Pixar shorts are memorable. They transport us to a new world to teach and entertain us all in the span of just a few minutes. For veteran Pixar artist Sanjay Patel, that new world encompasses religion and race.
Patel was recently revealed as director for the next Pixar animated short which will be based off his life, namely his challenge of balancing his heritage with his very American surroundings when he was a child. “My parents’ whole world revolved around their gods, the Hindu deities,” said Patel in an LA Times article. “Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”
It was in that struggle that Patel found what was to be the heart of the story of “Sanjay’s Super Team”. As the story goes…
The seven-minute short begins with young Sanjay watching cartoons and eating cereal in a bland, beige room as his father jingles a bell, beckoning him to join in meditation. Reluctant and bored by the ceremony, Sanjay begins daydreaming a kind of ancient, Hindu version of “The Avengers,” with the gods appearing like superheroes.
As the daydream progresses, the color, light and animation of the film grows increasingly dazzling and cosmic, and Sanjay grows closer to understanding his father’s inner world.
From that description alone, we can already tell that this short will be more entertaining than lesson. For Pixar, it wouldn’t be the first time that we see the studio tackle topics that could be too deep for younger audiences e.g. “Up”, “Wall•E”, to name a few. The success of those full-length feature films show proof of that.
Patel’s short is also proof of Disney wanting to use more minorities in their entertainment offerings. From culture-specific shows like ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat” to the Korean director of the second Pixar film coming in 2015 “The Good Dinosaur” (for which Patel’s short will debut in front of), the use of diversity might not just be a marketing tactic, but a creative one as well. And Patel couldn’t be happier.
“I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy’s story to the pop culture zeitgeist,” he continued. “To have a broad audience like Pixar’s see this … it is a big deal. I’m so excited about that.”
“Sanjay’s Super Team” will debut with “The Good Dinosaur” in November 2015.