Every animation fan or cinephile knows by now that Pixar has been going through quite a lot of internal turmoil in the past couple of years. When allegations of sexual harassment against one of the company’s icons, former Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation John Lasseter came to light, he took a company-issued sabbatical and was eventually fired. The specific allegations, along with other employee testimonials, pointed to a male-dominated culture at Pixar which consistently made female employees uncomfortable and kept many from advancing within the company for decades.
After all the think-pieces and consternation about what these revelations — and the sad history they present — might mean for Pixar’s future and perhaps the future of the animation industry, enter Purl, a new short film directed by Kristen Lester posted to Pixar’s YouTube channel this week.
Purl (voiced by Bret Parker, also the voice of Kari in The Incredibles) is an anthropomorphic ball of pink yarn. She’s thrilled by the prospect of working for BRO Capital, a very male-dominated financial services company. The thrill wears off when she discovers just how much she will have to alter her natural personality in order to fit into the ‘bro’ culture of BRO.
What stands out most about Purl when compared to the other shorts in Pixar’s extensive catalogue — other than the social commentary — is the fact that it isn’t silent. The dialogue here is hilarious and honestly a bit shocking, especially when you hear characters saying “ass” and “prick” in a Pixar product. But that’s not a complaint — I think it would have been extremely difficult to convey this workplace without dialogue, and the film overall would have felt handcuffed to those more childlike rhythms of visual comedy.
But there is one great comedy visual here, and that’s when Purl literally sews herself into a square, suit-wearing BRO stereotype. She looks and walks like Gumby, and although she portrays an air of confidence once she fits into the company at this point, that awkward walk tells a different story.
It’s hard to know when to stop describing plot for an eight-minute short film, so I’ll just stop here so you can get the full effect of the film if you haven’t seen it.
But that takes us back to Purl‘s impact. The film demonstrates in humorous and enjoyable fashion that at least a large part of Pixar understands what the problems were and wants the company to course-correct. For someone like me, who grew up loving Pixar and always admiring their creativity and ingenuity, Purl reassures me that the company wants nothing more or less than to grow from this experience and try as much as possible to atone for their wrongdoing. Let’s hope that growth continues.
This is definitely the best film I’ve seen thus far in 2019, and I highly encourage you to give it a watch below!
– George Napper