Piper (film)

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Film poster
Directed byAlan Barillaro
Written byAlan Barillaro
Produced byMarc Sondheimer
Edited bySarah K. Reimers
Music byAdrian Belew
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
Running time
6 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Piper is a 2016 computer-animated short film produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Written and directed by Alan Barillaro, it was theatrically released alongside Pixar's Finding Dory on June 17, 2016.[2] It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 89th Academy Awards, becoming the first Pixar animated short to win the award since For the Birds in 2001.

The short film involves a hungry baby sandpiper learning to overcome her fear of water. The inspiration came from less than a mile away from Pixar Studios in Emeryville, California, where Barillaro, a veteran Pixar animator, would run alongside the shore and notice birds by the thousands fleeing from the water but returning between waves to eat.[1][2]


A flock of sandpipers is hunting for food at a seashore by searching for bivalves exposed by receding waves and running away when the wave returns. A baby (named Piper) is taken to the shoreline by her mother so she can learn how to find her own food. However, she fails to pull away in time and is soaked wet by the incoming surf. The incident leaves Piper terrified of the water and she refuses to leave the nest. Soon, she is compelled to return to the shoreline by her hunger and notices a hermit crab digging in the sand. While she is watching the crab, a large wave comes in and submerges her. However, this time the crab tells Piper to open her eyes, allowing her to see large bivalves exposed by the wave. Excited, Piper overcomes her fear of water and learns how to catch the large bivalves when they are exposed underwater, catching enough to feed her entire flock.


Alan Barillaro used new, cutting edge technology to create Piper over three years.[3] In order to give the sandpipers and other birds visible in the background a realistic look, Barillaro and the short animation team visited beaches in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium to study their appearance and behavior. The sandpipers' feathers in particular were rendered in minute detail.[2]


Piper was theatrically released on June 17, 2016, before Finding Dory.[1][4] It was also included on the Blu-ray and DVD releases of the latter.[5]


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Piper has a 100% approval rating based on five reviews.[6]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the short film a grade of "A-", calling it a "gripping survival story in cute, charming clothing". He praised the animation for being "incredibly lifelike" and said that Pixar had taken the medium of the short film into "uncharted new territory" with its realistic animation. Kohn also felt that while the short's plot was simple, its narrative style was similar to that of Studio Ghibli films.[7] Writing for Insider, Kirsten Acuna also praised the animation, calling the depiction of sand and water "incredibly real".[8]

Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that Piper was "simple as a haiku and yet stunning" and called it the "uncontestable best" of that year's nominees for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[9] Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post called the short "one of Pixar’s strongest",[10] while Marcy Cook of The Mary Sue opined that it was better than Finding Dory (alongside which it was released) and was worth the price of admission on its own.[11] In 2022, Comic Book Resources ranked the short second on its list of the best short films made by Disney or Pixar.[12]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards February 26, 2017 Best Animated Short Film Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer Won [13]
Annie Awards February 4, 2017 Best Animated Short Subject Piper Won [14]
Empire Awards March 19, 2017 Best Short Film Piper Nominated [15]

The short was also part of The Animation Showcase 2016.


  1. ^ a b c Snetiker, Marc (April 6, 2016). "Piper: Pixar's cutest new short-film hero gets first look". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Imbler, Sabrina (June 17, 2016). "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Pixar's New Short Film 'Piper'". Audubon. National Audubon Society. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Robinson, Joanna (June 16, 2016). "Behind the Scenes of Piper, Pixar's Best Short Film in Years". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  4. ^ Radish, Christina (June 13, 2016). "Piper: 12 Things to Know About New Pixar Short Film". Collider. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  5. ^ Turk, Heather (November 15, 2016). "'Finding Dory' swims onto Blu-ray with an ocean of bonus features". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  6. ^ "Piper". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ Kohn, Eric (February 9, 2017). "2017 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts Review: Pixar Looms Large, But Many of These Nominees Will Make You Cry". IndieWire. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  8. ^ Acuna, Kirsten. "The short film before 'Finding Dory' is absolutely gorgeous — it's Pixar's best yet". Business Insider. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  9. ^ Debruge, Peter (February 25, 2017). "Film Review: '2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation'". Variety. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  10. ^ Merry, Stephanie (June 22, 2016). "Pixar fans went to see 'Dory' but fell in love with 'Piper'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  11. ^ "Review: Finding Dory Is As Good If Not Better Than Finding Nemo". The Mary Sue. June 19, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  12. ^ "10 Best Animated Disney-Pixar Shorts". CBR. January 1, 2022. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  13. ^ "89th Academy Awards Nominees". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. January 23, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  14. ^ "44th Annie Award Nominees". International Animated Film Society. November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  15. ^ "Three Empire Awards 2017: Rogue One, Tom Hiddleston And Patrick Stewart Win Big". Empire. March 20, 2017. Retrieved April 13, 2022.

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