Ty Burrell Has More In Common With A Whale Than Phil Dunphy

The 'Modern Family' star chats all things 'Finding Dory'.

17/06/2016 12:22 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
Ty Burrell voices a neurotic Beluga whale in 'Finding Dory'.

Ty Burrell's first crack at voicing Bailey, a neurotic Beluga whale in the highly anticipated Pixar animation 'Finding Dory', did not go down well.

"It did not. It so did not," Burrell, who is in Sydney for promotional duties, told The Huffington Post Australia. "They [the Pixar team] were nice about it. But I finished and they were all like, [in monotone] 'well gosh. That was great. Maybe just use your voice'.

"Because I was kind of doing this whole congested thing and they were like, 'yeahhh... we just like your voice. Maybe just make some jokes'."

Burrell, who is best known for playing Phil Dunphy in 'Modern Family' (his performance has so far snagged him two Emmys) is one of the new characters to come on board the sequel to the 2003 smash hit 'Finding Nemo', released in Australia cinemas on Thursday night.

Burrell was so excited to be invited to join the cast, he said yes before even knowing what character he would be playing.

"I got the phone call from my agent and I just said yes, before I even knew what it was," the 48-year-old actor told HuffPost Australia. "I just heard 'Pixar' and I said 'I'm in'. That's not an exaggeration. My agent was really like, 'don't you want to read it?' and I was like, 'no I really don't'."

Burrell didn't find out more about the project until he was sent "a very top secret package" in the mail from Pixar.

"Seriously. They did. They sent me a packet. It was very, 'do not share this,' -- as it should be -- but it had a drawing of Bailey and it had a couple of scenes they were working on," Burrell said. "And I got immediately excited about it, just super excited about it. It just seemed like a really fun character -- just riddled with self doubt. And I was like, 'ok, now we're in my ball park. This is closer to me than Phil Dunphy'.

"It was so exciting. Even at, well I guess I was 46 at the time, you could really catch glimpses of a six year old boy, you know what I mean? I was just like [pulls excited face] 'Honey!' to my wife. She was just like, 'easy, easy. It's a movie.' But yeah. I really was like 'oh my gosh, I'm going to be this thing in a Disney Pixar movie!'"

'Finding Dory' picks up one year after 'Finding Nemo' left off, with the memory-challenged Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) living happily with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (this time voiced by Hayden Rolence). However, when Dory witnesses a passing stingray migration, she has a freak flashback memory in which she remembers her parents.

Dory being Dory immediately sets out across the ocean to find them (along with a reluctant Marlin and a more adventurous Nemo), winding up at the California Marine Life Institute. Here, the trio happens across a whole number of new characters including a grumpy octopus (voiced by Burrell's 'Modern Family' co-star Ed O'Neill), a short-sighted whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and Burrell's rehabilitating Beluga whale Bailey.

The fact he's new to the 'Nemo' gang was not lost on Burrell, who said he "definitely" felt the pressure to perform.

"I certainly felt some pressure. Nemo is such an iconic movie and I definitely went into that first session going, 'please don't screw up. Please don't get kicked out of this booth' but those guys were so lovely and so smart, they can make anyone look good. They really take care of you," Burrell said.

Having a whale of a time: Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), top, Bailey, (Ty Burrell) and Dory, (Ellen DeGeneres).

However, as enjoyable as the finished project is, Burrell said the recording process was far more in-depth and technical than people may realise.

"It is incredibly fun behind the scenes but it is also extremely technical. It's work, for sure," Burrell said. "I will say that [writer/director] Andrew [Stanton], the way he works is more fun than a normal animation scenario because he's a great actor -- you know, he plays Crush.

"You're doing the scenes with him and they're really funny... but most of the time you're doing each line over and over and over and over and over again, and just giving them the opportunity in the edit to go, 'ok, we're going to take this line and put that there, take this line and put that there,' which I totally get.

"But it's not -- I wouldn't say that part of the process is as fun as doing a scene with someone else and you're actually having a back and forth and the laughter is genuine because you're cracking each other up."

Disney Pixar
Just keep swimming: Ed O'Neill as Hank and Ellen DeGeneres as Dory.

In terms of what 'Finding Nemo' fans can expect, Burrell is proud to say he believes the sequel has lost none of the original magic.

"The biggest theme to me in the movie -- and [Destiny, Dory and Bailey] really embody it -- is that they all have something pretty significant wrong with them. There's a big message for kids and for adults, really, that you can be imperfect. You don't have to be perfect. Your friends can make you whole. Your friends can compensate for that. Friendship is a meaningful thing and friendship can make up for your imperfections," Burrell said.

"I thought that was a really beautiful theme in the movie, and an example of yet again, Pixar being able to be profound in something that's really funny.

"I was just really thrilled to be a part of it. Then when you get involved -- I know that genius is probably a term that's overused -- but I think it's really appropriate when it comes to someone like [writer/director] Andrew Stanton. And Lindsey [Collins] and Angus [MacLane], the other producers. It's just this crazy thing; they have this preternatural ability to tell stories that are so complicated and yet work so well. And are so funny."

'Finding Dory' is currently showing in cinemas.

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