Pixar has debuted its first short film under its nascent animation program SparkShorts, a new initiative at the studio aimed at cultivating independent projects from the company’s own artists and directors.
The first film, Purl, follows a bright pink ball of yarn who begins work at a homogenous corporate office filled with men who waste no time ostracizing her. The short is written and directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan.
While Pixar has always operated on dual levels of humor for adults and children alike, Purl’s jokes and language shoot noticeably higher in maturity here. The film nevertheless makes its themes clear for any age, commenting quickly but efficiently on the prevalence of toxic masculinity in office culture and the old boys’ club social systems in place across corporate America.
“It’s based on my experience being in animation,” Lester said in a meet-the-filmmakers video also released by the studio. “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.” Producer Libbert-Duncan added, “When Kristen came to me and said, ‘This is a story that I want to tell,’ I looked at her and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I have lived the exact same thing.’”
Disney and Pixar teased that more projects from the SparkShorts program will debut on the company’s forthcoming streaming service, Disney+, later this year. Meanwhile, the Pixar short Bao is among the nominees for this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.