Sanjay’s Super Team

I mentioned in another post how I very much wanted to see Pixar’s newest movie over the winter break – The Good Dinosaur. I’m a sucker for most things Pixar does, although I’ll admit, this wasn’t my favorite movie. However, I really, really love their shorts. For anyone who isn’t familiar with them, Pixar usually does a short movie (about 5 minutes or so) before each full length feature. There are no words, just music and animation. One of my favorites is Partly Cloudy, a story about clouds that make babies of all species for storks to deliver – puppies and kittens and all other baby creatures. I won’t ruin it for you, but it has a very sweet story and ending.

I digress, though. The short before The Good Dinosaur was one that I had heard about for a while before the movie came out, and one that held some personal meaning for me. An Indian-American animator at Pixar, Sanjay Patel, had come up with a story based on his own childhood. They released a teaser of the short in September or October. The scene that is laid out was very common in my household, and I’m sure, in a lot of other Indian households as well. Sanjay is a child who is watching his Saturday morning cartoons, while his father is praying at the altar in the back of the same room. Sanjay hears his father start his prayers and turns up the volume on the television. His father, in turn, takes the remote and turns it back down. This back and forth goes on for a bit until his father finally turns the television off, and motions for Sanjay to come sit next to him and partake in the morning ritual. Sanjay lights the incense and then his imagination takes off, with us along for the ride. The fire becomes a monster, and Sanjay is trapped between it and the door of the altar, now much larger.  Just when it seems he won’t escape, he looks up, and the Hindu gods and goddesses come alive and begin to use their own powers to stop the fire monster – in some ways similar to the heroes in the cartoon he was previously watching, but in a much richer and beautiful way. As they rescue him, this dreamscape comes to an end. We see Sanjay’s father looking disappointed that his son did not seem to take more interest in his morning ritual, and they both move off to do their own morning activities. Sanjay starts drawing in his notebook. He motions his father over to look at his drawing when he’s finished, and we see that the drawings are of the deities he imagined earlier. In the nonverbal language of the animation, he and his father bond over these drawings, finding something shared to connect on.

This last part of the animation was what I felt a deep connection with. Many times, both as a child and even now, it has been difficult to find a point at which I intersect with my parents, to find the experiences and feelings we can share. Sometimes I think that may have been easier as a child; you don’t overthink things, much as Sanjay didn’t in this short, and it becomes simpler to find common ground. I really loved that a short film could convey this – both the distance in their individual experiences, and the closeness in finding something to share. It reminded me vividly of my own childhood, and gave me new perspective on the way my parents may have experienced raising me in a country that was not their own.

Sanjay’s Super Team has been nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Short Film category. 

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