Even by Pixar’s normal high standards, Finding Nemo was a truly magnificent movie.
The 2003 film – about Marlin (Albert Brooks), a grumpy clownfish who teams up with forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to locate his missing son, Nemo – won Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Screenplay. More importantly, it won a place in the hearts of audiences.
For years it seemed like it would also be one of those rare modern beasts – a hit movie without a sequel. Then Finding Dory happened.
But writer and director Andrew Stanton “wasn’t expecting to go back”. “Four years working on one movie with fish is a long time,” he says.
This was despite the very public attempts by Emmy award-winning talk-show host DeGeneres to get a sequel made.
“It just seemed like it was so obvious because the first film was such an iconic movie,” she says. “I was a small part of it – I wasn’t campaigning to have a sequel for Dory but just a sequel for a great movie. Then it didn’t happen for five or six years and I decided to make a joke of it.”
She used her TV talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show to campaign for a follow up.
“How come every animated film is getting a sequel apart from Finding Nemo?” she once asked. On another show she said: “Can you believe it’s been seven years since a Finding Nemo movie?”
Proving that persistence – and begging hard enough on national television for long enough – pays off, she finally got a call from Stanton to announce that he had come up with an idea for a sequel.
Stanton says, however, that it was not the pestering by DeGeneres that led to his change of heart.
“In 2011 I was watching the film again because we had to work on the 3-D versions,” he says. “I walked out of the film and I was worried about Dory and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. How could I have left her hanging like that?”
Dory, a Pacific regal blue tang, was the loveable fish that couldn’t remember anything for more than a few minutes, yet was the most kind-hearted creature in the ocean. She seemed like the perfect character to focus on in a sequel – yet Stanton recognised that doing another film in which a fish goes missing and needs to be rescued might cover ground too similar to the original film.
He resolved this problem by coming up with the genius idea of making Dory’s dementia the focus of the movie. It starts with Dory having a flashback to her childhood, as her parents try, and fail, to get her to remember things. She forgets the details of the flashback in seconds, yet it changes something inside her – and so she sets off on a search for her roots and parents.
Eugene Levy (American Pie, Best in Show) voices Dory’s dad, Charlie. He speaks a universal truth when he says: “I think the greatest storylines have to do with family, because that is the one thing that is the most important thing in all our lives, or should be, anyway.” So although the film tells the story of Dory’s search for her parents, the title Finding Dory isn’t a misnomer – ultimately the film is about her attempt to find herself.
“I always knew that the film would be about her accepting herself,” says Stanton. “Dory had learnt how to survive in the wild by being the best co-pilot ever, so she would always be dependent on someone else to be successful. I knew that the only way that she would be happy would be if she did something by herself.”
He also made Dory’s forgetfulness into a disability.
“No one is perfect and everyone has a flaw, and it’s a reflection of that,” he says. “I didn’t want [the disability] to be exclusive, I want it to be about everyone.”
“Her disability becomes her strength,” DeGeneres adds.
In addition to the touching main story, there are also all those Pixar touches that make its films so universal and there is an almost forest-like atmosphere to the ocean that makes the film more of a fairy tale than its predecessor.
The standard of the animation is also incredible, with Dory sharing the expressions and general facial look of DeGeneres. Just don’t point this out to her.
“They are filming me the entire time I’m recording the words to get my facial expressions and the way I say things – that’s how they get the look of the fish,” she says. “Someone said to me Dory looks like me, but I don’t see it.”
Finding Dory is in cinemas now
Source: art & life