Sanjay’s Super Team is simply, well, super.
Directed by Sanjay Patel, the seven-minute short animated film tells the partly-biographical tale of an Indian boy who reluctantly joins his father in their morning Hindu prayer ritual. Little Sanjay, our protagonist, prefers to watch his favourite superhero cartoon, “Super Team”, on television instead. In the midst of meditation, Sanjay gets lost in his daydream involving an epic adventure with three Hindu deities.
With no dialogue, the short relies on its stunning animation and music to drive the story. Sanjay’s Super Team, like The Book of Life released last year, beautifully and respectfully interweaves the director’s culture into their character designs and the world’s backgrounds. Aside from utilising Patel’s knowledge of Hinduism and other Hindu authorities, Pixar also brought in an expert on traditional Indian dance who was consulted during the animating process of the deities’ movements. It is therefore no surprise that the deities are the spectacle highlight of the short. They are interesting and dazzling to look at.
As with any superhero story, an action sequence is almost a given, and this is not neglected in Sanjay’s imaginary world. The battle between the deities and the monster is fast-paced but still provides time for the audience to marvel at the intricate details and attention given to the animation. Pixar made use of 3D computer animation and traditional 2D techniques for this sequence; a “co-mingling” as described by Patel.
A good bulk of the short appears like your basic Good-vs-Evil story, in which the heroes battle and vanquish the villain. What makes the story charming and memorable is the moment when Sanjay learns to bridge the gap between himself and his father. There is a divide between the two generations – Sanjay who loves his Western cartoons and his father who is religious and traditional – that is shown at the very beginning. Through the usage of a medium that is familiar to the young boy (superheroes), Sanjay grows to connect with his religion, which in turn allows him to better relate to his father.
The story of embracing one’s traditional and/or religious heritage while growing up with many Western pop cultural influences will strike a chord with children of migrants raised in the United States. However, it is also not too far from being relatable to the average millennial living in Singapore either. As a Singaporean viewer, I connected deeply with Sanjay’s journey as I balanced the prevalent Western influences on TV, Internet and films with the expectations of learning and continuing the cultural heritage of my parents and grandparents. The resignation on Sanjay’s father’s face when he feels that his son would rather prioritise cartoons over ritual is all too familiar.
Sanjay’s Super Team accompanies The Good Dinosaur, which is out in cinemas tomorrow. Like the latter film, the bond between a father and son plays a large role here, albeit dealing with a different theme. A visual treat and a heartwarming tale, this is a short film that will resonate with viewers of all generations.