Pixar debuts Purl, the first short film released as part of the company's SparkShorts venture meant to promote up-and-coming storytellers. Pixar shorts have become as beloved among fans of animated fare as the studio's full-length features themselves. Arguably, Pixar introduced generations of moviegoers to the short film medium, making them accessible to viewers of all ages. Similarly, Pixar has used their short films to foster talent within its own ranks. In recent years, Pixar has shown a focused effort in spotlighting different voices and stories with their short films, as evidenced by 2015's Sanjay's Super Team and 2018's Bao.
Earlier this year, Pixar announced the creation of SparkShorts, an in-house "experimental storytelling initiative" that aims to give more opportunities to up-and-coming creators within the company. Purl was among the initial group of short films announced as part of the SparkShorts program, and now the full version is available to watch online.
Pixar unveiled the full 8-minute short film Purl on YouTube, along with a poster for the project, and teased that there will be more coming to Disney's streaming service, Disney+, later in 2019. Purl was written and directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan. The film follows the titular young ball of yarn who starts working at the high-energy, male centric start-up B.R.O. Capital, but she doesn't quite fit in. Purl explores what lengths to which the character will go to in order to fit in at B.R.O. Capital and how that will affect other employees. Watch Purl and check out the poster below.
Purl touches on the phenomenon of male-dominated workplaces, particularly what women do (or feel they need to do) in order to fit in within those offices. In a meet-the-filmmakers video released by Pixar, Lester explained that the inspiration for Purl came from her own time working in animation, an experience shared by Libbert-Duncan. Lester said:
It’s based on my experience being in animation. My first job, I was like the only woman in the room, and so in order to do the thing that I loved, I sort of became one of the guys. And then I came to Pixar and I started to work on teams with women for the first time, and that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind.
Folks who have felt similarly ostracized in their workplaces will no doubt relate to Purl, which goes to show how important SparkShorts is as an initiative within one of the biggest animation powerhouses in Hollywood. The initiative will also hopefully go a long way in bolstering in-house community at Pixar, which was the center of a #MeToo news story in late 2017 when CCO John Lasseter took a leave of absence amid sexual harassment and misconduct accusations. Lasseter left Pixar officially at the end of 2018. According to reports, Lasseter fostered a work environment where employees felt uncomfortable due to his behavior, which included "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes." Though Purl doesn't tackle the issue of behavior like Lasseter's head-on, the short film does address certain folks, particularly women, feeling ostracized in male-centric workplaces. Both are, arguably, different symptoms for the same overarching problem in Hollywood and other male-dominated industries.
In terms of other upcoming SparkShorts projects, Pixar is planning to debut short films Smash and Grab, Kitbull, Float, Loop and Wind. While Smash and Grab and Kitbull will be made available on YouTube in the coming weeks, it's unclear when the next three will release or whether viewers will have to wait for the launch of Disney+. For now, Pixar fans can get an idea of what to expect from SparkShorts with Purl.