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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. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
The short 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.
A flock of sandpipers hunt for food at a seashore, rushing to peck at the sand when the wave recedes and retreating when it comes in. One baby is encouraged by her mother to join the flock, but she fails to retreat in time and is drenched by the incoming surf. The incident leaves the baby terrified of the water; she refuses to leave the nest, but soon notices a group of hermit crabs digging into the sand to find deeper food and keep from being buffeted by the tide. By copying their behavior, she starts to see the beauty of the underwater world and becomes skilled at discovering food for the flock.
Alan Barillaro used new, cutting edge technology to create the six-minute short over three years. In order to give the sandpipers and other birds visible in the background a realistic look, Barillaro and the Piper 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.