'Finding Dory' Stars Voice Their Thoughts on the Film's Themes and Forgetfulness

The blue tang fish at the center of “Finding Dory” might be challenged by forgetfulness, but the cast of Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel created some memories that are sure to endure.

For Ellen DeGeneres (Dory) and Albert Brooks (Marlin), the film provided an opportunity to revisit the beloved characters they helped to create more than 13 years ago. For newcomers Ty Burrell (the voice of the sonar-impaired beluga whale Bailey), Kaitlin Olson (the sweet-natured whale shark Destiny) and Eugene Levy (as Dory’s doting father Charlie), it was an opportunity to provide some quirky new additions to the undersea ensemble helping Dory rediscover who she is and where she came from.

Together the cast reflected on some of the highlights on their journey to help Dory find her way home – and back to the big screen.

Ellen DeGeneres wants you to know she’s responsible for making a “Finding Nemo” sequel happen:

Ellen DeGeneres: I just want to say this, obviously: In endorsing this, I am responsible for every penny that this film makes because this film would have not happened if I had not campaigned as hard as I campaigned. Thank God I had a talk show to talk about it! I had a platform.

It just seemed like it was obvious. The film was an iconic film. It won an Academy Award. It was great. I was a small part of it. I wasn’t campaigning to have a sequel for Dory, I was just campaigning for a sequel to a great movie. Then when it didn’t happen for the first, oh, five or six years, I decided to just make a joke of it. It just seemed like it was never going to happen. So I would just continue to joke about it. Then the joke became a reality, and then it became about Dory’s journey. So again, I’m responsible for every single thing that happens from now on.

There’s only so much preparation and research an actor can do to play a marine creature:

Ty Burrell: I actually kind of over-thought preparing for this a little bit. Like, I came in with a voice because the character looked sort of congested to me. So I kind of came up with a whale with a cold. And Andrew [Stanton, the co-director and co-writer] very, very, very politely was like, “That’s great. Now let’s do the whole film in your voice.”

Kaitlin Olson: I did a fair amount of research. I love that the whale shark is the largest fish and they have no teeth. So you can swim with them, that’s pretty cool. That was about the extent of what I did. It just gave me a license to be like, “Oh, she’s nice, she’s a nice whale,” you know what I mean?

DeGeneres: I didn’t really stare at any fish in the aquarium for long. I mean, I’ve seen them – I learned they need to be in water all the time. That’s important. The honest answer is, I didn’t really do any research, but the real honest answer is I really care about, and I always have cared about, nature and our planet and the environment.

I think it’s important to protect our oceans, and our fishes in the oceans, and the coral reefs, and everything because it’s a beautiful world that we know very little about. I think there’s probably all kinds of answers and all kinds of cures and all kinds of things that we can learn. So I think it’s really important to protect our oceans.

Dory-like forgetfulness isn’t a necessarily a problem – and may be a good thing:

DeGeneres: I take ginkgo biloba – whenever I remember. I don’t understand how they tell you to take medicine to remember things because you wouldn’t remember to take the medicine! I do have that problem with memory – not as bad as Dory does. I don’t try to do anything about it because it’s just who I am, and I just try to live in the moment and hold on to these few moments that I have.

Albert Brooks: Thank God my memory is great. But as you get older, you do forget little things, and I have come up now with a new philosophy of life: If something is bothering me, I ask myself to check back in in 30 minutes. And if it’s still bothering me, I deal with it. But a lot of it I don’t remember. So it’s a great thing. Just like, “I’ll check in at 2.” The things that are bothering me at 1:30 are not necessarily bothering me at 2. So that’s my new philosophy. As a young person, I worried all the time, and what did it get me? Nothing. Well, not nothing. I’m still here.

As entertaining as they are, Pixar movies really soar because of the relatable themes they explore.

Eugene Levy: I think the greatest storylines, as evident in these movies, really have to do with family, because that’s the one thing that is the most important thing in all our lives, or should be anyway. So anytime you’re dealing in a familial kind of situation, a dad and a child, those are the stories that kind of resonate with me. Because they’re about something absolutely tangible and real, and those are the storylines that you can kind of really have fun with and really get behind, and totally kind of pour yourself into.

Olson: This is kind of a personal thing, because I have two little boys. Like all kids, they get really frustrated when they don’t do something perfectly and we’ve been talking a lot at home about how there’s no such thing as perfect and it’s not what you should be striving for. Doing your best is really important and enjoying the process and having fun. That’s a big thing going on in our house.

I loved this movie, and I loved having them be able to watch it so I can not make it about them and point to the fact that there is no perfect. Nobody’s perfect, and you don’t have to be. That’s not the point of life. The point is to do your best and move forward and work with your friends and believe in yourself. That was a big one for me.

Burrell: I feel like one aspect – and I think Disney and Pixar have done this forever – is that they’re willing to go deep, no pun intended. They’re addressing stuff that I think kids have some awareness on some level, including loss. My kids really want to talk about that stuff. They don’t really want to avoid those subjects. It comes up, there’s just no way to avoid it.

Nobody does story better than Pixar, obviously, and I think the way that Pixar does it the way the characters are all well-intended. Every character, they may be screwing up, but they’re all essentially trying to do their best, which feels like, to me, that’s mimicking life. That’s a world that feels safe to them to kind of approach those topics. That’s been my experience at home. Not just with “Finding Dory,” but with a lot of Pixar films in particular, and all Disney films. We get into real conversations afterwards, even at four and six years old.

Whatever her challenges, Dory is a great role model:

DeGeneres: I would love to have every trait of Dory’s. I try to have as many facets as she has, as far as optimism, and perseverance, and non-judgment, and not having any resentment or holding on to anger. She doesn’t feel like a victim. I think that’s why she’s such a lovable character that Andrew created because she really is … she just thinks everything is possible, and she never for a second thinks that anything’s wrong with anybody else or herself. She just keeps swimming, and I think that’s a great thing. So I’d like to have all of those traits.

Pixar’s “Finding Dory” opens today nationwide.

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