Piper, the Alan Barillaro directed short animated film that opens Pixar’s Finding Dory, is a true work of brilliance. Not only does the film utilize ground-breaking technology to make animated sand, water, sea foam, bubbles, and feathers seem almost more real than real life, but it tells a profound story about the difficulties of growing up and the tough choices parents have to make to teach children to take care of themselves. By the end of this six-minute hair-raising pleasure you can’t help but feel a real kinship to Piper and his survival struggle.
Piper, the main character, is a little sandpiper who’s entitled to getting all its meals dropped into his mouth by its mom while the little bird stayed safely away from the fruitful tides that offered up its delicious sustenance. One day, mom doesn’t drop the food in his mouth anymore but beckons Piper to join her in the scary unknown of oyster scavenging. Piper has a tough time learning the ends and outs of self-perseverance, but they’re resilient enough to overcome the trauma that befalls him in order to survive on their own. When Piper learns to fend for themselves, they revel in the pride of accomplishment and relishes being able to provide more than their share.
It took Barillaro and his team three years to make this six minutes of screen time, and the attention to craftsmanship and storytelling is worth it. Piper’s story is the story of every child who’s faced the scary world and every adult who gave them a little nudge towards independence even when it pained them to do so. Growing up and learning how to navigate the world is never easy for anyone. No matter how accomplished you are at some things, there are always challenges ahead, and with that usually comes a sense of satisfaction from learning a new skill or facing a new fear.
Piper also seemed relevant to a recent bird encounter of mine. Recently, a nest that had been built into the upper wall of my entryway dropped, leaving five baby birds nesting on the concrete. This was kind of an early start for these guys, and the parent birds appeared to be freaking out. There were even different types of birds stopping by to gawk at the situation. My husband put out some wooden boards to protect them from the harsh sun, and we saw them try to flap their wings and fly. After a few days, they could all fly but only felt comfortable venturing the few feet to our car. Soon they perched themselves on our roof. Now, our entryway is free of bird droppings, but it’s also free of those five little birds. We were giant dangerous creatures, and they were constantly defecating in the entrance to our home, but we’d all kind of gotten used to each other. For a while. It’s time for them to be grown birds now, fending for themselves without their parents or giants there to block out the tortuous noonday Texas sun.
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