A Diverse Pixar Crew Grabs an Oscar Nomination


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A scene from “Sanjay’s Super Team.”

Credit
Disney/Pixar

Amid the controversy over the all-white slate of acting nominees for this year’s Oscars, “Sanjay’s Super Team,” a candidate for best animated short, embodies the kind of inclusive filmmaking that many critics say the motion picture academy should recognize more often. The film — directed by Sanjay Patel, an Indian-American who grew up in California; produced by a woman; and made by an ethnically diverse crew — shares a highly personal tale that resonates with many audiences: the clash between a tradition-minded immigrant father and his more assimilated son.

“Every morning, my dad worshiped his gods, which were the Hindu gods, in his shrine, and every morning I worshiped my gods, which were superheroes,” Mr. Patel said in a recent telephone interview. “My shrine was the TV. And every morning, we would clash because were jammed together in the same room.”

Born in Britain to Gujarati parents, Mr. Patel came to the United States when he was 5. His parents bought a motel on Route 66, and he grew up in San Bernardino.

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Sanjay Patel, the director of “Sanjay’s Super Team.”

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Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Mr. Patel, 41, started at Pixar in 1996, working as an animator, designer and story artist on “Toy Story 2,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and others. He also spent over 10 years exploring Indian mythology and art, creating illustrated books, personal art and children’s books: “I became passionate about bringing this material to the attention of people who didn’t know about it — beginning with myself,” he said.

At first, he turned down three requests from Pixar management to propose a short. Then the company’s president, Jim Morris, gave him some time to work on a personal idea. “He told me, ‘Develop what you want and show it to us,’” Mr. Patel said. “‘If we like an idea, we’ll move ahead with it. If not, it will stay yours to do on your own.’”

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