By Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The forgetful blue fish who won hearts in Pixar's blockbuster animation "Finding Nemo" is going on another journey, this time to find her own origin story.
"Finding Dory," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, picks up a year after the events of 2003's "Finding Nemo," and sees Dory, a chatty blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, living in the peaceful ocean habitat alongside Nemo the clownfish and his father Marlin.
Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, suddenly begins remembering glimpses of her past and the parents she left behind in California, setting her off on a quest to be reunited with them.
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Andrew Stanton, who returned to co-write and direct "Finding Dory," said he was inspired to explore Dory's story after re-watching "Finding Nemo" and realizing that the character "had a hole inside her and didn't know where she was from."
"She was apologizing still for her shortcoming that she thought she had for her short-term memory loss and she could easily forget Marlin and Nemo and not find them again. I felt that she was completely unresolved," Stanton said at a press briefing on the film.
"Finding Nemo" grossed more than $900 million worldwide and won an Oscar for best animated feature.
Pixar's "Finding Dory" is expected to open with around $115 million at the North American box office this weekend according to Variety, and is a strong awards contender for its owner, Walt Disney Co .
Unlike the rescue mission in "Finding Nemo," in which Nemo was captured and taken across the world as his father chased after him with the help of Dory, "Finding Dory" mostly takes place in the confines of a marine institute and introduces a host of new animal characters.
Dory finds friends in a grumpy but stealth Hank, an octopus missing a tentacle, the short-sighted whale Destiny and Fluke and Rudder, two goofy sea lions.
"We knew (Dory) was going to be from the Northern California coast, kind of early on," producer Lindsey Collins said at the event. "Once that was introduced, it was like, 'OK, now you have sea lions, now you have otters.'"
(Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Dan Grebler)