The funny story of Finding Dory
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres prodded Pixar to make Finding Nemo sequel for 5 years
Thirteen years ago, Finding Nemo broke box-office records for an animated film, won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars and became the all-time bestselling DVD.
In it, US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres voiced Dory, a cheerful blue tang with short-term memory loss who accompanied clownfish Marlin as he searched for his missing son Nemo, and stole every scene she was in.
DeGeneres assumed that a sequel would soon follow, and when there was no sign of one, did a regular sidebar on her popular TV talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show expressing her frustration with film studio Pixar.
She tells M: “Almost weekly, I would berate them and bully them to, and really it was just a joke, and after about five years I gave up. But then when I got the call, I was shocked. And then I was more shocked that it was actually about Dory’s journey.”
We are at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel and DeGeneres is such a likeable person that it’s no surprise that she was called back to voice the little fish with the big heart who can’t remember much but doesn’t forget her feelings.
Opening here tomorrow, Finding Dory revolves around Dory embarking on her own quest to reunite with her loved ones, and is about the family you have and the family you make.
It’s also about embracing imperfections, both yours and theirs.
“You look at all the characters,” she says. “Nemo has a short fin that doesn’t really work and Marlin is fearful. You have the two whales — one can’t figure out his eco-location and the other can’t see. And so you have to pay attention to that and go, ‘Yeah, we all are flawed and that’s okay’.”
DeGeneres was nervous about going back into the studio to voice Dory because “even though it’s me, I kind of tweak it a little bit, but it came right back”.
She says: “Time is a very strange thing. No matter where you are in life, you just think, ‘oh, this is it forever’ and then all of a sudden years go by and you look back and it was just a blip. So it came right back to me.”
What she didn’t expect, though, was the controversy that arose over the trailer of Finding Dory. Some viewers believe it featured a supposedly lesbian couple interacting with a toddler and called for a boycott of the film.
DeGeneres is openly gay and has been in a relationship with Australian actress Portia de Rossi since 2004.
“I got a call and they said, ‘Just so you know, there is a rumour out there that they had the first lesbian couple (in a Disney film)’.
“I had seen (Finding Dory) once before and I didn’t (notice) it myself and usually I am pretty good at spotting lesbians,” she said with a laugh.
“And so when I watched it last night (at the premiere), I was looking for that scene and I noticed that one of the two women had a very bad short haircut and I was like ‘How dare they? Just because she has a bad short haircut doesn’t mean that she is a lesbian!’
“But anyway, I know there is a stingray in the movie that becomes Sting-rhonda. So look for that.”
When asked about why she thinks she appeals to people of all ages despite not falling into the conventional mould, she pauses for a moment before replying that it all boils down to her “honesty and authenticity”.
“And as far as the young kids relating to me, I am very immature,” she says with a laugh. “I think that I am very childlike and I love to play and I don’t think we should stop playing. I am 58 years old and I still love to play.”
Her talk show — which she has hosted since 2003 — was also pivotal in sending her on an upswing in Hollywood.
She says: “To start a career at 45 years old and to be a woman in this business is a rarity. I am an endangered species. It was a big turning point for me but it wasn’t a hit, it was kind of medium, it wasn’t instant. So I think it’s a culmination of a lot of different things.
“Certainly hosting the Oscars (in 2014) was a big moment — the selfie and the pizza and all the things that came together.”
Almost weekly I would berate them and bully them to, and really it was just a joke, and after about five years I gave up. But then when I got the call, I was shocked.
— US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on reprising her role as Dory in the animated movie Finding Dory