Interview: ‘Finding Dory’ Director Andrew Stanton on Sea Lions, Sigourney Weaver, Easter Eggs and More
Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to chat with writer/director Andrew Stanton about his new Pixar film Finding Dory. The film hit theaters this past weekend and earned an estimated $136.2 million, breaking the record for the biggest animated opening of all time. (Looks like my Summer Movie Wager pick wasn’t that stupid after all, although we’ll have to see how it does in the second weekend to see if it really has a chance to beat Captain America: Civil War this summer.)
I decided to hold off until after release to publish the full interview as we talk about some spoilers (so stop now if you haven’t seen the film). I talked with Andrew about the real and unexpected meaning behind the film’s title, how he tried (or didn’t try) to avoid the traps of “sequelitis,” how the sea lions and Sigourney Weaver got involved, and of course that story about the symbiotic relationship between the Disney’s story trust and Pixar brain trust that I shared last week. Read the full interview now, after the jump.
Interview: Finding Dory Director Andrew Stanton
I enjoyed the film.
It’s interesting that you decided to call the film Finding Dory.
Well, the main story isn’t really about finding Dory so much…
Yes, but not in the traditional sense. Yes, Marlin and Nemo are in search of Dory, but thats not the main story in this film. It’s about…
Dory finding herself.
So my question is, when you announced the title, was that always in the plan? Or is that something you came to in the development since?
Yes. Well, to me there’s no reason to make a movie about anybody until I know there’s going to be something needy about their character on the inside. So I always knew what I was going to be telling you about Marlin, even though his plotting kept changing all the time on Nemo. I always knew what I was trying to address, was this fearful nature of being a parent. And I always knew from the first movie that Dory had abandonment issues and that she had self-acceptance issues. That was what made her such an almost superhuman optimist, because it was her armor. It’s what made her hope that if she was that friendly, that helpful, that joyful to be around, you wouldn’t ditch her. So I always knew that that was that tragic underpinning that was under there. It’s why you accept her suddenly crying 50 minutes into the picture when we haven’t laid any track for it, and everybody is accepting it. They get it, because they just know that it can’t be good to have short term memory loss and wonder the ocean by yourself. It can’t be good. And nobody is thinking too hard to about it. They are too caught up in the moment. That’s really why I got into making this film, because that issue was not resolved and it was meaty. I kill myself for years sometimes trying to get that kind of inner turmoil going on with any main character. So, yes. That was my long answer!
When you initially came up with the idea for this film, was it initially about her trying to find her parents?
Yes. I always knew that I wanted her to find her parents and that I wanted her parents to be Diane Keeton and Eugene Levy. But I initially thought they would all have short-term memory loss, because that’s a line she says in the first movie. She says, “It runs in my family. At least I think it does.” And it led us down a wrong path for almost two years. And it’s really annoying to watch three people with short-term memory loss try to deal with each other. [Laughs.] And so, I realized, “You know what? I should lean into the other part of her sentence where she says, ‘At least I think it does’ and have her wrong on that fact so that we just get out of this hole.” It just helped get us on to the right road and led us to a bunch of other things that needed to change about the film.
How did Sigourney Weaver come about?
It was just funny to us. I mean she’s the voice of The Blue Planet series if you buy the American or North American versions of that series. She’s also done other nature conservations. She’s big with stuff that she experienced from Gorillas in the Mist. But she’s also the voice of the planetarium show at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. So she was the equivalent of David Attenborough to me for nature. So I thought, “Wouldn’t be funny if she did the voice?” And because we know her, we thought, “This will be a nice card to pull. It’d be hilarious if she plays herself.” I waited till the last minute to ask her because we were worried it’d get cut, maybe it wouldn’t work in previews. So it was a scratch voice till the bitter end, and then thank goodness she said yes, because I think it’s such a wining idea.
You guys are known to hide a character from the next Pixar film in the current release. I noticed there’s a VW Bug in one sequence. Is that something you put into…?
I wish I could say… That would be too obvious. It’s not. [Laughs.]
Yeah, It was very obvious. Usually you guys…
It’s just a VW Bug, sadly. But there is a Cars 3 reference somewhere else. But it’s not a literal car. That’s the biggest hint I’ll give you. It’s not a literal car in the film, our Easter egg of Cars 3.