While in Los Angeles for The Good Dinosaur premiere event, I had the opportunity to meet the director and producer of Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur short, Sanjay’s Super Team. Not only is it a brilliant short with stunning animation, but there is a sweet story behind the film as well.
With each Disney Pixar movie that gets released comes a super fantastic animated short. It’s the bow on top of this amazing present that you are ready to open. You get to enjoy a sweet or funny story before ripping into the “present” that you came to see.
Disney Pixar’s newest movie, The Good Dinosaur, is no exception. Sanjay’s Super Team introduces us o a new culture and tugs at the heartstrings with the sweet father-son story. We had the opportunity to sit down with the writer & director, Sanjay Patel and the producer, Nicole Grindle, and hear first hand how Sanjay’s Super Team came to be.
The History of Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay Patel has worked at Pixar for over 20 years and has been involved in many films in various capacities. As an animator, he started out turning his back on his culture and wanted to embrace more traditional animation art. After about 10 years at Pixar, he started to explore South Asian art. And really became good at it, so good that he began publishing books that allowed him to reconnect with the culture. Pixar proudly displayed his artwork and when John Lasseter, President of Pixar, saw it, he approached Patel about making a short out of it.
At first Patel resisted. He was concerned to bring his identity and his culture – something that was so precious to my parents and my community – to work. And he even tried to convince Lasseter that telling an Indian story was “not a part of Pixar’s brand.” Luckily Lasseter persisted, convincing Patel that Pixar was always interested in telling new stories.
But it took a conversation with his father for him to realize that it would be bad karma for him not to do what the studio that had supported him for 20 years wanted him to do. “He said It was my duty to at least try. Win or lose. That doesn’t matter. That’s not part of the equation Sanjay, but is your duty to at least try.” And so try he did.
The Story of Sanjay’s Super Team
Lasseter supported the story form the start. The original concept was a little boy in India that was ignoring the cultural stories that were carved on the temples all around them. He had his nose kind of buried in a Western style super hero comic and the short was about the boy appreciating his culture. But Lasseter wanted more. It was a conversation that Patel had with Lasseter about his childhood that helped shape the story into what it is today. Lasseter wanted him to just tell the story about Patel and his dad saying, “If you just tell that as honestly as possible people will connect to it.”
Patel fully credits Lasseter’s support and stewardship throughout the making of Sanjay’s Super Team making it what it is today. “He just made it so authentic and true. He gave me permission to say things that I wouldn’t say otherwise just because I think growing up in this culture I was always so afraid of exposing my identity, my parents identity, or my parents community.” said Patel.
Sanjay’s Super Team: The Father/Son Story
Hearing the pride when Patel spoke of his father made my heart swell. He flew his father up to Pixar Studios for a private screening of the short. His father doesn’t watch television or movies and had never seen any of Patel’s previous Pixar work. In fact, this was only the second time he had visited Patel at work. Grindle describes the moment as being emotional for both Patel and his father. “His son not only was thanking him, but understood who he was and, and what had sustained him.”
Sanjay’s Super Team: Trying New Ways to Animate
Patel and Gringle were both very excited to tell us about how they pushed the limits of animation in a new way to make this film. Once you see it, you can tell it has a different look than any Pixar short before it. Many of the scenes allowed the animators to create “epic angles with super wide lenses.”
The film starts out in a box, as a metaphor for Patel’s childhood, growing up in a “soulless immigrant box.” Patel speaks about the moment the boy finally lights the lamp of knowledge & enlightenment, “I wanted what was finite to become infinite. I wanted what was material to become immaterial.” And that’s when the animation truly begins.
Patel couldn’t be more humble about the film. He didn’t want to create it at first. He didn’t want his name on it. And now he amazed at how many people will be hearing his story.
[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”Now in hindsight I could see how it’s a really special thing to invite people in to see something that maybe they wouldn’t be exposed to. I’m super proud to have gotten this opportunity to make it.“[/dropshadowbox]
Fun fact: The drawings at the end of Sanjay’s Super Team were all done by kids of the crew members! Patel did his best to get everyone’s drawing included.
Check out Sanjay’s Super Team when you see The Good Dinosaur, in theaters now.
Check out more of the fun we had on the #GoodDinoEvent press trip:
Making of Disney Junior’s The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
LIVE Taping of Dancing with the Stars
Creation of The Good Dinosaur with Director Peter Sohn
The Good Dinosaur Red Carpet Movie Premiere
The Good Dinosaur Toys & Disney Infinity 3.0
4 Things You Will Learn from Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur
A Walk with Tracee Ellis Ross from ABC’s blackish
Behind the Scenes on the Set of The Muppets
Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage of The Good Dinosaur premiere. All opinions are my own.