Disney Kids' Pixar Short: 'Sanjay's Super Team' Shocks with Hindu Story!
Imagine the shock and confusion recently when a friend went to see the kids' movie The Good Dinosaur, and was met with the short Sanjay's Super Team. Without warning, or explanation this wordless seven minute film burst on the screen showing what appeared to be an Indian boy in front of a TV, and his father worshipping before an open shrine. What was this film all about with its scary idols and an evil monster? How in the world did this connect with the movie The Good Dinosaur? None of it made sense!
And none of it would make sense until further research gave the answers. As many are aware, some Disney movies are preceded by an entertaining animated film done by Pixar. But this preview short was decidedly different, and had an apparent agenda. So what was this agenda, and why this short?
For a quick answer one can turn to Wikipedia's Sanjay's Super Team. This article tells us this mini-film was directed by Pixar animator Sanjay Patel, and produced by Nicole Grindle. The film was Patel's own story about his conflicts and problems growing up in a Hindu family in which he had to participate in his father's daily Hindu meditations. To counteract this, Patel, as a boy, chose to imagine the Hindu gods as super heroes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjay%27s_Super_Team
To tell his personal story Sanjay and his team used fast moving, even terrifying at times, animation to mesmerize the viewer. For this seven minute short exposes viewers to Hindu practices at every turn starting with the "motel room meditation."
West Meets East: Super Hero TV Infatuation VS Hindu Shrine Meditation
Patel's Short Introduction
From the get go we find young Sanjay at his TV watching a "Super Team" cartoon as his dad is at his shrine worshipping his Hindu idols--Vishnu, Durga, and Hanuman.
At the sound of the ghanta bell, Sanjay is forced away from his TV adventure over to his dad's open shrine altar with its trio of idols. Here the dad anoints each one with a red powder dot on their forehead. The bell is rung again. And Sanjay and his dad fold their hands, while the dad begins to chant "Om!"
Patel's Motel Room Description
The article "Pixar Looks East" notes the film unfolds in three locations, each marked by Hindu symbolism. In the square motel room there's a square TV opposite a square shrine separated by a shaft of light from a window that symbolizes East versus West. In another piece Patel characterizes the short as an East-West handshake.
Patel's Actual Motel Room Description
At the start of the short the title "A True Story" flashes on the screen, followed by the word "Mostly" so the actual title is "A Mostly True Story." Thus, in order to unlock the real story one may find additional details in Patel's numerous interviews.
In The Fader's "Sanjay Patel Finds His Super Power," with Anupa Mistry, Sanjay shares more of his boyhood story when the says, "... I'd go out to the Lido Motel parking lot and my dad had marigold plants. I'd pick about ten ..., wash them ... and bring them to him. He'd be sitting cross-legged in front of his shrine and there were rows and rows of framed images and statues of deities. He'd
anoint them with red powder and a marigold petal, and ... ring the bell." Sanjay then had fifteen minutes to watch TV until the bell rang again. After he had to sit for twenty minutes while his dad did aatri, and used his mala beads in meditation. See: Puja (Hinduism) at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puja_(Hinduism)
Patel's Puja Worship Contrasted to Scripture
Patel mentions his dad worshipped "murtis" or images of deities that are considered divine once consecrated. However Exodus 20:3-5 warns: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing ... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them or serve them ...."
In the film one views a square box-like shrine with "an eye hole" opening. In actuality, as Patel shows in a power point show, a bigger shrine area still exists with its numerous murtis at the motel.
In a Huffington Post interview Carol Kuruvilla tells how Patel's dad would daily bathe each idol before expecting Sanjay to pray with him. In Ezekiel 36:25, 26 the prophet records: "Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, (Israel) and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: ...." In sum, it isn't idols that need washing but us. Psalm 51:7 says: "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
The Food Offerings:
Sanjay, in an art museum power point talk, showed pictures of food placed before his parents' deities, and a Hindu saint picture smeared with food. In fact, shared Patel, his parents fed their deities before they ever ate themselves. I Corinthians 8:4 mentions idol offerings like this: "As concerning ... the eating of those things ... offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." Deuteronomy 4:28 notes that idols "... neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell."
The Flower Offerings:
Patel tells of anointing the deities with marigold petals. Acts 14:11-15 gives us the story of Paul being taken for a god, and the people bringing garlands to him. But Paul told them, "to turn from their vanities unto the living God, which made the heavens and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:"
The Diya Oil Lamp:
In the short, the diya lamp is present which is always used during aarti worship. II Samuel 22:29 tells us that's its not a diya that gives light in darkness, but as David says, "For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness." Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aarti
The Om Song/The Om Bell:
During aarti worship, mantra songs are chanted using the most sacred sound of Hinduism-- the Om!
