An unexpected announcement about the short film that will debut with Pixar's second feature of 2015, The Good Dinosaur, was announced today via the LA Times. Even more exciting is what the short film is about! The title of the short film is Sanjay's Super Team, and if it sounds like it's about a superhero team, well, that's because it is- just not the kind of team that you would typically imagine. Find out what the short film, Sanjay's Super Team, is about and how it came to be all after the break!
The LA Times Article:
The conflict and the connection Patel felt around that ritual, and around his Indian roots in general, inspired him to direct the short film "Sanjay's Super Team," which Pixar will release Nov. 25 ahead of its feature "The Good Dinosaur." In June, "Sanjay's Super Team" will premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France, the festival announced Tuesday.
"My parents' whole world revolved around their gods, the Hindu deities," said Patel, 41, who joined Pixar in 1996 as an animator on "A Bug's Life" and has worked on several films including "Toy Story 3," "Monsters, Inc." and "The Incredibles. "Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay."
When Patel was a child, his parents bought the Lido Motel, an old Route 66 stop-off where they still work and live, and which provides the setting for "Sanjay's Super Team."
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.
Patel, who illustrates graphic novels of Indian culture in his spare time, first pitched the short to executives at Pixar in the summer of 2012.
In a screening room at Pixar this month, while wearing a Ramones T-shirt and a hoodie, Patel talked about the challenge of openly embracing his Indian background at work, even at a company with a significant number of Asian American employees (Peter Sohn, the director of "The Good Dinosaur," is Korean American).
"It took me a long time to feel safe with my identity," Patel said. "But [Pixar Chief Creative Officer] John Lasseter felt strongly about celebrating the personal side of the story."
"Sanjay's Super Team" is produced by Nicole Paradis Grindle, who served as associate producer on "Toy Story 3" and "Monsters University," with music by Canadian composer Mychael Danna, who is known for his work on Indian-set films like "Life of Pi" and "Monsoon Wedding."
Patel, who lives in Oakland with his fiancee and 2-year-old son, studied animation at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the California Institute of the Arts.
Though there are an increasing number of Indian Americans making their mark on pop culture, including Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn, Patel said as a child he felt deeply the absence of anyone who looked like him in films and television.
"If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short," Patel said. "I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy's story to the pop culture zeitgeist. 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 looks to do exactly what the best Pixar shorts always start off with- a unique take on something rather familiar (granted many North American audiences are not particularly familiar with Hinduism, which makes it that much more fascinating). I love how when I first read the article, I was taken aback that this was going to be a Pixar short. However, I thought about it for a second, and realized that that is the point. It doesn't seem like it should be a Pixar short, and in that sense it very much should be. I love the risk taking. I love the focus on hyper-personal stories. It is the essence of the very foundation that the studio was founded upon, and it continues to reaffirm my stance that Pixar is simply the greatest storytelling studio in the history of animation and even more broadly, entertainment. They know what works and what doesn't. Bring on the supernatural Hindu gods, Pixar! (I never in a million years thought I'd be saying that)
"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."