Like lots of grown-ups, Modern Family star Ty Burrell felt a bit emotional the first time he saw Pixar’s Oscar-winning 2003 underwater adventure Finding Nemo.
“I’m a huge fan,” he says. “It’s hard to find that balance of very sweet, very funny and great adventure in a story.” But that’s precisely what Nemo director Andrew Stanton is hoping to recapture in his highly anticipated follow-up. Set six months after the first film ends, Finding Dory sees the forgetful blue tang (voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres) on a mission to find her long-lost parents. Along the way, she visits the rehabilitation center at marine life facility where she meets Burrell’s snub-nosed beluga whale, Bailey, and his pal Destiny, a sweet whale shark voiced by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actress Kaitlin Olson.
“My character isn’t great at his own sonar capability, and Destiny has trouble swimming straight,” Burrell explains. Together, the offbeat duo — seen in the above concept art for the first time — play an important role in reuniting Dory with her loved ones. (But only if they can manage to get along first.)
“We totally get on each other’s nerves,” Olson reveals. “I like to think I’m a shark, but Bailey calls me a whale, and I make fun of his head, because it’s gigantic.”
Though Burrell and Olson hadn’t worked together since playing a couple in the short-lived TV series Out of Practice more than 10 years ago, playing up their chemistry in the recording booth didn’t prove difficult. “We would just play off each other,” Olson says. “Though to be honest, I was probably the boss of the entire situation, because I always like to be.”
For the record, however, Destiny is definitely more kid-friendly than Olson’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character Sweet Dee, a bartender with a feisty attitude and a foul-mouthed vocabulary to match.
“I’m a lot nicer in this movie than I am in my television show,” shares Olson, laughing. “You don’t really see Sweet Dee being sweet, ever. This character is. It was a lot of fun to play that and be vulnerable.”
Costarring Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Dominic West, Ed O’Neill, Eugene Levy and Idris Elba, Finding Dory plays up the storytelling style that has made Pixar films such a hit with kids and adults alike.
“There’s always a deeper message with Pixar, and so much of it [in Finding Dory] is that these characters are trying to find faith in themselves,” says Burrell. “They’re trying to overcome their insecurities in order to help somebody in need.”
Finding Dory swims into theaters June 17, 2016.