It has been 13 years since Nemo, Marlin and Dory captured the hearts of children and adults alike in “Finding Nemo.” When director Andrew Stanton and Pixar announced they were going to return to the world after years of pushing by Ellen DeGeneres (“Ellen”), there was a healthy amount of skepticism. However, the reason why it took so long for Stanton to return was because of his search for the right story.
In a conference call The Michigan Daily was involved in, Stanton described the reason behind his pursuit.
“We knew how hard it was like to make the first one, and four years of work,” he said. “You have to make sure it’s something that you love telling so much that you, even when it's not working on year three, you're still gonna get out of bed and work on it. We had to make sure that this idea was the same.”
The story they settled on focuses on Dory, a character who was purely a supporting role in “Nemo.” In the film, Dory takes Nemo and Marlin on an adventure to find her family and home. Santon described why focusing on Dory was so difficult.
“I think I underestimated how difficult Dory is to write for,” he said. “She was billed to be a supporting character and putting her in the spotlight and making her the main character with short-term memory loss proved to be very difficult to write for. And I started to hate the person that came up with her, which was me.”
Of course, there’s no talking about Dory without talking about DeGeneres. The comedian and talk-show host breathed life into the character with an infectious enthusiasm, bringing her unique comic timing to the screen. In fact, watching her ’90s sitcom, “Ellen,” helped him give a voice to a character who was just an idea at the time.
“I happened to have the TV on and I heard her on her show change the subject of sentence five times. And the way she did it, which we're all familiar with now, was so special it completely opened my eyes,” he explained. “I wrote the movie, and I sent her the script, and I called her and I said, ‘Hi, Ellen. I wrote this part for you and if you don't take it, I'm screwed.’ And she said, ‘Oh, then I better take it.’ ”
“Dory” producer Lindsey Collins also discussed what she loves about the character.
“I think Dory is, because of her condition, permanently in the moment in a way,” she said. “I think that's part of why people really love her — is that she just takes everything as it comes. … In some ways about the ‘why’ part of this movie is about her giving herself the kind of acceptance, the kind (she) gives everybody else.”
Yet, the filmmakers’ connection with the character goes even deeper than that, as the film uses Dory’s short-term memory loss as a way to tackle even deeper themes. Pixar is known for using simple stories to explore deeper themes, and it looks like “Dory” ’s exploration of embracing oneself for who you are is no exception.
“I felt that Dory saw her short-term memory loss as a burden, or as a handicap, and we love her for it. But, I wanted her to see and like herself as much as the rest of the world liked her,” he said. “I realized that it's a bit of a metaphor for everybody. Everybody has something about them that's not perfect, … but it's actually what's making you special and unique, and you learn as you grow older to own that part of yourself and to embrace it, and know that’s what makes you different than somebody else in a good way. With this sort of expression of self-confidence, … we realize (what) we are saying with the movie.”