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Pixar has released a number of incredibly successful movies over the years, but few rival the power of Andrew Stanton's Finding Nemo. Released back in 2003, the movie made nearly $900 million before it finished its time in theaters worldwide, and currently ranks as the second biggest hit that the studio has released (behind Toy Story 3. It was inevitable that they would eventually be getting around to a sequel, and now they finally are with 2016’s Finding Dory. This is old news, but what’s new is that today I got to see a selection of scenes from the upcoming blockbuster.
Today was the big animation presentation at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, and it was during the Pixar portion of the event that the first ever look at Finding Dory was delivered. Presented on stage by director Andrew Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane, and producer Lindsey Collins the segments of the shown gave us an in-depth look at the plot of the film and its style and tone.
Setting up the footage, Andrew Stanton noted that the scene before featured Dory swimming with Marlin (Albert Brooks), Nemo, and Nemo’s "school" and getting sucked in by an undertow. This knocks her unconscious… which is where the clip began. Dory is woken up by the other fish, and while she says that she is okay, she also has forgotten something that she remembered while blacked out.
Some time after the incident, Dory is shown hanging with Marlin and Nemo and still being annoyed by her vision from earlier. She tries to connect threads, but fails, saying "Something about feeding time? Not it. Churros? Cherrios? That’s not t either. Marlin, clearly annoyed by the whole thing, suggests that his friend do herself a favor and just sleep on it. While this idea came from a frustrated place, it turns out that it’s the best possible advice.
That night, Nemo is awoken when he hears Dory muttering in her sleep, saying something akin to "Don’t cry, mommy. Don’t cry." When Nemo goes out to investigate, he discovers that she is "sleep swimming," and would be far away if she hadn’t swum right into a bit of coral reef. It’s then that she says what will wind up being a key phrase for the rest of the movie: "The Jewel of Monterey, California." Waking up himself, Marlin swims out to chastise his son, and tells him to just bring Dory back to her sleeping quarters and go to bed. Unfortunately, as soon as they do this she attempts to sleep swim again, so Marlin is forced to stay up all night standing guard.
The next morning, a completely exhausted Marlin goes out with Dory and Nemo, and Dory continues to try and find her lost memory. The young Nemo suggests that it’s possible that she is trying to migrate, and then mentions some of the stuff that she was saying in her sleep the night before. When he says "The Jewel of Monterey, California," Dory suddenly has a rapid flashback – presented in different, more hand-drawn-like animation – of her parents and growing up. This immediately leads her to rapidly start swimming away, explaining that she remembers she has a family and that they don’t know where she is.
Stopping her before she can get too far, Marlin tells her that it is absolutely crazy to try and travel to Monterey, California (remember that they are in the Great Barrier Reef), and that the whole point of traveling is staying at the place where you’ve ended up. Dory responds by saying that all she knows is that she really, really misses them, and didn’t know what that felt like before. She asks if Marlin can relate – and it’s clear that he begins to remember just how panicked he was when Nemo went missing. He finally agrees to help Dory get across the ocean, and while he can’t do it himself, he explains, "I know a guy…"
Jumping ahead in the story, the second bit of footage began in the moments after Dory finally makes it to Monterey California. The bad news is that this involves her being captured by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and thrown into a tank in a lab with a shiny orange tag on her fin. After the scientists who caught her leave the room, a pair of weird-looking eyes suddenly appear on a cat poster hanging on the back wall. It turns out that Hank, an octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill, has been camouflaged and hanging out in the room the whole time.
The cephalopod then squirms his way across the counter – blending with the tile on the wall for a moment – and then finds his way to the sink. He then begins to ask his new blue fish friend questions about why she is stuck in quarantine, and tells her about her new tag. Apparently, creatures that get tagged are actually on a waiting list to be transferred to an aquarium in Cleveland – which would obviously be problematic for Dory’s mission. She explains that she is looking for her parents and "The Jewel of Monterey, California" – and Hank tells her that she has already found it (it’s the nickname of the research center). After a fun bit involving Dory’s lack of short term memory, a deal is hatched between the two sea-dwellers: if Hank can get Dory to a map so that she can find her parents, she will give Hank her special tag (he is desperate to go to Cleveland, as he has "unpleasant memories of the ocean" and wants to live in a glass box alone).
The footage did a solid job of both establishing the actual plot of Finding Dory, and giving us an early look at one of its newest characters. And while it wasn’t overly funny or touching, it was cute and a nice preview of what could be another fun Pixar sequel. We’ll have to wait and see how it all comes together when the finished film arrives in theaters on June 17, 2016.