Finding Nemo is one of the most popular and beloved of Pixar’s library of movies, but a sequel wasn’t always a foregone conclusion — which is perhaps why it took eight years for co-screenwriter and director Andrew Stanton to finally come up with the idea for Finding Dory. Five years after that, all the characters you loved then are back, including Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks), along with delightful new ones like the seven-tentacled mimic octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill), the whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell), in a funny and poignant tale about Dory’s search for her long-missing parents.
Screenrant sat down with Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins to talk about Dory’s history, how a sequel finally got going, finding a new Nemo and who they might find in movie number three.
Andrew, how long was it that you had the back story of Dory in your back pocket?
Andrew Stanton: I always had — when I even wrote her originally to bump into Marlin in the first movie — I knew that she had wandered the ocean for years with no memory of where and that she had this sense of abandonment, and that that was the reason she was so friendly and so helpful, because she kind of swam around with this fear of being ditched all the time. And so she wanted to ensure that maybe, if I’m really helpful and really friendly and really optimistic, you might stick around with me. So I always knew there was that sort of tragic element to her under the hood in the first movie. I didn’t know exactly any details of how and why —
Lindsey Collins: The specifics of it —
Stanton: That was the problem —
Collins: It’s very Dory of you to remember the emotion and the loneliness, but none of the details.
So what made this — this meaning the past four years — the right time to say, “Let’s go forward with this”?
Stanton: The idea sparked when I watched the movie again. I hadn’t watched it in years, I watched it in 2011 to watch the 3D release. They wanted me to approve it. And I walked out just completely feeling dissatisfied with Dory’s — where she was left. I felt like that hole was still there, that she could forget Marlin and Nemo, and that she saw herself as still someone who had to apologize for her short-term memory loss, and it just didn’t feel right. It felt like everybody loved her for exactly those reasons, and she deserved to like that too. I felt like as a writer and filmmaker, I left a door open that I shouldn’t have left open in the first movie.
Did you ever think on the first movie that she would take on the life she did?
Stanton: I mean, it seems obvious now, because I built her to be everything I wished I could be, which is to keep that joy of life, be caught up in the moment —
Collins: Optimistic —
Stanton: Be kind of kid-like and fun about everything and I think, I guess that’s a universal desire.
Collins: Yeah. I think that was a surprise. I mean, certainly we loved her that way, but I don’t think we knew that she would resonate so much with people. Like, that optimism was gonna be something that people really —
Stanton: So infectious.
Collins: — and the motto of ‘just keep swimming,’ I mean all those things took on lives way beyond the movie that we were kind of shocked by.
Stanton: Yeah, it’s crazy.
How far has the technology actually come from 13 years ago until now?
Stanton: I feel like it’s come so far that you kind of can do anything now if you really set your mind to it.
Collins: Like have a fish ride a unicycle —
Stanton: Yeah. You can do whatever — honestly, I think it’s been like that for about five, after seeing like the latest Planet of the Apes movie, I’ve seen The Jungle Book, you can do whatever you can set your mind to now. It’s really now, it’s like the camera’s been figured out and now it’s “What does the filmmaker or the artist do with it?” So if you don’t like it or it feels like it’s limited, it’s probably either just their budget or their expertise.
Alexander Gould, the original Nemo, is now 22 years old, and I know he has a cameo in this, but was it hard to find someone to take over as the voice of Nemo?
Collins: You know what? It wasn’t.
Stanton: Which was surprising.
Collins: Which was surprising, meaning that there were a lot of kids that we listened to that really were great, and then it just came down to like who had the best kind of acting chops and could carry this film. ‘Cause, you know, we cast him, gosh, three years ago? And so we were kind of like, okay, who’s got a young enough — sounds like Nemo and isn’t gonna age. You know, it was this weird voodoo of making sure we’re not all of a sudden gonna be like, (affects cracking voice), “It’s time to change,” and you’re like, “Uh-oh.”
Stanton: We got him just young enough that he was still sounding like that.
Collins: Yeah, he still had time to sound like Nemo.
So might you find next time, if there is a next time?
Collins: Andrew. Might have to find Andrew.
Stanton: I don’t know. Might have to find me. “Finding Andrew.”
Collins: I think, I don’t know. Who knows? It seems like the popular vote is to find Hank. People keep mentioning Hank.
Stanton: Yeah, everybody seems to be picking that.
Collins: Or just the tentacle. Who knows. The missing tentacle is what we’re finding. Could be that.
Stanton: Who knows.
Finding Dory hits U.S. theaters June 17, 2016.