Pixar has told a number of stories over the course of its 20 years of filmmaking, but with its latest short — “Sanjay’s Super Team” — the studio is taking a turn toward a deeply personal tale, unlike anything they’ve done before.
Director Sanjay Patel is telling the story of his own life, growing up in the Hindu faith with his father and the generational gap between them. Whereas his father is steadfast in his religious beliefs, a young Patel was conflicted by how it connected to the modern world and culture he lived in.
That leads to the child in the short, also named Sanjay, to imagine a melding of the two worlds as his favorite superheroes become the Hindu gods he prays to on a daily basis.
Telling this story helped Patel understand his father and childhood in new ways, which is something he’ll never forget.
Speaking to Zap2it during a visit to the Pixar campus, he explains, The truth of the matter is I’m just really happy to … have evolved be able to sit down and appreciate my dad for who he really is.”
Patel continues, “Mythology and faith aside, I’m just so grateful that I can sit there beside my dad and feel proud of him. And what a gift to be able to celebrate him to a studio and an audience. That’s a big deal, I don’t think many sons get to do that. And to make him a star. The guy has worked his butt off. Just to make him a star for a little while is a big deal to me.”
As for what comes next, now that the short is going out to the public, Patel has hopes for how it will be received.
“I think it’s always neat when a Pixar movie goes out there in the world and has some kind of impact on the culture,” he says. “It’s always the best when you see a little kid someplace holding up his Woody toy or any of the characters. To me, the finish line will be when I see some kid in the culture finding some way to connect to the story that we made.”
Perhaps it’s time for Disney to make some Sanjay’s dad action figures. The father and son would surely get a kick out of that.
“Sanjay’s Super Team” will screen in front of “The Good Dinosaur,” which is in theaters on Nov. 25.