sentence, “I’m sorry, I suffer from short-term memory loss.”   She never expects anyone to apologize for themselves and in fact is more open with them than anybody and I think it’s why people love Dory… The fact that she, as a character, was not giving herself that same grace, it was like how do we get her to that place and who grants that to her… The only person who can grant that to her is herself.”

Dory

Ellen DeGeneres, who once again voices the lovable Dory in the film, summed up why she felt the character appeals to so many people.  “I would love to have every trait of Dory’s.  I try to have as many traits as she has as far as optimism and perseverance and non-judgment and not having any resentment or holding on to anger.  She doesn’t feel like a victim.  I think that’s why she’s such a loveable character…  She just thinks everything is possible and she never for a second thinks that anything’s wrong with anybody else or herself…  I’d like to have all of those traits.”

FINDING DORY

Actress Ellen DeGeneres (L) and director Andrew Stanton of FINDING DORY (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

There was also a lot of talk during the Q & A regarding the importance of Dory’s short-term memory loss within the theme of the story.  Stanton commented, “I was trying to be universal with her unique specificity in a weird way.  Nobody wants to watch a character be a generalization of something, so you go very specific, but your hopefully saying something universal with it.  So I was not trying to just talk about anybody with a disability, I was using her disability to represent everybody and I think the obvious category that comes first is people with an obvious handicap, but I also think that it works for anybody, because nobody… well maybe there are people you know who think that their perfect, but nobody is. Everybody has a flaw… So I wanted it not to be exclusive.  I wanted it to talk to everybody.”

DeGeneres also gave her opinions regarding Dory’s memory loss by explaining, “As you see in the film, what appears to be a disability is her strength.  I love that message in it… that something that seems to be a handicap is something you can use as a strength.”

Dory Hank

The theme of friendship and family is also a big part of the film and many of the cast wanted to weigh in on their thoughts regarding this.  It started with Eugene Levy, who explained, “I think that the greatest storylines, as evident in this movie… have to do with family, because that’s the one thing that’s most important in all our lives…  or should be anyway.  So anytime you’re dealing in a familial kind of situation, a Dad and a Child, those are the kinds of stories that resonate with me, because they’re about something absolutely tangible and real and those are the storylines that you can really have fun with and get behind and totally pour yourself into.”  Later on in the conversation this theme came back up when Ty Burrell started talking about the friendship element in the film, “I feel like there’s sort of a theme in the movie that friendship can somehow make you complete.”  Kaitlin Olson added to this by saying, “in a ‘if you don’t have a family you can create your own family kind of thing.’”  DeGeneres then finished the thought with, “…and that we can all get along no matter that we’re all different species and look different and have different traits…”

Finding Dory Ellen

One of the things that generally make a Pixar movie stand out among the rest of the family films presented to audiences is their ability to tell a more complex and intelligent story.  DeGeneres felt that this was especially true with FINDING DORY.  “I think it’s so much more then a cartoon movie and I think that we’re all so proud of it.  I mean it’s much more complex and layered than (FINDING) NEMO and NEMO is a great movie.  But, there’s so many layers to this (FINDING DORY) and it is a very personal story for Dory…  It was emotional.  It was really sad.  Everything that Dory was going through and feeling…  these are all human feelings, they’re all the same feelings that we all have and it does show the power of these animators and how they make it so beautiful and so realistic and the characters they create are so complex that you do get emotional and you do cry at a fish and we all cried.  It really is a beautiful story…  It’s a credit to the writing as well.”

Finally, DeGeneres summed up the appeal of the movie’s themes by saying, “I think that everyone is searching for their home, whatever that is.  I think home is different for everybody.  I understand what a sense of belonging is.  I understand when you want to say, ‘Why am I who I am?  Where did I come from?’ and ‘How did I end up where I am?’  Yeah, I can relate to that.  I think everybody can.”

Make sure to join Dory, Nemo and Marlin on their new adventure when FINDING DORY opens across the country on Friday June 17, 2016.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Mark Oguschewitz

Mark Oguschewitz moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating with a film degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Ill. Pursuing a career in the industry, Mark became an award winning freelance editor. He is also known for being the creative consultant for the podcast "Skywalking through Neverland" and co-host of the Podcast "Talking Apes TV." Mark's short film "Gourmet" took the Best Micro-Short honor at the International Horror and Sci-Fi film festival in 2007. His spare time is all about movies. It's not just entertainment, but has become more of a real passion, as he tries to see everything he can. Art house or Blockbuster – It doesn't matter, he loves them all.