Ellen DeGeneres makes a splash with long-awaited Finding Dory sequel at Disney’s D23 Expo

The Pixar creative team is often asked the question: “Will we ever do a sequel to Finding Nemo?” And there’s one person in particular who keeps doing the asking, according to Disney chief creative office John Lasseter: Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory, who’s long complained about the lack of a sequel on her talk show.

Well, here it comes, and DeGeneres herself was on hand at Disney’s D23 Expo Friday to celebrate. Andrew Stanton, director of the original film, said he honestly thought the story was a “closed circuit,” but then he started wondering about that daffy little fish with the short-term memory problems. “I wanted to know that if this charming forgetful fish ever got lost again, that she would be okay, that she would find her way home,” he said. “And at the end of Finding Nemo, I wasn’t confident about that. So that’s when I knew I had another story.”

That story involves an ocean sanctuary facility where wounded animals are treated and re-released into the wild. DeGeneres was joined on stage by two stars of Modern Family who are voicing sea creatures in Finding Dory: Ed O’Neill, who plays Hank the Octopus (who is actually a septapus because he’s missing a leg) and Ty Burrell, who plays a white beluga whale who thinks he has a head injury (even though every member of his species has that huge lump on their heads). Kaitlin Olson, of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, plays a whale shark named Destiny–whose frightened fellow fish won’t let her forget the “shark” part.

The filmmakers presented a new clip from the upcoming film featuring Dory being resuscitated after what appears to be a fainting spell. She is troubled, remembering something—but what? Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) tells her, “Why don’t we sleep on it? We’ll talk about it in the morning.” Then we see her tucked away under some coral at night, murmuring in her sleep: “Don’t cry, Mommy, don’t cry. Oh no…” Nemo wakes and finds Dory sleep-swimming, stuck against another stem of coral, muttering about, “The jewel of Monterey, California.” Nemo and his father nudge her back to her resting spot, but Dory is still vexed in the morning. “I don’t remember what I remembered, but I remembered that I remembered something,” Dory says.

“Dory’s instincts are telling her to go home,” Nemo tells his father. As she stares into the blue void of the ocean, it hits Dory: “My Mom, my Dad. I have a family. They don’t know where I am!” She knows she needs to get to Monterey, but California’s all the way across the ocean. Marlin is obstinate, even though he previously went on a death-defying quest. “The only way to travel in the first place is so you don’t have to travel ever again,” Marlin says. “All I know is that I miss them. I really, really miss them,” Dory says. “Do you know what that feels like?” Marlin looks at Nemo. He sighs. He knows. “Dad, you can get us all the way across the ocean, right?” Nemo asks. Marlin sighs again. “No,” he says. “But I know a guy.”

Also in the Pixar presentation at D23 Expo, the animation house released new details regarding its Day of the Dead movie. Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich’s next film, a story based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, has a title: Coco. The film takes its name from the main character in the story and came from Unkrich’s fascination with the holiday about honoring the dead, which is celebrated with folk art that is both colorful and macabre. Unkrich said he was mesmerized by the “juxtaposition of skeletons with bright festive colors.”

A clip of the movie featured a candy-colored Mexican town populated by such creatures as happy, playful skeletons in brilliant dresses and crisp sombreros, dancing and playing mariachi instruments. They play their ribs like xylophones, à la Disney’s 1929 animated short The Skeleton Dance. Occasionally, one of the musicians’ jaws falls off, and Miguel, a living little boy who visits the town, helps put him together.

No word yet on a release date for the film.

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