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Creating Hank in Finding Dory

We attended a media trip as a guest of Disney


Hank (haNGk) noun: An adventurous, cranky octopus who is one of Dory’s best friends.

When Hank made his first appearance in one of the many Finding Dory trailers, along with my family, Disney fans immediately fell in love with him. While I was in Monterey exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium I had a rare experience of getting to go behind-the-scenes of the aquarium and interact with their giant octopus, just like the filmmakers did when doing research on how to create Hank in Finding Dory. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life as the octopus reached his tentacle out of the cage and wrapped it around my arm. It felt like the octopus was hugging my arm, and I immediately fell in love with it.


Mike Stocker, Supervising Animator, talked about how spending time with the octopus at the aquarium helped them to deconstruct the animal, and figure out how it all works. “We got to feed them, they wrapped their arms around it, and it was hugging us. They are super intelligent animals, and when one of our team members was petting it, you could hear it purring,” said Stocker.

Hank was one of the hardest characters that they had ever designed. It took them years, and a huge team of talented artists to create him. Stocker said, “The minute that Andrew Stanton pinned up the character, it was exciting, but we also knew it was going to be challenging.”

After learning about how the animal works from visiting the aquarium, they had to find something about the character that inspired them. John Halstead, Supervising Technical Director, felt that the way an octopus can change the pigment and texture of their skin, and can shape themselves like other species it was awesome about the animal. “We got to thinking about him as a reluctant superhero. An escape artist that can disappear in a glass bottle or hide behind a vending machine,” said Halstead.


Creating the tentacles was the hardest part about creating Hank. They had created many characters in Monsters University that had tentacles, but they were not as detailed, and none of the characters were hero characters like Hank is in Finding Dory. “They created a tool for us where we could draw a tentacle, and the computer would snap it to the shape we wanted, which cut down our time,” said Stocker.

Then there was the face. The face is the most important part of the character because it is where all the emotion is. Andrew Stanton told the team that he wanted them to add a little bit of Bud Luckey’s face in Hank. Lucky is a beloved character designer from Toy Story and worked with Stanton for many years.


One of their biggest challenges with the face was evoking emotion. “The triangle between the eyes and the mouth is where all the emotion is, but since we were hiding the mouth, we had to rely on the eyes. We were proving to ourselves that you didn’t need the mouth to communicate. We moved the flesh around to make it feel like it was pulling and squashing. We would show it from time to time, so you knew it was there, but we would hide it as much as possible,” said Stocker.

In the end, they created one of the most beloved animated characters. Your children will fall in love with Hank when seeing Finding Dory in theaters on June 17th.Learn more about “Finding Dory” online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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  1. Finding Dory - Let's Talk About Hank - My Big Fat Cuban Family - […] was partnered with my very adventurous friend, Shelby of OC Mom Blog, who really, really, really wanted to pet…

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