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'Finding Dory' Director on How His Kids Grew Up on Pixar

The first time I watched Pixar's 2003 film "Finding Nemo," I was an independent twentysomething who spent my nights dancing away and thought that Nemo's father, Marlin, was way too overbearing and should have let the little clownfish explore more.

Fast-forward to almost 10 years later, when I was at home for movie night with my husband and 6-year-old daughter. I watched it again and held my little girl tight as I imagined her getting whisked away from me, or wanting to ever go too far from home.

Movies never change, but our perspectives certainly do.

MORE: Julie Bowen: The Motherhood Questionnaire

Filmmakers themselves aren't immune to this, as I discovered while at a press conference in Monterey, Calif., talking to Oscar-winning director Andrew Stanton, who not only wrote and directed "Finding Nemo," but also wrote and directed the much-anticipated Disney-Pixar film "Finding Dory," which arrives in theaters June 17.

Find out what Stanton had to say about Ellen DeGeneres, what kids should take from "Finding Dory" and how his kids grew up with the characters he created.

Director Andrew Stanton is photographed on February 4, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

You said that after "Finding Nemo," you thought the story was done. It took you a while to start wondering about Dory. Ellen DeGeneres even mentioned it on her talk show— especially after interviewing Kristen Bell, who discussed how quickly "Frozen" got a sequel.

Every time she did that, believe me, I got a lot of emails forwarding that clip. I would hear about it all the time. But I know her pretty well, and I always take it with a grain of salt and laugh because I knew that the movie was, in my mind, finished. So nobody was more surprised than me that I got this notion about Dory and her being lost and having the potential to be lost all over again.

I waited until about the summer of 2012 to call [Ellen]. I said, 'I'm crying uncle. We're gonna do 'Finding Dory,' and she goes, 'I didn't really mean it.' But then I knew she was being sarcastic. She was over the moon.

It's really about learning what's quirky about you and turning what you may see as a weakness into a strength.

There were so many great takeaways in "Finding Nemo." What do you want the biggest takeaway to be for children when they watch "Finding Dory"?

I don't go in knowing what the theme is, but I can always sense there's something there. I kind of figure it out as I'm going along. What I finally figured out with Dory is it's about embracing what's unique about you. That's what I realized with my own kids. (I have adults, now.) I realized that at some point the way that they were wired—this one came out hot and temperamental, and this one came out shy and kind of skittish—doesn't really change.

All you can do is make them own that they're wired that way and embrace it and learn how to deal with it. I felt like that was what Dory represented with her short-term memory loss. So it's really about learning what's quirky about you and turning what you may see as a weakness into a strength.

You said your kids are adults now.

My son was born when I started on [1995 film] "Toy Story" and my daughter was born when we finished "Toy Story."

Did they give you any input on what they wanted the story to be?

No, I don't let them know anything I'm working on. They like the surprise.

How does it feel for you to have your kids reconnect with a character that you created?

It's strange. Again, I don't let them in on it so much, but then I forget that they've watched the movies just like all the other kids their age. I think the biggest thing that ever hit me was I showed the trailer to "Toy Story 3" to my son. Like I said, Ben was born right at the beginning of "Toy Story" so he was basically 4, which is about a year younger than Andy.

So when I wrote the idea for "Toy Story 3," it just embraced the fact that they're leaving. My son was about to go by the end of the movie. When I showed him the trailer, he was one year from graduating, and I remember watching him. He turned to me and goes, "This is my movie."

I kind of went, "Oh my God, this means every kid is saying that. It's just really unique."

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