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‘Sanjay’s Super Team’ Is Pixar’s First Project to Star Non-White Lead

Pixar is going ethnic with its next short. It announced today Sanjay’s Super Team directed by Pixar veteran and Indian-American artist Sanjay Patel.

The short will debut in June at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in southern France, and will be released theatrically in front of the studio’s November release The Good Dinosaur.

According to the LA Times,, which first announced the project, the seven-minute Sanjay’s Super Team follows the daydream of a young Indian boy, bored with his dad’s religious meditation, who imagines “a kind of ancient, Hindu version of The Avengers, with the gods appearing like superheros.” The film’s setting is an old Route 66 motel in San Bernardino, California, inspired by the Lido Motel that Patel’s immigrant parents owned and lived in when he was growing up—and which they still own today.

Patel’s personal work has often drawn upon his Indian heritage; he has written and illustrated books like The Little Book of Hindu Deities and an updated version of the Indian epic Ramayana.

Concept art for "Sanjay's Super Team" by Sanjay Patel. Click to enlarge. (Disney/Pixar)
Concept art by Robert Kondo for “Sanjay’s Super Team” by Sanjay Patel. Click to enlarge. (Disney/Pixar)

“If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short,” Patel told the LA Times. “I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy’s story to the pop culture zeitgeist. To have a broad audience like Pixar’s see this … it is a big deal. I’m so excited about that.”

After the last Pixar short Lava, a retrograde effort that felt out of touch with the times and lacked a point of view, it’s encouraging to see the studio move in a different direction by allowing one of its artists to express an idea that is deeply personal to himself. Sanjay’s Super Team also marks a historical first as Pixar’s first short (or feature film, for that matter) to star a non-white character.

The film in which Sanjay’s Super Team will be released in front of, The Good Dinosaur, is directed by Korean-American artist Pete Sohn, who is making history of his own as Pixar’s first non-white feature film director.

  • John

    I thought Russell from “Up” was Asian-American

    • AmidAmidi

      Russell wasn’t the star of UP. The literary term
      for Russell’s role would be deuteragonist, as opposed to protagonist,
      which is what we consider to be the lead.

    • Mike

      Regardless of the semantics of what is a ‘star,’ Russell’s heritage also didn’t inform the movie at all–it simply was. Not that a fair representation of a non-white major character is even remotely a bad thing, but I’m excited to see a Pixar effort that really grapples with what having a different cultural identity can mean.

      • Ravlic

        I find it bizarre how Americans are the only people who consider it as racist to make entertainment based on themselves.

        • Mike

          Did I ever say that I think it’s racist? …..because I don’t. But it’s both interesting and important to also be introduced to other perspectives and ways of thinking, And media produced by someone with those experiences is a great way of doing that.

          • Ravlic

            You yourself didn’t, but plenty of people are. I don’t expect Bollywood to make movies about white or black people, .
            I just find it really weird how words like “diversity” and “different experiences” are thrown around and yet there are a ton of movies you can catch that show this, they just aren’t American movies and that apparently makes them not worth watching. How many foreign movies did you actually watch in comparison to American ones, if you’re so interested in outside views?

        • Barrett

          It’s more that America is made up of people from a wide array of ethnic and national backgrounds, but in mass and even indie entertainment, the white western European extraction is the predominant starting point. To put it bluntly; white people and their version of American culture are treated as “default American.” Everything else is treated as, at best, an “interesting exception to the norm.”

          People who “make it an issue” want to see people from other backgrounds and other cultural origins tell stories from their point of view, where their background is as “default” to the story as white anglo is to 90-something percent of other stories. It is not inherently “racist” for white people or people assimilated to white American culture to tell stories from their point of view, it’s just that the range of diversity doesn’t reflect the true makeup of America’s people today.

          • Ravlic

            According to statistics, 80% of America is white, with only 10% being black. So for the vast majority of Americans, the “white people” American culture IS the default American culture. You can’t have something as default that only a minority of people engage in, it simply doesn’t work that way. And what is the white American culture? I am not American, but I wasn’t aware that Americans had different cultures based on their skin colour?

            You have a chance to “see the pov of other cultures”. You can watch European, Asian, African etc. films, maybe even catch one from my own small insignificant country. A ton of films are produced every year outside the US (yes, believe it or not the rest of the world is perfectly capable of making their own films) and guess what? No-one gives a damn about them, certainly not Americans. I’m assuming it’s because they can’t relate to them. Hey, I couldn’t possibly care about American Sniper, so to each their own.

          • Jordan Richardson

            More than half of that 80% are not actually white….But Hispanic. And around most of bustling America where actual progress and businesses are, the percentages are SIGNIFICANTLY more mixed. Most of the white percentage live together in the mid-western or southern areas, while the actual hustle and bustle big cities have a huge melting pot of races that should and would make up the majority, if not at least half of what you see

          • Roca

            Wow, that’s not even close. My town in the South is about 40% black, 10% mixed and 50% white. That’s about average everywhere I’ve lived in the South, too.

          • Ross

            America is NOT 80 % white. More like 60%

      • pixar is listening

        ‘I’m excited to see a Pixar effort that really grapples with what having a different cultural identity can mean.’…’Different’ being ‘not american’- that’s lovely, it’s both condescending and naively well meaning. It’s very american

        • Mike

          Yippie ki yay, American as charged.

