Pixar has Hindu gods as superheroes

Seven-minute work will be screened before The Good Dinosaur in cinemas here

Sanjay’s Super Team, directed by Sanjay Patel, is inspired by the Indian-American animator’s childhood.
Sanjay’s Super Team, directed by Sanjay Patel, is inspired by the Indian-American animator’s childhood. PHOTO: PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS

Pixar Animation Studios will debut its first Asian-themed film with the short Sanjay's Super Team next month.

The seven-minute work, which will screen in cinemas here before Pixar's upcoming feature The Good Dinosaur, tells the story of an Indian boy who imagines Hindu gods as superheroes.

Directed by Sanjay Patel, the short is reportedly inspired by the Indian-American animator's childhood when he was torn between his love of cartoon heroes and the traditional Hindu rituals of his immigrant parents.

Mr Jim Morris, president of Pixar, told regional journalists at a private preview of the short film on Thursday that the award-winning studio is open to making more Asian-centric films as long as a director has a good story pitch.

"We don't go in with the idea that we want to do a film about a certain group or place, but if a director has a good story to tell, then we would be open to making a film about that," he says.

Raising the example of Korean- American director Peter Sohn, who is helming The Good Dinosaur, he says that he "would not be shocked if Pete would want to make a film about Asia".

According to him, Sohn's Korean immigrant mother had trouble understanding American films that he used to take her to watch because of the language barrier. But she had no trouble enjoying animated features such as the Disney classic Dumbo (1941).

Mr Morris says: "The visuals were enough to tell the story and that's partly why Pete says he decided to work in animation. So if he would want to make a film about Korea or Asia for his parents, I wouldn't be surprised."

The Pixar honcho was in town to introduce a slate of Pixar's upcoming works to the press and industry partners.

He presented a number of clips from The Good Dinosaur, which tells the story of a lost dinosaur named Arlo who is trying to find his way home. Along the way, he befriends a little feral boy, whom he names Spot.

Scheduled for release here on Nov 26, the film has experienced hiccups, causing a long delay in its production.

When it started production six years ago, Up (2009) director Bob Peterson was tasked as the man in charge, given that he had come up with the original story idea.

In 2013, however, he was yanked from the project, reportedly over "fatal flaws" with the story, which was described as a "Billy Elliott (2000)-type of film" about a dinosaur who could not fit in with his community.

Sohn, the inspiration for the chubby boy scout in Up who had until then been credited as co-director of the film, was then named as the new director and its plot was given a complete overhaul.

Mr Morris says: "We give people the chance to work on a story and we give them our support, but it doesn't always work out.

"We all loved the original idea, but then we realised that there were story issues that were just not solvable. So we changed the story to make it better and we're very proud of the film we have now."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•The Good Dinosaur opens in cinemas on Nov 26. Sanjay's Super Team will be screened before The Good Dinosaur.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Pixar has Hindu gods as superheroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe