Despite the rare misfire, Pixar animated films have a reputation for quality that is backed by over two decades of cinematic classics. Many of their features are so well received that it's easy to forget the incredible, often Academy Award-recognized shorts that grace the start of each presentation's theatrical runtime.
With the incredibly successful Finding Nemo's sequel Finding Dory hitting theaters next week, it's time for a new short. This time audiences will be introduced to the sandpiper hatchling, Piper, in a film about the bravery it takes to face a treacherous world.
USA Today interviewed first-time director Alan Barillaro (supervising animator on Brave) about Piper. Barillaro said the impetus of the short came to him when watching local wildlife on a beach in Northern California:
"This is a story about conquering and overcoming your personal fears — in this case, the water. This is a tale of how to grow up in a world that seems so large and intimidating with the courage to get past those fears.
Those birds on the shore always looked like they were tearing around in fear, like they were scared of the water... I love playing with something people are familiar with, like a beach, and giving a new perspective, how that might feel as a bird that’s only four inches off the ground. The filmmaker in me wanted to have fun with that concept."
The six-minute film sees Piper's mother sending her to look for clams in the sand of the surf. Barillaro, who has three children himself, calls Piper a very personal piece. “There’s also the parent aspect, personal to me. Letting your kids grow up, make mistakes and not hovering over them. The mother piper is the parent I wish I was — being there for your kids, but giving them space to grow.” Barillaro says that while the protagonist is a girl, he loves "that it’s not a gender-specific [story]."
A lot of Pixar's success comes from the studio's ability to lean into metaphors that are meaningful to children and adults alike. Piper seems to be no exception to this, as the premise sounds pretty universally human. The film also promises some visual splendor, having started life as a test for new animation technology. (Those stills look gorgeous!)
We're just over a week away from finding out whether Piper stands up to some of the greatest in Pixar's catalogue of shorts. So far, it looks pretty good!
Piper glides into U.S. theaters along with Finding Dory on June 17, 2016.
Source: USA Today