A new short film from Pixar’s SparkShorts program should be the new workplace sensitivity training video for certain startups and corporations.
Purl follows a plucky ball of yarn on her first day at a new job at B.R.O. Capital, a fast-paced startup dominated by white men. Purl’s excitement quickly fades into frustration and disappointment when, despite her best efforts, she fumbles on water cooler banter, gets talked over and literally pushed aside in a meeting, and is shut out of lunch with the guys. Thinking her only option is to become a bro herself, Purl changes not only her physical appearance, but also her attitude, which quickly gets her the respect she wants. However, when a new ball of yarn named Lacey joins the team, Purl has to decide if she’s going to continue her ascent up the food chain or reach out a helping hand to someone who’s in the same position she was.
While Purl certainly looks like a Pixar short, thematically, it’s quite different from the studio’s typical fare. There’s drinking (and subsequent vomiting), as well as light profanity and some double entendres. But Purl diverging from what Pixar usually puts out is the whole point of the SparkShorts program that launched in January.
“We created an opportunity for artists to show us some new ideas by doing a low-budget project of their own,” said Jim Morris, president of Pixar Animation Studios, in the SparkShorts launch video.
Filmmakers were given six months to create shorts that speak to their personal experiences.
“[Purl is] based on my experience being in animation,” said writer and director Kristen Lester in a behind-the-scenes clip. “My first job, I was, like, the only woman in the room. And so in order to do the thing that I loved, I sort of became one of the guys. And then I came to Pixar and I started to work on teams with women for the first time. And that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind.” (She doesn’t mention the elephant in the room: former Pixar head John Lasseter, who was ousted following allegations of misconduct with female employees.)
SparkShorts currently has five other shorts and they could very well could be the launching pad for the next big voice in animation.
“That’s why we call them SparkShorts and not just Pixar,” said Lindsey Collins, VP of development and new media at Pixar. “We want to discover that new creative spark. And it allows us to start thinking about the future storytellers, the future directors, the future producers. Who are they and how do we get a sense of who they are right now?”