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Creating a Scene in Finding Dory – From Script to Storyboards to Screen

We attended the presentation as a guest of Disney

Angus MacLane and Max Brace Talking about Finding Dory

While in Monterey last month learning about the upcoming film “Finding Dory,” I had an extraordinary opportunity to learn about how they developed the touch pool scene in the movie with Co-Director Angus MacLane and Story Supervisor Max Brace.

Angus MacLane had worked with Director Andrew Stanton in the past, and Stanton approached him about doing the film very early on. “Andrew shared with me privately about his ideas for the movie, and I said it was a great idea, and I would love to see it. We brainstormed a little about what we wanted it to look like, I completed ‘Toy Story of Terror,’ and then it began,” said MacLane.

FINDING DORY

Andrew had wanted the film set in a marine life institute. “I remember bringing my son to the aquarium and watching the touch pools where all the kids were touching the creatures. It got me thinking about what it would be like if Dory got stuck in the touch pools? That had some traction with everyone on the team, so I began working on sequence number 240 in the film, touch pools,” said Brace.

FINDING DORY

Before working on the scene, they started doing research. They went to different aquariums to see how people interacted at the touch pools. Then they got together a story team who began working on some fun gags. Brace said, “We talked about starfish, and what would happen if they got an arm ripped off or are just traumatized?” He showed us a drawing of what it would like, and MacLane interrupted by saying, “We felt that was a little dark for the film, but it gave us a good idea of what the fish might feel like, and we used it for the tone of the sequence.”

While the team was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they went behind-the-scenes and noticed that there was a basket of starfish on the counter. They asked the lady working at the aquarium why they were there, and she said, “These starfish are from the touch pool, and sometimes they need a break.” Brace got so excited and thought to himself, “OMG it’s a real thing that they need a break.”

FINDING DORY

Then the storyboard process began. They started brainstorming many different scenarios for the touch pool sequence including, “What would happen to Hank if he got stuck in touch pool? How do we get him out of the tank? Maybe Hank could jump onto the back of a tourist and camouflage himself?” said Brace. They then sent the ideas off to a writer who puts them together.

Angus MacLane talking about Finding Dory

The presentation stopped for a moment after MacLane looked at one of the drawings. He said, “That’s a good joke. Why didn’t we put that back in? It’s not too late; maybe we will put it back in?”

Everyone in the room laughed and agreed.

Once the story is established, an artist gets assigned a sequence. “They are trying to translate it from words into a visual representation of the story,” said Brace. Then Brace moved over to the computer where he began to draw the touch pool sequence right before our eyes. I was in awe of his incredible talent as he drew the touch pool sequence while making sound effects for the characters.

FINDING DORY

While Brace was drawing, MacLane said, “These drawings need to stay very loose. Not to get too tight so we can work around the story. Then Brace said, “I am just trying to get my ideas down. I don’t want to labor over the drawings. I just need to get all the shots down in place to tell the story.”

Once the artist gets it all down in place, then they pitch the sequence to the Director. After that meeting is done, they go back to the drawing desk and begin adding more details to the drawings. Then, everyone gathers around the artist who will act out the scene for everyone to weigh in any more changes that need to be made to the sequence.

Then we were in for a big treat. Brace said, “Since I have a director here – let’s pitch it to him!!”

FINDING DORY

Brace began to tell the story of the touch pool sequence that he had just drawn to MacLane. Everyone in the room was captivated as Brace acted out the entire scene for us using his drawings, sound effects, and movement. It was an amazing site to see.

When he was done, everyone in the room clapped. Then MacLane shared some of his notes and thoughts about the sequence. He then moved in front of the computer and began to add elements to Brace’s drawings creating stronger elements.

FINDING DORY

Once this process is over, the artist will once again go back to their desk to fix up the scene before sending it off to editorial. They will then use temp voices to get the pacing and time right in the scene. Once they are done, they bring the scenes together to make the movie.

We then got to see what we thought was the final touch pool sequence.

(Pictured) DORY. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

After watching the scene, MacLane shared with us that there was a major problem with the touch pool sequence and with the film in general. He said, “We were so used to Dory being a sidekick, and she ultimately became a sidekick in her own scenes which led up to her being a sidekick in her own movie.”

After all that hard work, MacLane said, “We needed to change the scene. We lost the bat ray gag, we lowered the camera into the touch pool and tried to portray the touch pool as a war scene. We showed fewer faces of humans and more hands.”

Then we got to see the final – final version of the touch pool sequence – that was incredible!

The touch pool sequence was created in 2013. They created 103,000 storyboards in editorial that became the blueprint for the crew to work on the rest of the film.

“It’s an army of very talented artists who make these films.” Max Brace

“Finding Dory” will be in theater on June 17th. Learn more about “Finding Dory” online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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