No one could have ever imagined that there would be a sequel to Finding Nemo. And yet, 13 years after the film’s release, we are getting one. But Finding Dory isn’t exactly the kind of film you’d expect to see, especially in a sequel. If anything, the film can stand on its own, and you don’t even need to watch Nemo to know what is going on in Dory. In it, we see that Dory is able to recall a once long-lost memory of her parents, and sets out on a journey with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). Together, they swim across the Pacific to an aquarium sanctuary, where Dory meets some old friends and makes some new ones too. But there is a real heartfelt message that may hit close to home for some. Remember, Dory suffers from short-term memory loss, and she sees that as a debilitating weight that can frustrate and worry those around her. But her optimism and upbeat personality, plus living by the “just keep swimming” mantra, gives her the spirit she needs to carry on and look for new ways to do things in her own way.
We were recently invited to sit down with a group of journalists to talk the to cast and directors of the film to talk about that message and how it really isn’t meant for one specific group of people but something that is more universal.
Check out what they had to say after the jump.
“I always knew that the film would be about accepting herself,” said director Andrew Stanton. The idea he had for the film was that “you are not at peace until you truly accept who you are.” The film explores Dory’s origins, and how her faults have caused her to not only be separated from her parents, but live on her own. There is a bit of a self-awareness to the character as she apologizes for herself and for the mistakes that she makes, that bit of humanity does resonate with some audiences, and is the reason why she is such a favorite in the franchise. That trait also helped explain the origins of the persevering mantra ‘just keep swimming.” “I never said this before, but ‘just keep swimming’ was the mantra that was taught to us in the first movie,” said Stanton. “What I mean is that it was made personal for her. She didn’t realize that it was something that was taught to her by her parents. But the fact that anyone, like Dory, can learn differently, and is able to accept themselves for who they are, was really meant to be more of a universal message than a specific one. “Nobody wants to watch a character be a generalization of something,” said Stanton. “You hopefully say something more universal. I was not just trying to talk about anyone with a disability, I was using her disability to represent everybody.” The director then spoke about how he didn’t want to be exclusive to one specific group, then said “I think it’s wonderful that it speaks to anyone with a true disability.”
As far as Dory’s personality traits go, Ellen DeGeneres would like to have them all. “I try to have as many traits as she has as far as optimism, perseverance, and non-judgement, and not having any resentment or holding on to anger, or she doesn’t feel like a victim,” said DeGeneres. “I think that’s why I love the whole character that Andrew created. She just thinks anything is possible and she never, for a second, thinks that what you do think is wrong for anybody else or yourself, that you just keep swimming.”
While some may pity Dory for her inability to remember things, DeGeneres doesn’t see the Blue Tang’s situation as tragic. “You can look at it that way, but as we see in the film now, what appears to be a disability is her strength, and it turns into ‘what would Dory do?'” said DeGeneres. “So maybe what appears to be a disability, is actually something that everyone else can look at and in another way say, ‘actually that’s a different way of thinking, and that’s a good way of thinking.’ So I love that message. Something that seems to be a handicap can be used as a strength.”
Finding Dory opens in theaters on June 17th, 2016.