Sanjay’s Super Team‘s Filmmakers Ready to Descend upon Oscars®

The spotlight won't only be shining on Pixar director Pete Docter and his Best Animated Feature nominee Inside Out at the 88th Academy Awards® Sunday night on ABC. Two other Pixar veterans—director Sanjay Patel and producer Nicole Paradis Grindle—will also be at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, representing the animation studio as their film Sanjay's Super Team vies for the Oscar® for Best Animated Short.

Based on Patel's real-life experiences, the seven-minute film follows young Sanjay, an Indian-American boy whose love of comic books, super hero cartoons, and action figures distracts him from actively participating in his father's daily meditation rituals. But when Sanjay daydreams of a lively battle between three Hindu deities-turned-super heroes and a frightening monster during a prayer session, the boy begins to look at his father's teachings from a different perspective.


Sanjay's Super Team is featured on The Good Dinosaur Blu-ray and DVD, new this week from Walt Disney Home Entertainment, and online at Movie journalist Tim Lammers talked with Patel and Paradis Grindle about the film and its Oscar nomination for

Tim Lammers: Has the idea of being nominated for an Oscar sunk in for either one of you yet?

Sanjay Patel: The weight of it didn't hit me initially, but bit by bit, as so many people have been excited about the film being nominated, it's really added up to how exciting the ceremonies will be. It's pretty special.

Nicole Paradis Grindle: It does feel unreal. It's like I've been having an out-of-body experience during many of the events surrounding the Oscars.

TL: It seems that a lot of projects made at Pixar turn to Oscar gold. Is it a competitive environment there? And not necessarily in a head-to-head, film-project-against-film-project sort of way, but in a way to challenge yourself to deliver something people haven't seen before?

NPG: It's not so competitive, but we're working in an environment dedicated to excellence, and the people that we work with are incredibly talented—especially Sanjay, because this story came from his heart.

TL: Because the story is so personal, Sanjay, did that add any extra pressure to deliver?

SP: Yes, but in terms of the spirit and environment of the studio, as soon as people got a whiff of the story, everybody was so supportive. In many ways, if people can smell what's special and unique about a project, they can get really get fired up about it.

TL: Nicole, from what I understand, this idea went through (Pixar and Disney Chief Creative Officer) John Lasseter in 2012 before you joined the project as a producer. What do you recall of your initial reaction to Sanjay's idea? I can't help but think you were floored by it.

SP: [Huge laughter… ]

TL: Did Nicole literally pass out and fall on the floor, Sanjay?

SP: Tim, you should have seen what she saw initially [laughter].

NPG: It was pretty crazy and intimidating. My first impression was, 'This is going to be really cool,' and second I thought, 'I don't know how we're going to make this [laughter].’ It was a very big idea, and I knew my job was going to be to contain it somewhat without losing the brilliance.


TL: Sanjay, this is such of an introspective piece. Now that you've seen the film through viewers’ eyes and experienced their reactions to it, is there anything that you've learned about yourself that you didn't realize before?

SP: There's been a lot going on in my mind because of all the attention that the film is getting. One of the things that I've been reflecting on is how I used to tell myself, ‘I'm not ready for things. Things aren't safe for me to explore.’ But in fact, I was ready, probably years ago, but I held myself back. It wasn't because people were stopping me from opportunities, it was my own lack of self-esteem and readiness and fear of putting myself out there. Now that I have, it's been so rewarding and confirming to have so many people react so positively to the film. It makes me feel like, ‘Yeah, there is something that I have to express that is valuable.’ The best part about it is that I'm working at Pixar and have this great team behind me to not only express things, but to do it in an entertaining way.


TL: I love how Sajay's Super Team opens with the words, ‘Based on a True Story – Mostly.’ Was young Sanjay's fantastical vision of the Hindu gods based on your imagination from childhood, or is the fantasy sequence something you came up with as an adult?

SP: In terms of the boy’s daydream, that is something that we absolutely crafted to tell the story. When I was a little kid, I used to sit next to my father—just as we depicted in the short—but I wasn't thinking about my parents’ Gods. I wanted nothing to do with them. I would stare into the carpet and daydream, and if you stare long enough, you start seeing imagery. The initial spark of the film was based on me spacing out, but also noticing that my father would literally place money next to the idols. This is true to my life experience: I would notice the money there, but wondered why I didn't get an allowance. I told John Lasseter that in order for me to worship the Gods I love, was to bit by bit, little by little, steal from my father’s gods so that I could buy the comic books and toys that I love. That was the initial germ of the concept, and I also told John jokingly that the karmic irony, 30 years later, is here I am, completely falling in love with the mythology and have dedicated so much of my life to it. I'm paying off my karmic debt by doing this.


TL: And to continue the real-life story, you're the one in the father role now, with a young son who I understand loves Mickey Mouse.

SP: [Laughs] And I love Mickey Mouse. I love watching those old, classic Disney Treasures with him. That's my favorite thing to do, reliving the entire medium that I went to school for, and now seeing it through a child’s point of view. It’s been a gift.

TL: Back to the Oscars. Now I know you’re both professionals, but we’re all allowed to be starstruck once in a while. Is there anyone you’ll be thrilled to meet at the Oscars? Or have you met them already at the Oscars luncheon?

NPG: I can say that I've met (Mad Max: Fury Road director) George Miller, and I was starstruck by him. I love the work he’s done, which is sort of a crossover. He uses comic book/animator sensibilities in live-action style.

SP: I was really excited to meet (fellow nominee) Don Hertzfeldt, who created the beautiful short World of Tomorrow. I know he’s pretty reclusive, so it was pretty nice to sit down and talk with him and put a face behind the film that we're nominated with. That was a pleasure.

TL: No matter the outcome at the Oscars Sunday, there has to be part of both of you that feel you've already won in a sense, having this glorious opportunity to not only do the work, but do the work at Pixar.

SP: I feel that way, big time. Big, big, big time.

NPG: I have to add, having a platform like Pixar for this story has been really gratifying and exciting.