Pixar's new SparkShorts program just dropped its debut film, and its first order of business is to spotlight the way women are treated in the workplace — in the cutest, most delightful way possible.
The short film is titled Purl, and it's about a ball of yarn (a metaphor for women) starting a new job at a male-dominated company, B.R.O. Capital. After Purl learns she's the best candidate for the role, she looks forward to making waves at the company, but she finds it incredibly difficult to fit in. As the only woman in a sea of suits and ties, she's ignored, forgotten, and underestimated. She tries to participate in water cooler chatter, but co-workers brush her off. She tries to share her ideas in meetings, but she's told her approach is too soft. Sound familiar?
So, like many women before her, Purl transforms herself into "one of the boys." She knits herself a suit and trades her bubbly personality for lewd humor. She swears along with the boys, partakes in nights of drinking, and affirms their overly competitive culture at work even though it goes against her principles.
As the guys finally let her into their exclusive club, she bumps into Lacey, a new hire who reminds her of her old self. Purl must decide if she'll reach out to Lacey and disrupt the toxic bro culture or alienate her like the men.
Purl was written and directed by Kristen Lester and produced by Gillian Libbert-Duncan, and Lester's personal experience with toxic masculinity is what inspired the project.
In a "meet the filmmakers" interview, she recounted that she once lost her sense of self while she was trying to be one of the boys. She realized how much she suppressed herself when she finally got the opportunity to work with women at Pixar.
"Purl is based on my experience being in animation. My first job, I was, like, the only woman in the room," she explained. "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 then that actually made me realize how much of the female aspect of myself I had sort of buried and left behind."
Purl arrives on the heels of John Lasseter's ousting. The former chief creative officer of Pixar was accused of sexual misconduct and sexism. In an essay written for Variety, Cassandra Smolcic, a graphic designer who worked at Pixar for half a decade, exposed Pixar's boys club and how it hindered her success.
"At Pixar, my female-ness was an undeniable impediment to my value, professional mobility, and sense of security within the company," she wrote. "The stress of working amidst such a blatantly sexist atmosphere took its toll, and was a major factor in forcing me out of the industry."
Purl is the first in a slate of films to be released under the SparksShots initiative. Jim Morris, President of Pixar, touts it as an opportunity to "discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows."
Two more shorts are expected to premiere this month. Smash and Grab is about a love story between robots, and Kitbull is a tale about an unlikely friendship between a stray kitten and pitbull.
Diverse, inclusive stories are also set to be released, including Float, the first short to feature Filipino lead characters, and Loop, which is about a boy on the autism spectrum and a chatty girl who embark on a canoeing trip.