The ghanta bell too puts forth vibrations having the Om sound. Of repetitive chants or sounds done to clear one's mind during meditation Matthew 5:7 warns: "But when you pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking."
For info see: "Heart of Hinduism: Hindu Symbols" at: http://iskconeducationalservices.org/HoH/lifestyle/806.htm
and "Ghanta" at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghanta
Patel's Vedic Temple Description
When Sanjay, in the short, is catapulted from the motel shrine into the dark temple one notices its Hindu yantra in the center of the floor, its three wall idols, as well as the central candle or diya. Patel relates, " ... we go from a box to a circle that looks like it's an ancient temple. And in fact, Vedic temples have the same underpinnings in their floor plans." Patel continues, " ... once the boy lights the diya ... I really wanted to transform what was finite, the circle, to the infinite. And I wanted to take what was physical and make it more subtle."
Patel in, "Pixar Looks East," references sand mandalas and yantras when he says, "I mean we've all seen sand mandalas and yantras that help one focus and meditate."
Patel's Temple Adventure
In the eerie temple Sanjay faces the demon Ravana whirling out of the candle, and throwing the shrieking Sanjay over to the temple door. The shimmering gods come to life battling Ravana.
Vishnu's bell ringing topples the evil demon, while Sanjay's hitting of the central fire dish sends rainbow vibrations causing Ravana to fade away. After these terrifying encounters the gods bow to the boy, and Vishnu gives back Sanjay his action toy. Suddenly Sanjay is whisked back to the shrine. His dad allows more TV time, opens the shuttered window, sits by Sanjay, and smiles as he views his super hero idol drawings.
Of the temple scenario Huffington Post religious editor Carol Kuruvilla enthuses, "... he encounters
a fantastic trio of Hindu gods-the blue god Vishnu, the warrior goddess Durga, and the half-monkey god Hanuman. The gods accompany Sanjay on a grand adventure and the boy begins to get a glimpse of the cosmic beauty and brilliance of his dad's faith."
Siddnant Adlakha, of Birth.Movies.Death., mentioned the scene this way, "Sanjay is magically transported to another realm, where he's confronted by a demon in an ancient temple, and the Gods in his father's shrine come alive to save him. Adlakha adds, "... their designs ... already stem from an origin that's a cultural hybrid: Goa Trance album covers." Adlakha also says, "Each character (god) was designated a specific style of classical Indian dance (which the animators ... learned firsthand!) ...."
Patel's Short Music
Siddnant also noted that Mychael Danna, part of Patel's team, having married a Hindu woman and raising two sons Hindu, understood, "... the significance of each sound and instrument, even making use of the bansuri, a wooden flute associated with Vishnu's seventh incarnation-Lord Krishna."
Patel's Short Dance
Sanjay's team hired an Indian classical dancer, Katherine Kunhiraman, to show them how to have the short's idols perform mudras and dance moves accurately. A brief look at "Kunhiraman-Indian-Classical-Dance" with host Eva A. Ma gives a close of "Shiva, Lord of the Dance" at 2:30.
Patel's Behind the Scenes Story
Pixar encouraged Sanjay to share his personal story of being a person of color caught between two cultures. Of course, there's much more to this story than told in the film for prior to its production Sanjay had already begun his journey to reconnect with his family's Hinduism. And here's that part of the story.
Patel's Hindu Heritage Rediscovery
In "'Sanjay's Super Team' Is a Deviation from All Other Pixar Short Films" Emily Rome relates how Sanjay once again was drawn back to his roots when he experienced "Goa Trance" raves that became popular in his area. Images of Hindu gods were on CD covers, and Hindu sounds and chanting were everywhere in the mid 1990s. This then spurred Sanjay to explore the Hindu deities
through a book of Indian miniature paintings, and more.
Patel's Hindu Deities Book
Eager to share his new found fascination with others Patel wrote and illustrated The Little Book of Hindu Deities for kids. In The Fader Patel relates, "The first book ... was self-published ... for my education, it was my homework." Patel adds, "My first book looks like a hybrid-children's book and it was designed like this because most people know zero about these deities, so you have to start at a child's level." https://www.thefader.com/2016/02/24/sanjay-patel-sanjays-super-team-pixar
Cute and clever as this little book may be, as Gheehappy.com describes, it's "chock full of monsters, demons, noble warriors, and divine ones." http://www.gheehappy.com/
Patel's Book About Ramayana
Patel then went on to lavishly illustrate the Indian epic tale he titled Ramayana: Divine Loophole.
