FINDING DORY concept art kelp forrest

Some Ideas for Finding Dory Were First Created for Finding Nemo

A lot of the initial ideas for Finding Dory were born out of the creative development of Finding Nemo. Director Andrew Stanton explains how Pixar routinely returns to the lists of cut ideas from past projects when developing their sequels:

When I had started on Nemo, this is a little bit of a tangent, but I didn’t know where to start. The ocean’s a big, big place and there’s so many places. I just started making a list, what are things I’d like to see? A jellyfish forest sounds fun. And submarine underwater wreck. And angler fish. And it just became this kind of, like, list of cool stuff, just like pure spectacle. And then as I went through the storyline of trying to figure out stuff, we kind of had this little limited toolbox to pull from. And it was sort of the same thing here. It wasn’t that clean, but there’s a lot of species and environments left on the table that we either tried or didn’t get to try on the first movie that now you get to kind of expand upon and explore. It’s where most of the other Toy Story sequels came from is, like, all this stuff that was just left on the cutting room floor. I mean, by the time we were done with Toy Story 2, between the two movies, we had done about five features worth of ideas. And that’s a lot of fresh material. So you don’t have to feel like you’re sitting there trying to compare yourself to the first movie. You’re just going oh, can I start working with this fertile stuff that came from just the desire to be in this world? And it’s the same thing with Nemo.

Their deep dive into the Finding Nemo archives resulted in rediscovering an abandoned location they pulled out of the dusty boxes for Finding Dory. One of the exhibits unique to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the kelp forest, something Stanton wanted to bring to Finding Nemo but found himself unable to.

We wanted to go to the kelp forest of underwater so badly ’cause it’s so unique. And I couldn’t ever justify it in the first movie, ’cause it just is so specific to this coastline. And so it was one of those nice things where we could make this story take place anywhere at the beginning. So we kind of planted a pin here just to see if it would hold and it held.

FINDING DORY – Lighting Exploration Concept Art by Visual Consultant Sharon Calahan. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The Bold Contrast in the Film’s Four Environments

Art director Don Shank explained to me that since the scope of a movie like this is so big, featuring lots of environments in both fish and human scale, they purposely created bold contrasts to separate the four different environments in the story. The fish environments like the reef are very circular, giving a friendly feel. The kelp forest is created using rhythmic shapes, giving a more alien feel to that fish environment. They often defined the underwater areas with large empty space. And the human world was presented in a very blocky/rectilinear motif, making it unfriendly to a fish.

finding dory concept art

An Abandoned Sequence

Pixar spent a lot of time designing the Marine Life Institute, and yet one of the areas of the aquarium did not make it into the film film. One of the things abandoned in development were a series of sequences which involved Marlin and Nemo trying to find Dory.

For Dory to learn to drive on her own basically they had to be separated. So we were like, well, what do we do with them and where do they go? And we had a, I don’t wanna give anything away yet, but we had a long, I hope it all comes out on the DVD, ’cause it was really fun. We had a long circuitous route, that’s all I’m gonna say, with them that ended up not helping her story at all. And I had to finally just say you’re right. And we got so much better stuff that worked and made the movie much better. But as a side idea, it was fantastic. And hopefully it will show up on the DVD.

Stanton said the sequences were in the film for “a long time,” admitting that they were “seductive, just put it that way.” We’ll have to wait until the DVD to find out what he’s talking about.

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