By now you’ve undoubtedly seen Finding Dory, the long-awaited (and really excellent) sequel to Finding Nemo. (If you haven’t, you might want to return to this article after you’ve watched.) And while it’s staggering to think about everything that is included in the film, from the sight gags to the colorful characters to the amazing, highly emotional story beats, there are just as many moments, characters, and jokes, that were left on the cutting room floor.
Recently I sat down with the cast of Finding Dory, including Albert Brooks (who plays Marlin) as well as co-writer/director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins, to talk about what didn’t make it into the finished film. I was armed with my copy of Chronicle’s painstakingly put together, must-own book, The Art of Finding Dory, which definitely gave me some great glimpses at what could have been. As is the case with every Disney•Pixar film, artists and filmmakers go through countless iterations on the way to their finished incarnation, and even dead ends or discarded ideas have a way of informing (and bettering) the final product. Finding Dory is an exemplary film, partially because of this kind of exploration.
1. The Tank Gang
In the Art of Finding Dory book there’s a large section devoted to an abandoned sequence in the movie where Marlin and Nemo come across the Tang Gang, the band of misfit fish that lived inside the dentist’s fish tank in Finding Nemo. The scene would have taken place right before we’re introduced to the Marine Life Institute (after the scary encounter with the giant squid), and would have sent the movie on an entirely different trajectory, as the Tang Gang assist Marlin and Nemo in their quest to reunite with Dory (and for them to help her find her family). Later, there was a sequence where the Tank Gang, Marlin, and Nemo hitch a ride on some flying fish. But what happened to the Tank Gang? Stanton explained (very diplomatically): “There was an entire subplot and I loved it, but I had to admit it didn’t help Dory’s storyline. So we cut it.” Still, he promises that you’ll still be able to see those scenes in the not-too-distant future. “When you get the DVD you’ll be able to see all the hard work we did with the Tank Gang,” he said. According to Albert Brooks, he always knew that the Tank Gang wouldn’t make the final cut. “I remember it and said from the beginning, ‘Those were great characters, but how much coincidence do you want?’” He explained, in the most Albert Brooks way possible. “I was worried about that because he meets the turtle again, and you can accept that because it’s like, ‘I’ll call the turtle.’ The turtle serves a purpose—it’s a transport machine. But, in the middle of the ocean, to run into those fish? What are they, out of the bags? Why would they even stick together?” When I brought up that Brooks had been worried, Stanton said, “Well then he gets to take credit for being right.”
One of the more tantalizing (and mysterious) images in the Art of book showcases a bunch of grizzled old dolphins, like war veterans swapping stories year later (kind of like Quint from Jaws). Turns out that the answer for this one was fairly simple. “We thought it was funny we have hearing impaired dolphins because of all the horrible Navy exercises they’ve been tested with,” Stanton said with a laugh. “And they talk very loud and they were very funny. The storyline just changed and there was no reason for it.” Dolphins, we thank you for your service, even if you didn’t make it into the final movie.
3. Hank Drinking Hot Sauce
Early in Finding Dory, cantankerous octopus Hank drinks an entire pot of coffee and then uses that pot to scoop Dory out of a quarantine tank. But there are countless images in the Art of book that feature Hank drinking hot sauce–lots and lots of hot sauce. “You know I thought it just sold an archetype without having to go into the world of alcohol of just someone that was trying to ignore humanity or ignore society,” Stanton explained. “Like he would hide behind the hot sauce and drown his sorrows–also it implied anger and heat and all this other stuff.” But not everybody was sold on the idea. “Ellen did not like it,” Collins said. “She was like, ‘What if kids start feeding hot sauce to octopus?’ We were like ‘Ugh, I don’t know.’” Not that Stanton is sorely missing the hot sauce-drinking octopus. “It just naturally went away. We didn’t need it,” Stanton said. And he’s right: you get the feeling that Hank is hiding from society and very cranky without a single drop of spilled hot sauce.
4. Dory’s Parents Had Memory Loss Too
If you’ve ever wondered if Dory’s memory loss what hereditary, well, it was … at one point. It turns out that an earlier version of Finding Dory had Dory’s parents suffering from a similar affliction. “At one point we had a version in which Dory’s parents, Jenny and Charlie, suffered from short term memory loss, and because of this, they forgot about Dory,” director Andrew Stanton explained via email. “However, we soon realized that it was difficult to be sympathetic to parents who forgot about their child.” But that wasn’t the only reason this particular element was jettisoned. It seems that having so many characters with the same affliction was detrimental to the movie’s pace. “Another reason we shifted away from them having short term memory loss was because it became hard to maintain story momentum when so many characters were suffering from the same issue. It dragged the story down.” Now that Dory’s parents have their memory intact, the movie moves much faster (swimmingly, you might say).
5. Otter 101 and the McConaughey Otters
When I asked Collins and Stanton if there was anything else left on the cutting room floor that they missed, Collins said, immediately, “The otters.” Now there are otters in the final version of the film and stand as some of the cutest creatures Disney•Pixar has ever created. But they were in the movie in a much different from earlier in production. “We had a great funny version of an otter named 101 that had just been released that was his tag,” Stanton said. “That number implied learning for the first time like classes 101 and he didn’t know how to be an otter and it was funny. It’s a great little scene, but it stopped the movie cold and it robbed screen time that we really needed to take with the sea lions. We thought these otters are almost cuter for not speaking and so we just reverted backwards.” Yep: while the otters in the finished movie are silent, they used to speak. “Not all of them, but some of them did,” Stanton continued. “We had this weird idea once where they were all the locals and 101 was released into the wild and had no experience and the rest were locals. And it’s California so we had them all go ‘All right, all right, all right’ like Matthew McConaughey and it was really funny.” (This also seems to be a callback to the seagulls from the first film, who would incessantly chirp “Mine.”) Stanton said that, “Everyone said that it was weird, we didn’t get the laugh we thought we would but it always cracked me up.” And what was Dory’s response to these alpha otters? Stanton clued us in: “Dory would be like, ‘You should be ashamed.”
Finding Dory is now playing in theaters.