A Heartwarming Story of Father and Son – Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay’s Super Team, an animated short, is a heartwarming story of father and son. You can watch it in theaters shown before The Good Dinosaur. During my latest Disney press trip the bloggers and I met with the Director, Sanjay Patel, and Producer, Nicole Grindle, of Sanjay’s Super Team.
A Heartwarming Story
Sanjay Patel has worked at Pixar for nearly 20 years and on a number of films. He wanted to fit in as an immigrant and embrace more traditional animation art when he started at Pixar. However it felt like he had turned his back on his father’s culture so after about 10 years at Pixar he was introduced to South Asian art. He instantly fell in love with it.
Sanjay began writing books outside of Pixar that became a big hit such as The Little Book of Hindu Deities. They allowed him to reconnect with the culture. After he did his own version of The Rum Iron his artwork was featured at the Asian Art Museum. It was so successful Pixar said they wanted him to do a short film. It took a bit of persuasion but Sanjay finally agreed.
I was scared to bring my identity, my part of my culture and this thing that was so precious to my parents and my community to work.
– Sanjay Patel on Sanjay’s Super Team
When the president of Pixar asked Sanjay to create the film he felt like it wasn’t part of their brand but after three years of working on it he was shocked they were able to tell it like a story in a way that was so sincere. Pixar likes to tell new stories.
Sanjay had a talk with his father before he agreed to work on the film. His father said, “Sanjay you know this studio has supported you and educated you for 20 years. They’re finally asking you to try this thing and for you not to try would be bad karma.” It was Sanjay’s duty to at least try. Win or lose. Sanjay’s father sounds very wise!
Pixar had never created something so personal that is so specific to father and son. Sanjay said his dad had not watched a movie for 30 years and especially never seen Pixar animation.
Sanjay flew his dad to the Pixar studio where he had him watch the film with him in the theater. And so, Sanjay, Nicole and Sanjay’s father watched the film together. Sanjay said his dad was all business at first but eventually got very emotional. Sanjay’s father works very hard running a motel 7 days a week, 24-7. Sanjay was finally showing him that he understood who his father was and what had sustained him.
Producer and Director John Lasseter, known for Toy Story, Cars and Toy Story 3, believed in the concept from day one. The original concept Sanjay pitched to John was about a little boy in India that was ignoring the cultural stories that were carved on the temples all around them. The boy had his nose buried in a Western style super hero comic.
The truth was that Sanjay was actually raised in Southern California. Every morning Sanjay would spend with his dad and his rituals. John knew that Sanjay should tell his story about him and his dad.
If you tell the story as honestly as possible people will connect to it. – John Lasseter on Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay felt like he was now given permission to say things that he might not otherwise say. Growing up in the culture he was so afraid of exposing his identity, his parents identity and community. Sanjay just wanted to fit in as a boy. John told him that his story has value and he should tell it.
It was also John who encouraged Sanjay to put his name on the film. Sanjay wanted the super team to represent him and his father. So, they came up with the name Sanjay’s Super Team. First it was super heroes but it’s not just about super heroes, it’s their team. It’s about bringing people together, the super team.
I loved how Sanjay spoke about different races and how it was not a factor when he was a boy growing up . He said it didn’t matter if they were black, brown or white. I live in a predominantly white community but we have raised our son to not recognize based on color. A few of our family members are mixed races but he does not recognize any difference. This makes me very happy and proud. I wish the world could see things the way our children do.
Producer, Nicole Grindle, said the film bridges cultures. Parents want to pass on something from their lives to their children. Nicole said she hopes that all kids take away the idea that if their parents think it’s cool then maybe they should pay attention more.
Sanjay’s Super Team Gods
Sanjay’s Super Team is made up the of three gods (deities) Vishnu, Durga, and Hanuman.
In the Hindu philosophy masculine and feminine energy is very important. Vishnu, a central God in Hinduism, stands for preservation in the trinity so the force of destruction problem is that force of creation, which they didn’t need in the story. Sanjay’s father was trying to preserve his culture so they felt like the force of preservation would be a good mirror.
Once they decided it was going to be a super hero team, the masculine-feminine energy was so important. The mother goddesses are much more popular than Vishnu. You’ll learn more about these characters and what they stand for when you watch the film. The mother goddess and the aspect of the warrior goddess Durga seemed appropriate.
The demi god, Hanuman, is part monkey and part god. He’s the son of the wind god. There’s so much mythology about him.
Nicole said they were going for something that was epic and represented enlightenment. They had their crew push the limits of tools they already had. The camera work allowed them to try really epic angles and super wide lenses. And then with lighting they could blow things out.
The movie starts out in a box. Nicole said she grew up in an immigrant box.
In an immigrant box you leave all the riches of your culture be it of Africa, Korea all behind in the old country and you come as an immigrant into a rented apartment or whatever place you land. It’s just a soulless kind of box. – Producer, Nicole Grindle, on Sanjay’s Super Team
Beige on beige is the aesthetic they were talking about. When the boy finally lights the lamp of knowledge enlightenment what was finite becomes infinite. Nicole wanted what was material to become immaterial.
A story about a little boy interpreting his father’s experience with his religion.
Watch a clip from Sanjay’s Super Team below:
At the end of the animated short, children’s artwork is shown throughout the credits. Of course, we instantly thought it was Sanjay’s artwork from when he was a little boy. The artwork was actually created by the children of parents who work at Pixar.
Part of the tradition of the Pixar stories is to not have a lot of dialogue because it is a tribute to the pure art of animation and visual story telling.
Watch Sanjay’s Super Team in theaters shown before The Good Dinosaur.
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