Until adulthood Patel had never read this classic tale of the god King Rama, whose wife Sita had been kidnapped by Ravana, and later rescued by Rama and Hanuman.
After reading this tale Patel realized why a picture of Hanuman standing on a mountain hung on the motel wall over the shrine; why his parents said, "Sita Ram!" when someone sneezed; and why his dad had him repeat the mantra, "Rama, Rama, Rama!" as he counted mala beads during puja.
Patel's Ganesha Book
Patel also wrote a captivating kids' book about the elephant god titled Ganesha's Sweet Tooth. For a look inside watch the You Tube video below. On another You Tube reading of the book a cute
little gal shared they were reading the story because it was "Ganesha's birthday." And she added, "He's a god, and he's invincible!" But this little one does not know the true God who declared, "I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22)
Patel's Museum Exhibitions
Sanjay, in addition to his books and other art work, has done large exhibitions at the Asian Art Museum in California, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. These shows were overflowing with all things pagan: Hindu idols, avatars, demons, and more.
In conversation with Quamar Adamjee at the Asian Art Museum, Patel did a power point presentation in which he showed a photo of a "rangoli" he painted for his exhibit. This rangoli* (related to mandalas and yantras) was a mandala-like sort of mat complete with center foot steps said to invite deities to enter into the room. Hindu households especially create rangolis outside their door ways during celebrations.
*Note: One also can find Rangoli Color Books and Rangoli Coloring Pages and much more on line.
At the Brooklyn Museum art work from Patel's deity book was used on tiny cards attached to strings that youngsters could chose to wear to find particular "Avatars" of Vishnu at the museum.
Most likely Sanjay's site, "Gheehappy.com," was busy after that show with its shop full of gods and goddess books, posters, t-shirts, and free Ganesha Color Kit.
Patel Finds His Religion
In a 2007 interview with David I. Miller "Finding My Religion" done almost nine years before "Sanjay's Super Team" Patel in answer to which god or goddess he particularly liked answered, "I like Vishnu a lot. He reincarnates himself 10 times in the form of various avatars or reborn gods to right injustices in the world." And in answer to which god or goddess his family favored Patel related Durga was the mother goddess his dad worshipped. Patel said, "I really like her ... she is one of my favorites."
Patel even shares during middle school, a Christian friend invited him to his church. How sad that Sanjay never found the God that said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) By the time "Sanjay's Super Team" aired, Patel had made great progress in reconnecting with his Hindu heritage as well as reconciling with his dad.
Seven Minute Short Hypes Hinduism
As much as this film tugs at one's heart with its depiction of immigrant Sanjay trying to fit into a
Western culture, this short glorifies Hinduism and its deities and opens the doorway wide for
more shorts, and more movies to be made in the name of culture, color, inclusion, and religion ready to influence every age toward acceptance of its meditative practices.
Therefore, as born again Christian teachers, parents, and grandparents it behooves us to teach our children exactly what is really being presented in this film-not super heroes but pagan idols. To do this one must teach children Scripture relating to idolatry so they will be able to discern between truth and error. In addition, we must warn others how movies have radically changed and one must be alert, and informed so as to be able to stand up for truth!
So may you, and I determine as Deuteronomy 5:32 admonishes, "Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." And may we be "narrow road" runners in this race!
Learn to Discern Granny Verses: Deuteronomy 6:6-7
"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thine children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
For More Information: Out of India by Caryl Matrisciana
Don't miss Caryl Matrisciana's riveting book Out of India telling how she grew up in India experiencing Hinduism every day. Here's just a little sample of three paragraph's describing Hindu deities she saw firsthand. "Every little shop and street vendor's cart we passed was cluttered with photos, paintings, or idols of fierce-looking gods. These deities were adorned with garlands of marigolds. Sticks of incense burned in front of them. Shiva, Vishnu, Kali, and Durga were the ones I immediately recognized because they were most frequently worshiped.
Some of the other gods had bodies of half-animals or trees. Others had faces of monkeys and elephants. And there was always the snake. Sometimes it was entwined around the gods. Sometimes it covered them in protection. It always made goose bumps run up my arms. It looked scary.
Kali stuck her tongue out, blood dripping everywhere. She wore dozens of skulls around her neck ... All this frightened me. These gods looked so threatening! How I asked myself, could people worship such terrifying deities?" pp.37-38
Note: Should you wish to see this short yourself it is possible to purchase The Good Dinosaur movie which contains Sanjay's Super Team on its bonus section.