My favourite part of any new Pixar release is the short that comes with it. To me, each short displays the best of the company’s inventiveness in both animation and story telling. Alan Barillaro’s Piper, the short that accompanies Finding Dory definitely does not disappoint. As much as I enjoyed the larger film, Piper was by far the best part of that cinema experience.
Piper is the story of a baby sandpiper who is afraid of the water. Pause for a second and think about how cute that is – a little bird hero versus a giant ocean villain. Melt! Seriously, check this clip. Now back to business. Piper starts with a gorgeous shot of sandpipers digging clams out of the sand before the waves reach the shore and then running away. The protagonist initially expects to be fed by her mum, presumably as she has always been, but mum prompts her to try for herself. She at first has success but then the waves crash to shore and drench the poor little bird, starting her fear of the water. Can we say inciting incident? Desperate hunger and a little help from a baby crab eventually lead Piper to conquer her fear in the cutest way possible.
As with other Pixar shorts, the animation is gorgeous and groundbreaking. Apparently it began life as an experiment, trying to re-jig a bird from Brave into a baby sandpiper, and then everything else grew from there. The visuals are almost photo-realistic and so the careful details of the feathers, combined with the audio, are how the character emotions are given out. It was just over-whelmingly beautiful.
The simplicity of Piper is what makes it so brilliant. Following the path of one of my favourite Pixar films, Wall-E, the short relies on character expression and action to tell the story rather than dialogue. There is NO speech. And yet you are never lost because the plot is so relatable. It’s your typical character versus fear story executed with cuteness and beauty. Even the structure is simple as it follows the typical three act form – from the inciting incident of Piper developing the fear to the climatic moment of Piper facing her fear. There are no tricks or gimmicks. Piper is just beautiful animation and clear, concise story telling.
People are saying that this short is one of the best Pixar has ever made. Since I spent the entire time watching it in awe, I think that I agree. I fell in love within the first twenty seconds and am still in love now. Definitely one of the best short films I’ve ever seen.