So now we get to Sanjay’s Super Team, the only short that, arguably, the general public saw. This is thanks to Pixar placing its shorts before its main feature in theaters. But, as previously discussed in the introduction to our Celebration of The Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, more independent shorts are usually overlooked by the latest Disney or Pixar short because of the differences in budget and exposure. This does not mean we can not celebrate Pixar’s shorts, too, though. It only means we should judge its shorts without being influenced by the big studio name “Pixar” above the title. We must discover the short as it should be: an original and incredibly creative piece of art.
Inspired by the director and writer Sanjay Patel‘s own childhood, the short tells the story of a young boy named Sanjay who wants to watch his favorite show Super Team (a fabricated American-style superhero series). Sanjay’s father desires his son to be more interested in his religious meditation (a Puja ceremony). Created without the use of dialogue (as all good animated shorts should be) the small Hindu statues of Vishnu, Durga, and Hanuman come to life in Sanjay’s powerful imagination in the style of his favorite television show.
When re-thinking about the context of this short I was reminded of something my husband said to me at the theater: “I wonder what people who don’t know much about Hindu think about this?” I confessed I didn’t know enough about Hinduism myself. The little I did know about Vishnu, Durga, and Hanuman was met with a new fascination for these characters. Just like Sanjay. But this is not what the short is about at all. It doesn’t matter what faith you have – if any at all – anyone can relate to the clash of tradition vs. the modern world. How can the two be intertwined? How can we follow in our parent’s footsteps, but discover things in our own unique way? It’s all explored here in this thought-provoking seven minute short.
The blending of a typical superhero show and religious deities works surprisingly well. After all, we do all worship different idols and this short portrayed both cunningly and respectfully. I also want to draw attention to the sound effects in this short. It isn’t overshadowed by the score. In fact, the score is downplayed to allow the theme of the ringing bell. This bell, in Sanjay’s imagination, sounds unearthly and mystical and perfectly matches the fantasy and spiritualism. A lot of praise should also be given to the facial expressions. The father’s look of a despondency when he thinks his son is no longer interested in his culture breaks my heart. Not to mention that Sanjay’s disinterest in anything other than the television is all too recognizable in children. These expressions from both characters connect them with their audience and allow a deeper meaning. It certainly is not a tiresome case of “art over substance” here.
There isn’t much I can claim that is bad about this short. There is too much to love. However, I do have the smallest of nitpicks. There’s a lot going on with Sanjay’s Super Team in their attempts to defeat antagonist Ravana with the mix of computer animation and old-school 2D style. I become more aware that I was watching animation here and this style, oddly, makes the short look dated. It reminds me of something like Disney’s TRON: Uprising, particularly with the use of light. Of course, I understand that this has to do with Sanjay imagining these events all like his favorite cartoon show. So this, I suppose, just comes down to the audience’s preference in animation styles.
The best part for me was seeing the “real” Sanjay in photographs with his father in the credits. When I thought about the short and how creative this boy’s imagination was, all I could think was that it’s no surprise Sanjay Patel became an animator.
Other reviews in this series:
All the Academy Award nominated animated shorts, including Sanjay’s Super Team, will be available for digital purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video, and Vimeo on Demand among others this Wednesday, February 23.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes