‘Finding Dory’ swims upstream to celebrate individuality

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Thirteen years ago, the entire world held its breath as it followed a small but valiant fish in his dangerous journey across the Pacific Ocean to find his son. Fast forward, and the same heroes return to our screens, but this time, we embark on a journey with Dory, a hero whose story is now unfolding in front of us with “Finding Dory.”

Director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins fully acknowledged the risk they were taking four years ago when they started working on the sequel. “I think it was a good six months, maybe a year or two before I realized, ‘Wait a minute, all the people that liked this movie are 13 years older and they’re probably in college now or they’re parents,’” giggled Stanton in an interview with The Daily Californian. Certainly, the audience has changed. But the story and the bright and kind characters have remained unchanged; they’re dearly familiar — even 13 years later.

Dory herself is a paradox: simple and sincere, while still being fully complex. Ellen DeGeneres’ trademark humor and refreshing voice brings to life the adorable blue tang fish the world fell in love with; in her hands, Dory transforms into a small ball of energy that radiates light and kindness.

“With Ellen and Dory, you don’t separate the two,” said Collins. “It’s just been a charm and kind of a genuine, kind of wisdom and kind of approachability in the way she delivers a line that, I think for us it’s gold.” Dory wouldn’t be Dory if not for DeGeneres, and DeGeneres has stayed true to her animated “reincarnation” since day one.

For Stanton, Dory is the epitome of what he has always wanted to be. With such a short memory span, Dory does not worry about the past or obsess over the future. She lives in the moment, she enjoys her life and her happiness is very honest, pure and genuine. She teaches the audience that true happiness is acknowledging the present while remembering the past and predicting the future.

“I always wanted to just be caught up in the moment and just enjoy it, everything for what it is and always see the best in everything, see everything half full,” said Stanton.

Dory has flaws; she is not perfect. She is often left behind because of her memory issues. She is frequently insecure about herself and initially doesn’t have much self-esteem. But what makes her so unique is her growth in self-confidence and self-acceptance. “Everybody has something about them that’s not perfect … but it’s actually what’s making you special and unique, and you learn as you grow older to own that part of yourself and to embrace it,” said Stanton. He hopes Dory will become a role model for kids and adults to be themselves and never put themselves down for being different.

The technological developments and changes from over the last 13 years have allowed Stanton and Collins to introduce new characters they wouldn’t have been able to create years ago; this helped them create a completely new story for Dory. One character that particularly stands out in the animation is Hank the octopus — a new friend who sees how unique Dory is and becomes her new companion and friend in the film. “We’ve got a lot of natural sea life that’s around the California coast,” said Collins. “We’ve got sea lions, your otters, your loons, so even though we’re going back to a lot of familiar characters, we’ve really broadened the glossary.”

“Finding Dory” is a beautiful story about finding identity, enjoying life as it is and not forgetting that being different isn’t the same as being flawed. It’s a journey told in a story that started 13 years ago and is now finally being continued. Together with Dory, we will set off on another breathtaking and inspiring voyage underwater, making new revelations about the characters and ourselves throughout the movie.

But when the film and Dory’s adventure of self-discovery comes to its end, the audience’s journey of self-discovery won’t stop there. It will continue outside the theater, in real life, enriched by the lessons that the tiny but wise blue fish taught in her story.

Contact Marina Chilingaryan at [email protected].