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At San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, Pixar made a big splash with a very small film. Sanjay Patel’s new short, Sanjay’s Super Team, transfixed the audience at its North American premiere with a story and visuals vastly unlike any Pixar project before.
On the surface, Sanjay’s Super Team, which opens Nov. 25 in front of The Good Dinosaur, is a superhero movie. But more than that, the film is an intensely personal glimpse into the clash of culture and tradition that divides a father and son — and that ultimately brings them closer.
The story begins simply enough: the young Sanjay is transfixed by his TV cartoon hero team, while across the room, his devout Hindu father prays at a simple shrine. “Every morning I worshipped my gods on the TV,” Patel said, “he worshipped his at his shrine.”
After a series of mishaps, the boy finds himself teaming with a trio of Hindu deities against a multi-headed villain, which ultimately leads to another Pixar tear-inducing ending.
The seven-minute short blends animation and art techniques, incorporating elements of Hinduism, rave culture, anime, and even 2001: A Space Odyssey. Combined with a hero of color and a story steeped in Indian symbolism, “it was so different from what we’ve done before,” noted producer Nicole Grindle. “Everyone was so excited and supportive.”
Although he’s worked at Pixar for 20 years, and has spent several years creating his own art books and graphic novels, Patel, 41, had never directed before, and he found the prospect daunting. But his story and sketches won over Pixar boss John Lasseter, who encouraged Patel to make the movie. His dad also supported Patel: “He said I should at least try, and he was right.”
Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle at Comic-Con
“It took me 30 years before I saw the art and read the stories from my dad’s culture. And when I did, what I read and saw, I reexamined and embraced that culture.”