Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton has been outspoken about sequels. Like fellow Pixar brain trust member Brad Bird, he has made his feelings known that we need more original stories and that money shouldn’t be a reason to make a follow-up. So when Stanton announced that he was directing a Finding Nemo sequel titled Finding Dory, some were surprised. Cynical film journalists were quick to write it off as a filmmaker running back to his successful franchise after the box office disappointment of his live-action debut, John Carter. But the truth is that the idea for Finding Dory came to Stanton before John Carter even hit theaters. It was something that kept him up at night.
Note: the following report is compiled from a roundtable interview and a one-on-one interview with director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins.
Stanton wasn’t always interested in making a Finding Nemo sequel. When the suggestion of a Nemo sequel would come up from time to time and he would quickly quash it: “no, no, I’m done.” So how did Finding Dory come about? The idea came up before Stanton even started working on John Carter, and was something that he thought about for years.
I never watch my movies soon after. And so it had been several years after Nemo came out that I watched it again for something. About six, seven years later. And that probably put a bug in my brain. And then I just remember finding myself starting to think about wow, you know, we never really resolved Dory’s issue. ‘Cause I felt she had one. And that she was truly a little insecure on the inside and felt that like her short term memory loss was a bit of a burden on people. And that she had to make up for it with her optimism. And I also just worried that she was gonna forget Marlin and Nemo if she got lost. And she wouldn’t be able to find them again. And that’s probably how she got lost in the first place from wherever she really was from. And then I really felt like wow, that’s something I don’t want her to have to live with for the rest of her life. And I couldn’t drop it. Then I started thinking like, where is she from? And how could she feel better about herself? Sort of the same things that bug me about any other main character that I started to think about in their storyline. And so it’s more that I couldn’t drop it. … I remember vaguely feeling that about Dory for a brief moment during a party in Barcelona for the opening of Nemo in 2003. And just thinking like, wow, we still don’t have that resolved on her. And then it kind of passed. Then it came up years again years later.
When Stanton first came up with the idea for a possible Finding Nemo sequel, he was very careful not to tell too many people because he knew that it’d be “very hard to put that train back in the station” once it got running. In 2010 he found he couldn’t sleep at night because he was thinking about Dory and the character’s unresolved issues.
I had already had the idea for like a year, but I was like I cannot let anybody hear this, because the minute I say these two words out loud, everybody’s gonna want it. […] Because yeah, you can’t put it back in the box once it’s said.
So he kept the idea quiet and privately called Angus MacLane and Bob Peterson into a room at the studio and told them the idea. They worked on the idea at first off the books for a short period of time. They wanted to make sure they were confident in the idea, make sure the timing was right, and see that they could secure the returning voice actors they needed.