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Pixar’s ‘Sanjay’s Super Team’ Hits Many Firsts

A superhero project is coming from Pixar later this year and no, it’s not an “Incredibles” sequel. “Sanjay’s Super Team” is a short attached to “The Good Dinosaur,” checking off a couple of firsts: the first Pixar film to center around Hindu deities, who are like the Avengers, and the first Pixar toon by a director of Indian descent.

A directorial debut from Sanjay Patel, the short centers around a little Hindu boy who prefers Saturday morning cartoons of superheroes while his father wants him to join in morning prayers, until he sees Vishnu, Hanuman and Durga as the Avengers who save him. Patel, who grew up in San Bernardino, Calif., where his parents ran the Lido Motel, says the short is partly biographical.

The day the CalArts grad was to make his pitch for the short to John Lasseter, his son, Arjun, was born and the meeting had to be postponed a couple of weeks. “In hindsight, my family said it was my son’s karma,” said Patel.

The helmer, who has been with Pixar since 1996, has worked as an animator on such films as “Monsters Inc.,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars,” “Monsters University,” “Toy Story 2” and “The Incredibles,” also doing duty as storyboarder on the latter two films.

Patel started out working on picture books and graphic novels before seguing to the screen, drawing on the Hindu mythology for inspiration.

Although Hindu mythology has been the subject of comic books from Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Tales), Patel says he didn’t really draw on them. “My cousins had a few of those, when I first saw it didn’t grab me straight away. Those things were made in early ’70s in mid-’80s, there were cooler comic books.”

Producer Nicole Grindle says Patel “didn’t want film to match any deity style. Sanjay wanted to interpret it to our 3D Pixar world.”

Grindle says she consulted with authorities on Hinduism. “Sanjay has a great deal of knowledge. It saved us in making the film.”

The story is as much about Sanjay’s relationship with his father as it is about the super heroes, with music composed by Mychael Danna. Patel says he was a “late bloomer in my parents’ culture.” After working for 10 years at Pixar he discovered Indian art and mythology. “It helped me understand my parents, why they said, ‘Sita Ram,’ when I sneezed.”

Grindle says the short is “good for the larger culture. People who are not Hindu or Indian will” ask more questions about the culture.

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