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Sanjay's Super Team

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Animator, Sanjay Patel:

Pixar’s Sanjay Patel never wanted to narrate the tale of his relationship with his father through a short animated feature. It was after looking at Patel’s art for children’s books, such as Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth and The Little Book Of Hindu Deities [from his campaign, Ghee Happy] that Pixar’s chief creative officer, John Lassester pushed him into it. Sanjay’s Super Team is ground-breaking for Pixar not only because it got nominated for the Oscars this year but for other reasons too. One, it marks the first ever production by the creative powerhouse to be based on a real life story; an achingly personal film told from an Indian-American perspective. Second, it preaches Indian mythology and culture, opening the door for diverse representations. 

Sanjay, the little kid in the short is absorbed in the world of comics and cartoons, while his father tries to rouse his interest in the traditions of the Hindu practice. Unwavering and reluctant, the boy embarks on a journey of revelation and enlightenment; a journey he never imagined, only to return with a fresh new perspective that they both can embrace. Over a telephonic conversation from California, Patel briefly walked me through his life at Pixar, his new short and what Indian traditions mean to him now, after all these years.

Pixar Studio is known for bringing innovation and emotion to the world of computer animated films. Movies such as Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and The Incredibles among others have helped the studio bag 22 Academy awards.

What is animating at Pixar like?
It’s fun. You have a close relationship with people you work with, here, because you get to know so many people. You’ll find people who are doing some really exciting work. It’s an art conducive environment where everybody is sort of inspiring one another. Currently I am story-boarding the sequel to The Incredibles. It’s an amazing experience working with my story supervisor Ted Malfort. I essentially play director and work closely with Brad Bird [Director of The Incredibles and The Ratatouille] at Pixar. Working with them at Pixar is like film education; there is so much to learn from them. In fact I was apprehensive of the idea of making this short in the first place. Although Pixar had reached out to me several times, I wasn’t too kicked about doing this. But it was Jim [President at Pixar] who eventually talked me out of my fears. It’s mostly Pixar veterans who work on shorts per se; that could be one of the reasons too.

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