Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
The initial versions of the Finding Nemo story didn’t even feature a fish named Dory. Find out how Ellen DeGeneres‘ appearance on television changed everything, and learn how Modern Family and DeGeneres’ talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show has helped with the casting of the sequel Finding Dory.
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.
Finding Ellen: Dory Was Originally Planned as Gill
When Stanton originally created the character of Dory for Finding Nemo, Marlin’s sidekick for the adventure was initially a male fish named Gill.
She actually wasn’t based on anybody specifically. She kind of came through steps. I know that I wanted a guide to bring the father through the ocean. And I in my typical dumb, male fashion thought it should just be a guy. And so I had him named Gill. And it was this guy Gill which ended up being Gill in the tank in the dentist’s office. And it just wasn’t working. And then I read about short term memory loss is three seconds in all goldfish. And I thought that was hilarious and then I thought, well, wait a minute, what if I gave that to the character ’cause then they’d be caught in the moment all the time. And the only thing that ever existed at that time, we’re talking 1999, was short term memory guys get on SNL with Tom Hanks. And it was a skit that like it’s a certain way to play it where you just kept repeating the moment again and again. And that was not working. It was just getting annoying after a couple sequences.
And the moment when Stanton found Dory was when he had DeGeneres’ sitcom The Ellen Show playing in the background.
I had it on in the side of the room while I was trying to tackle this. And I heard her change the subject five times in one sentence. And I was like that’s the way to play it. She was hilarious. And then I said, why not female? Why can’t it be a platonic relationship? I mean, why can’t it be that manner? And then, for the first time after about three or four months, I was out of writer’s block and I knew I, don’t write for her, don’t write for her, ’cause what if she says no? Nobody’s gonna, what if she’s not what anybody wants? But I couldn’t ignore it. And so it was through these steps that it came to be.
On the next page you can learn how DeGeneres’ talk show played an unexpected role in casting the film, and a lot more.