Prepare to fall in love with a hungry sandpiper hatchling called Piper.
The plucky bird makes her world debut in Pixar's animated short Piper, which screens in front of Finding Dory (in theaters June 17).
First-time director Alan Barillaro features the adorable beach bird and her mother in a tale of unheralded bravery — tiny Piper leaving the nest for a world filled with treacherous ocean waves.
“This is a story about conquering and overcoming your personal fears — in this case, the water,” Barillaro says. “This is a tale of how to grow up in a world that seems so large and intimidating with the courage to get past those fears.”
After finishing his stint as supervising animator on Pixar's 2012 hit Brave, Barillaro was inspired by birds scurrying around the surf for food while he was running along a Northern California beach.
“Those birds on the shore always looked like they were tearing around in fear, like they were scared of the water," Barillaro says. "That was the impetus of the idea.”
Creating the sandpiper character started as a test of new animation technology, but Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter saw story potential with Piper.
Barillaro took the deep dive and fleshed out the six-minute tale of Piper being prompted to look for clams buried in the sand by her mother (no bird handouts here). She gets knocked down by waves, but overcomes the setbacks. Chalk it up to hunger-inspired fortitude.
“I love playing with something people are familiar with, like a beach, and giving a new perspective, how that might feel as a bird that’s only four inches off the ground," Barillaro says. "The filmmaker in me wanted to have fun with that concept.”
Rock guitarist Adrian Belew composed the film score for the wordless Piper and even contributed to the bird sounds — using everything from his guitar to his sneakers squeaking on hardwood floors to aid sound engineers, who also incorporated real sandpiper sounds.
The growl of Piper’s stomach when she fails to find a meal is actually Belew recording his own daily gurgle.
“I just put my iPhone to my belly,” Belew says. “Hopefully, I’ll get calls from filmmakers for my stomach growls from now on.”
The 'Piper' scoring session at Skywalker Sound in Nicasio, Calif., with director Alan Barillaro, left, composer Adrian Belew, center, and producer Marc Sondheimer, right. (Photo: Kristen Loken)
Piper is a girl hatchling, mostly because of her predominantly female name. “But I love that it’s not a gender-specific (story),” Barillaro says.
He says kids will relate to the story of a youngster overcoming fear and ultimately thriving in the ocean setting.
“There’s also the parent aspect, personal to me,” says Barillaro, a father of three. “Letting your kids grow up, make mistakes and not hovering over them. The mother piper is the parent I wish I was — being there for your kids, but giving them space to grow.”
Source: USA Today
Banner Photo Credit: Disney•Pixar