It was 13 years ago that Pixar released its fifth feature film, Finding Nemo, which grossed $936 million worldwide (second in the Pixar library only to Toy Story 3) and made the little coral reef fishes known as Nemo, Marlin and Dory into cultural icons. Flash forward to 2016 and director/co-writer Andrew Stanton has delivered Finding Dory, a tale that focuses on the blue tang with short-term memory loss, voiced once again by Ellen DeGeneres, who now goes in search of her parents after recovering a long-buried memory of them.
Joining DeGeneres and Albert Brooks as Marlin are new cast members Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, Idris Elba, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson and Ed O’Neill (Modern Family) as Hank, a mimic octopus with seven tentacles who ends up helping Dory on her quest — for his own reasons — while providing some of the movie’s best jokes and visual gags. We got DeGeneres and O’Neill together for an interview during the recent press junket for Finding Dory, and it was clear that the two great comic talents had spent a lot of time together that day — but were still able to have a little fun.
I heard yesterday, Ellen, that you were lobbying for a Finding Nemo sequel for a while without it necessarily being about Dory…
Ed O’Neill: She was lobbying about 13, 14 years, I think.
Ellen DeGeneres: (laughs) I was.
O’Neill: It became a running joke on the show, you know, but they called and she was surprised and so…
DeGeneres: I love that you know my story.
O’Neill: It probably would have continued as a joke, had they not actually decided to do the sequel. It would have gotten funnier, too, I think.
DeGeneres: You’re absolutely right.
Are you going to answer her questions? You’ve heard her say this a few times today.
O’Neill: I’m just, I just felt like answering that one, I’m sorry.
DeGeneres: He likes to just jump in sometimes and I like it. Because I told him to jump in more often, so he did.
When Andrew told you this was going to be about Dory, what was your reaction and how did you feel about the story they came up with for her?
O’Neill: She was fine with it actually…
O’Neill: And she was excited, as one would be, and looking forward to it. Her one concern, however, was because so much time had gone by, she wasn’t sure she could still do it. The voice, obviously, may have changed. But when she showed up, it was like falling off a log. It was like water on a tin roof.
DeGeneres: Why would I want to fall off a log? That’s not a good expression!
O’Neill: “Easy as falling off a log.” It’s an old expression.
DeGeneres: “Riding a bike” is better. You don’t want to fall off a log.
O’Neill: Or just jumping into a pool of warm water. It was that easy.
So Ed, it wasn’t hard for Ellen to find the voice again.
O’Neill: It wasn’t! She found it quite easy.
Ellen, how challenging was it for Ed to find the voice of a mimic octopus?
DeGeneres: He really just showed up, and he just kind of said, “Let Andrew…” He really didn’t know that he was going to be such a big character. He thought it was just going to be a cameo. And he showed up and said, “Okay, I don’t know anything about it.” His agent said that he got this offer, he said, “Where’s the script?” The agent said, “There’s no script,” and he said, “So then why do I want to do it?”
O’Neill: That’s true. It’s all true.
DeGeneres: He said, “Why do I want to do it?” And (the agent) said, “Because it’s Pixar,” and he goes, “Okay.” And he goes and he thinks it’s a cameo, and then it turns out he keeps going back and back and back, and it turns out he’s in the movie a lot. So he was underpaid, and he’s complaining about it constantly, he doesn’t think he got paid enough (laughs)…no, that’s not true. But I am thrilled because I love this guy and I think our characters together in the movie are so great. And it’s just one of the many messages because it really is about, you know, these friendships that you just wouldn’t think should exist, ‘cause we’re such opposites. And it’s about how, you know, you shouldn’t judge somebody just by the first meeting.
Is there anything on either of your recording sessions that no one should ever hear? That Andrew could hold over your heads?
O’Neill: Well, Ellen at one point went so far out that it was, I mean, it was really hilarious. But they couldn’t use that. They may though, at some other point in time when it’s more appropriate.
DeGeneres: But it’s not bad. It’s not like I was yelling. It’s just more that there’s things that could not be used in it. I’m hoping they put it in the DVD for the blooper reel, because I did kind of —
O’Neill: That’s almost what I just said.
DeGeneres: No, you, you… (laughs) You’re not gonna speak for me anymore. You’re not gonna do it.
O’Neill: Okay (laughs).
DeGeneres: Did you ever do that? Did you ever go so far out that…you don’t have a temper, so they wouldn’t have anything over on you.
O’Neill: They don’t. They don’t. Actually I was pretty tame. I don’t really have a funny story to tell about the recording sessions. I was pretty straightforward — next, next, next.
Finding Dory opens in U.S. theaters June 17, 2016.