Imagine for a moment that you wrote and directed an Oscar®-winning animated film in 2003. Can you further imagine, what if, in 2013 you start thinking, "I wonder what happened to that character?" And is it even a good idea to revisit this when you can just sit back on your laurels?
That's exactly what happened to Pixar Animation Director Andrew Stanton of "Finding Nemo" fame. Story is always King at Pixar. And Director Stanton found himself (10 years after "Finding Nemo") lingering over the thoughts of, "I wonder what ever happened to Dory?" He found he was strangely worried about her. "The idea of her short-term memory loss and how it affected her was unresolved. What if she got lost again? Would she be OK?” What exactly was her story?
On my recent trip to Monterey, California I had the pleasure of sitting around a table with Director Andrew and Producer Lindsey Collins discussing that very topic and getting their thoughts on the what and why of the making of 'Finding Dory.'
'Finding Dory' is the sequel to the very popular 2003 Pixar film, "Finding Nemo." In the original Nemo film, the character of Dory is voiced by the insanely talented Ellen DeGeneres, who has also been making very public and friendly jabs at Disney•Pixar with lots of it's-been-10-years-would-you-please-make-a-sequel-already noises.
We asked Andrew about that. "Every time she did that, believe me, I got a lot of emails forwarding that clip or whatever. I would hear about it all the time. But you know, I know her pretty well and I always take it with a grain of salt and laugh because, you know, I knew that I had this complete movie in my mind. I got really serious about it, but I waited until the summer of 2012 to call her because I wanted to make sure that first I got to say this out loud to everybody I'm working with."
"The quickest phone call I ever had with her was taking the role of Dory. I basically wrote with her in mind because I couldn't figure out Dory. It wasn't even a female character at the time, and I just needed this character to have short term memory loss and I didn't know how to do it.
"The Ellen Show" was on in the room while I was trying to deal with writer's block and suddenly I heard her change the sentence 5 times in one sentence, and I went, that's it! That's how you do it."
"I sent her the script, called her out of the blue, and I said, 'Ellen, I wrote the part for you and if you don't take it, I'm completely screwed." She didn't know me, but she was like, "Well then, I'd better take it." It was that short of a phone call, and I've been so thankful to her ever since. Probably the second shortest phone call was for "Finding Dory."
Having locked in Ellen as Dory made the job of finding the perfect supporting cast that much easier for Stanton and Producer Lindsey Collins. Because Ellen DeGeneres has interviewed just about everyone in show business, they could just watch the tapes of her show and watch what kind of chemistry she had with other actors.
"I think we were laughing at how complicated our casting process usually is," Lindsey Collins jokingly explained: “It’s painful because you have to have ideas of what people you’re interested in, and then you have to go search." The process was streamlined for them because Ellen has had everyone on her show. "She has interviewed everybody so she made it so easy”.
I can honestly say that the excitement and commitment to the film was super contagious. The Disney•Pixar cast and crew are very obviously in love with their product. Take a peek:
Besides getting to watch the first 20 minutes of 'Finding Dory,' the most fun part of the trip to Monterey was to hang with and get "up close and personal" with the filmmakers themselves. They are so very proud of this film. And I can tell you that even after watching just a sneak peek, I'm so ready for more, too.
However, we made a solemn promise to Director Andrew Stanton that we wouldn't reveal what happens in those opening minutes, but trust me, fans of Dory will find it all unforgettable. (<--See what I did there?)