Finding Dory is a film of discovery — the physical seeking out of Dory’s parents and the self-discovery Dory will learn about herself along the way. But what made Andrew Stanton want to start penning the sequel to the hugely successful, Finding Nemo? In a recent discussion with Disney, Stanton (Director), Angus MacLane (Co-Director), and Lindsey Collins (Producer) talked about some of the background and early development of the film.
“Dory’s short-term memory loss, while a source of comedy before, has very real consequences for her,” says producer Lindsey Collins. “She spent a lot of time alone before she met Marlin. She’s always upbeat and perky, but deep down she’s afraid of what might happen if she gets lost again. While she struggles to deal with her shortcomings—she has no problem accepting everyone she encounters. She doesn’t even realize that she’s surrounded by characters with their own hurdles to overcome.”
There was something that lingered in the depths of director Andrew Stanton’s mind, though it didn’t surface until a few years ago. “I realized that I was worried about Dory,” he says. “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?” “The story is really about Dory finding herself—in every way,” adds Stanton. “She’s compelling and vulnerable and has yet to recognize her own superpower.”
According to Stanton, the story crew initially showcased Dory as lighthearted, bubbly and funny—attributes that certainly apply to the character, but left her lacking depth. “She seemed a little two-dimensional,” says the director. “I realized that even though I had her full backstory in my head, nobody else did—including the audience. Everyone walked away from ‘Nemo’ with fond memories of how funny she is. But I always saw that as a mask. I realized we’d have to fill in the audience about what happened to her when she was young.”
The story picks up a year after Dory and Marlin journeyed across the ocean to find Nemo. A massive stingray migration cruises through their neighborhood, triggering Dory’s memory. “The experience is viscerally similar to an event that separated her from her parents so long ago,” says Stanton. “She’s flooded with memories and suddenly very motivated to track down her family.”
According to co-director Angus MacLane, the memory flash marks the beginning of a new adventure. “It kicks off a quest—both internally and externally—to try to find her family,” he says. “But Dory feels that she can’t do it on her own, so she talks her newfound family—Marlin and Nemo—into coming along.”
It’s very interesting that being near the stingray migration (as Mr. Ray described the instinctual nature of the event) stirred something deep within Dory. It’s even more intriguing that this migration is something that was “viscerally similar” to what separated her from her parents. What could it be?