          ‘Different’ sounds damning when you pluck out that single sentiment from the context of the rest of my post/the conversation at which it was engaged. But it IS a ‘different’ perspective because it’s not my perspective, and not the perspective of 99% of mainstream American media. Sorry I didn’t take the time to tiptoe around with my diction because I thought I was posting on an animation site, not on tumblr.

  • I actually bought one of his books, Ganesha’s sweet tooth, and the art is SO charming. The characters are comprised of simple shapes mostly but its filled with a lot of detail and great colors. this little bit of concept art doesn’t show but I hope we will get to see that in the short.

  • Honest_Miss

    I already love the ideas being introduced with that image, with a parent’s traditional way of worship and his son paralleling that, but in front of the television.

  • “Going ethnic” you say?

  • Old-timer Dimer

    I like that many animation studios are capable of producing extremely realistic movements and details in their animated films, but this Pixar short (like Feast and Paperman) uses a distinctive and charming style.

  • Rybreadstudio

    If I remember right Nemo was orange, Remy was grey, Lightning McQueen was red, and Sully was blue-green with purple spots.

    • manjowithane

      I don’t think Wall-e was white either.

      • Gomtesh Upadhye

        except that we are talking about humans here.

        • Zman

          I think that’s his point. There have only been 3 pixar feature films with human leads so to make it sound like pixar is white washing is silly. What’s more, a movie like Brave is Scottish and the Scottish are very very white.

          • Ravlic

            [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Stay on-topic. Comments are not a place to discuss ideas not directly related to the post.”]

  • Mike

    This short sounds like it has a lot more to say than Blue Umbrella or Lava did. I’m glad that (it sounds like) Pixar’s allowing someone to really inject their own culture and experiences into it. Can’t wait!

  • Zman

    Seems like pixar is moving in a more human direction with this and inside out. Very welcomed :)

  • Chris Bennett

    It’ll be so cool when the day arrives when stuff like this ISN’T newsworthy

  • Canys mayoris

    I though I read super sajyan….my bad.. :p

  • Strong Enough

    Pixar looks like the only place in the movie biz that explosive creativity can flourish. i can just imagine the atmosphere over there. too bad it takes four years to get these movies done. thats a whole high school run lol

  • Pixar is listening

    Now there’s the rub! Thanks for your suggestions on the name. We’ve gone with ‘Keith’.

  • Ravlic

    Really? They barely have human leads as is, so I really don’t get making a big deal out of their first “non-white” lead. This does sound very interesting and personal though.

  • Sounds like Pixar wants to test the waters of ethnicity with a short film, before fully dedicating itself with a full length feature project. Sees how people react to it, and how they can go further with ethnic leads in the future.

    • Mike

      Aren’t they already full steam on Lee Unkrich’s Dia de los Muertos film?

  • Sant

    I’m pretty sure the snowman in Knick Knack was Mexican

    • AnnaSumpter

      I always thought he was a frat boy, thus race-less: always chasing the shiny baubles of the beach babe.

      Not that I have any experience in that, mind you.

      • Sant

        Frat-boys come in all sorts of colors :)

  • starss

    I think it’s because the creator’s name is Sanjay.

  • ea

    “Sanjay’s Super Team follows the daydream of a young Indian boy, bored with his dad’s religious meditation, who imagines “a kind of ancient, Hindu version of The Avengers, with the gods appearing like superheros.”

    Imagine if they did something like that but taking place in the west and with Jesus and/or catholic saints.

    • Harry Bastard

      I do believe that may be the VeggieTales guys next project…Moses does kung-fu.

    • Mirrorworld

      South Park already did.

  • Harry Bastard

    Just one gripe. Not every Indian kid is named ‘Sanjay’, fer corn’s sake. Hop over to Youtube and search ‘aneet patel russell peters’ for some generic indian naming larfs!

    • Barrett

      I was always fond of “Jamshed”, which was the name of one of Apu’s nephews on The Simpsons.

    • white vader

      You read the story right? You could argue that considering he’s basing it on himself and that IS his name that it might not be the most creative leap, but generic name argument? Not this time…

      • Harry Bastard

        Ahhhhhhhhh, fark. Completely missed the name connection, my bad. Gripe withdrawn. Still, go watch that Russell Peters routine…it’ll make ya larf.

    • Tim Tran

      FYI, the creator used his name for the character, which is Sanjay.

  • white vader

    Love Sanjay’s stuff – and from that the character looks a bit like a George Pal puppetoon! Like that too. Lovely art from Kondo as always…

  • AmidAmidi

    Ravlic – You’ve dragged this conversation WAY off topic. This post is about a short film called “Sanjay’s Super Team.” Any further posts by you or others that are not specifically related to the short will be deleted.

  • Mike

    Hm, I thought it was still happening but could very well be mistaken. Surely they’ve got Lee Unlrich working on something anyway. And if it did get killed, I’m at least glad with how Book of Life came out. Now Rio on the other hand…….

    • Barrett

      I don’t have any inside info, I just haven’t heard anything about Pixars “Dios” movie in a long time, so I assumed they were focusing on “Dory” and “Toy Story 4” I don’t know anything about what’s coming after that, though I fear “Cars 3” might be part of that, and hope that “Incredibles 2” is a possibility.

  • enochrox

    This discussion got heated really quickly. Shameful that an alarming amount of white people, especially artists/animation enthusiasts would rail against this & use it as an opportunity to talk about what race percentage America is almost as if this story doesnt deserve to be told. Mr.Patel is an amazing talent & im looking forward to it!