Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
When a Finding Nemo sequel was announced, many people, including myself, were skeptical of the motivations behind the announcement. Yesterday you learned how director Andrew Stanton came to find that a Finding Nemo sequel was necessary. And now we reveal why he felt Dory’s story was not over.
On a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I got to preview 30 minutes of Finding Dory. And I must admit, the 13-minute opening of the film (which I will not spoil) floored me. It was unexpected, dark, emotional and so very compelling. And what interests me is the idea that Finding Dory is actually a movie about disabled character on a journey to embrace what she may feel is her big flaw.
Note: the following report is compiled from roundtable interviews, presentations with Pixar creative leads and a one-on-one interview with director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins.
How Dory’s Disability Drives Her Character
When I talked to Finding Dory co-director Angus MacLane, he described the story as partially being about Dory coming to own her disability. While Stanton never thought of Dory’s short-term memory loss as a disability, he agrees that it is the core foundation of her character that is the reason for this story.
I never think of it as a disability, so even though that’s the perfect word for it. I just saw it as… It’s just her uniqueness, right? And she sees it as a flaw, as something she has to compensate for. It’s something that she doesn’t trust, that she thinks is gonna cause problems for herself. It’s probably why she became super fish at being friendly and helpful and humorous and insightful. It’s all these things that will make somebody not ditch her because she doesn’t trust that her short term memory loss will betray her. Either she’ll drop, she’ll lose somebody or they’ll be sick of her. And I knew that was how she was made up from the day I came up with her. And that’s why I always saw her as tragic. But her skill set, her armor is so arresting. And so caretaking and so like everybody loves her. And of course she’s gonna be great at that. So that you won’t ditch her. And she won’t be alone again. And I didn’t want her to feel like that on the inside. I wanted her to, like, recognize and love what everybody else loves about her. Everybody has still thinks about her, even after the movie 10 years. But I knew deep down she didn’t believe that deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down. And I feel like most people have something about themselves that they see as a big flaw and that they’ve never been able to change about themselves. And I think the key is not often that you can conquer it, that you can get rid of it, but it was more as a how do you conquer it? How do you own it? How do you turn that into an asset? And I think that’s a very universal thing. And it works for disabilities. It works for handicaps, but it also works for just how you see yourself as imperfect. And that I liked. And that naturally came from just trying to deal with Dory. For trying to make her a main character. I mean, she wasn’t built to be a main character. She was built to just support somebody else. And a main character’s a very different role. And so they worked hand in hand for each other.
You May Have Missed Dory’s Touch of Sadness in Finding Nemo
The character has a touch of sadness to her that perhaps we didn’t see in the original Finding Nemo, but will become more apparent in this sequel. But to Stanton, it was never hidden or added for this film. Its not like Marty McFly all of a sudden being irked by the word “chicken.”
To me it was hidden. It was never added. And not to like pounce on the word, but to me it was under the hood the whole time. And I realized that the audience must have sensed it or else they wouldn’t have been accepting of this character two-thirds of the way into Nemo suddenly crying and saying don’t leave me when we did nothing to set that up. Yet everybody accepts it. It’s because unconsciously you go, there’s no way somebody with short term memory loss could be wandering the ocean and be happy. And I don’t care if nobody ever had that thought, you felt it. Just like you sensed it when you meet a stranger and you don’t know anything about them. But yet you sense something. And so I knew that like, oh, that’s there and I knew everybody else senses it’s there, but what I made the mistake of is I assumed that everybody really consciously thought of that. And so it took me about a year or two in and things weren’t working and getting angry and suddenly realizing, oh my gosh.
On the next page we’ll learn how a key element to the Finding Dory story wasn’t discovered until a year and a half into development, and how thats typical of the Pixar development process.