Pixar’s Latest Short Has a Korean Grandma Struggling to Give Her Grandson a Better Life
“Wind,” Pixar’s latest short, is a tribute to the sacrifices of a woman who raised her children in the aftermath of the Korean War before bringing them to the United States for a better life.
The film, produced through Pixar’s SparkShorts program — which allows the studio’s employees to create their own projects with limited time and budget — is written and directed by Eddie Chang.
“Wind” features two main characters, a grandmother and her grandson, who represent Chang’s grandmother and father, respectively.
The film begins with the pair finding themselves trapped in an endless chasm filled with rocks suspended by giant winds.
Using debris that falls from a tiny hole hundreds of feet above, the pair attempt to build a rocket that they can use to get out.
However, there’s only room for one in the cockpit.
At its heart, “Wind” is a story about immigration.
“It was inspired by my grandmother,” Chang told ABC 7. “She was a single mother after the Korean War, and it’s inspired by everything she did — take care of her kids and my dad, feed them, educate them and eventually sending them all the way to the U.S. for a new life.”
Chang’s grandmother passed away before the film’s completion. But his family was able to see her through the character, with his father especially touched by the story.
“The main source of her joy was taking care of her children and making sure that they were thriving. For her to see this and see how her children and grandchildren have done and are living well, I think that would make her really happy,” Chang said.
Interestingly, Chang came from a more technical than artistic background. Before taking part in the project, the Pixar engineer took a sabbatical from his position as a simulation technical director.
“At first there was a lot of impostor syndrome,” Chang told SF Gate. “It can be really ambiguous as to whether you’ve made the right decision. With technical and engineering problems, it’s like green light, red light, it works or it doesn’t.”
For Chang, the film’s most emotional moment happens at the end.
“For me, everything leads up to the scene on the cliff when he [grandson] pens up the lunchbox,” he said. “It’s that last moment when he realizes how much she still loves him.”
While the film is deeply personal for Chang, its story of sacrifice is universal.
“If everyone reaches far enough in their history, there’s one person that propelled the family forward and gave up a lot of their own opportunities,” producer Jesus Martinez, whose family came from Mexico, told SF Gate. “I hope people remember that person, because that gives you introspection about what you’re doing for the next generation.”
It also reflects current immigration issues, such as struggles in the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We were making this last year where the situation at the border and the refugees that were being held up there,” Martinez told ABC 7. “It kind of flared up, and it was just kind of one or two sides of the story that we’re being told. So for me, it was so important to sort of put a different perspective out there of showing that these decisions are never easy. And they’re both full of fear and hope at the same time.”