How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

How Pixar’s “Piper” Took Me Back To Wrightsville Beach

Pixar’s latest short proved both adorable and memory-triggering for this somewhat-grown-up viewer.

For the first decade and a half of my life, I spent a week of every summer at my grandparents’ house in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. It was an old house, the doors still off-kilter from when a hurricane knocked the whole thing over long before I was born, and it sat right on the sand dunes the town had built after that storm. The repetitive sloshing of the ocean, mere yards away from the back porch, was constant background noise, and every breath I took brought its salty taste to my tongue. I spent countless hours at that beach building drip-castles with my sister, playing paddleball with my mother, chasing seagulls and digging up coquinas with my brother, splashing through the waves with my father, and taking long walks to collect seashells with my grandparents.

After Grandma died, almost four years ago now, her side of the family sold off the beach house and those trips came to an end. As I entered college and started going on new, exciting trips of my own – a road trip with friends to Chicago, a semester working in Disney World – those days at Wrightsville Beach, no longer a regular part of my life, faded to the back of my memory.

Though Pixar has found success and acclaim in feature-length productions, their roots are in short films. Every Pixar film is still accompanied by one of these animated “shorts”, so when I went to see Pixar’s “Finding Dory” with my cousin over Independence Day weekend, we first saw Pixar’s latest short, “Piper.”

First I heard and saw the waves, splashing on the sand. Then I giggled at the flock of sandpipers, noting to my cousin that the way they ran back and forth, away from and back towards the ocean, was exactly how they behaved in real life. I cooed over the baby bird, the eponymous Piper, a ball of feathers reluctantly learning to leave the nest and feed itself. I leaned forward as I realized that the little shellfish the sandpipers were digging up to eat were coquinas, hunted by their bubbles, just like my father taught my brother and I to look for. And when little Piper failed to notice the wave bearing down at her until the last second, I gasped as the memories hit me with equal force. Once, when I was little, I was swamped by a wave in the exact same way. There in the movie theatre, I saw the water bearing down on me. I felt the salt and sand rushing into my face and my father’s arms lifting me up and dunking me in the water again and again to clean me off before he finally carried me back to shore, where I sat huddled in a towel for a long time, wary of the sea – just like Piper sat shivering in her nest, refusing to go anywhere near the water.

But just as I eventually returned to swim in the ocean again, over the course of the short Piper returned to the shore. She realized that the ocean, though scary and powerful, wouldn’t hurt her if she was smart about how she approached it. And the pure joy in Piper’s eyes – the one part of her body that revealed her to be an animated creation in this photorealistic film – as she finally conquered her fear of the waves and discovered the fun of jumping around in the water brought tears to my own eyes.

My cousin can attest that I spent the short’s credits with my hand over my heart, saying “Oh my goodness!” over and over. Pixar’s “Piper” touched me, but not because the short was adorable, which it was, nor because it was a fantastic portrayal of the trauma that creates fear in addition to the commonly-portrayed process of getting over a fear, which it also was. “Piper” took me on one more trip to Wrightsville Beach, to stay at my Grandma's house and play in the sand and the sea, four years after I had to leave it behind.

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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