You’re probably looking forward to “Finding Dory" to be released this summer, but you may want to slow down for a second and give the newest Pixar creation some love. Pixar’s newest character is an adorable moon-eyed bird that will appear in a six-minute short preceding “Finding Dory.” The baby bird, named Piper, is a sandpiper who has to overcome a fear of water if she wants to eat.
The idea was born on the beach where "Piper" director and animator Alan Barillaro used to run. Barillaro would watch the sandpipers plucking food from the ocean before quickly flying away in the hopes that their feathers would stay dry. Realizing the internal struggle of the sandpipers would make the perfect short film, Barillaro started experimenting with animation software in the hopes of telling the story through a silent character.
His idea grew as he began considering the bird’s perspective. As Barillaro noted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “we’ve all been to the beach, but have we ever viewed water from just an inch off the sand? That could be very fearful from a bird’s perspective.” He then continued developing the idea with the addition of new characters like a baby hermit crab who has a different approach to the ocean than the sandpiper one Piper has been taught. “It’s the kid at the playground feeling,” explained Barillaro. “You fall down and you feel so small, but you look and see someone even smaller than you brush themselves off and tackle something, and learn from that in your own way. It was important to me to stay in the kid world and see the world from Piper’s eyes, and not be from the human perspective.”
“Piper” caught on through Barillaro showing his experiments with different animating software to his mentor, Andrew Stanton. Piper just happened to be the subject of each of these experiments. While Stanton was impressed with the animating techniques he saw, what he really encouraged was the development of the sandpiper’s story. Barillaro notes this encouragement as key in persevering with the character of Piper and the short film as a whole.
It's become a much-loved tradition for Pixar to show a short animated film before every new full length feature they release. Barillaro’s “Piper” will premiere just before Stanton’s “Finding Dory” on June 17th.