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How Pixar’s Nona Director Kept The Story Authentic

A new Pixar Original Animated Short from director Louis Gonzales and part of Pixar’s SparkShorts collection, Nona, is headed to Disney+ on September 17th. Nona follows a grandmother whose plans for a special day are upended by an unexpected visit from her granddaughter. This film feels like a glimpse into a day of someone’s actual life, and that’s because, in part, it is. Gonzales shared how he kept the story of Nona authentic during the writing process.

In this short film, Nona plans to spend her day off by shutting out the world to watch her favorite TV show, “E.W.W. Smashdown Wrestling.” However, when her 5-year-old granddaughter Renee is unexpectedly dropped off, Nona is caught between her two favorite things: playing with Renee and watching the Smashdown. Nona doesn’t receive a phone call prior to Renee’s arrival, nor does Renee’s father stick around to chat. This was a specific and intentional choice by director Louis Gonzales, who said the following to CinemaBlend:

There's a truth to that, right? When I grew up, I was running the streets from the moment I got home until I came in real quick to eat dinner and pretend to do my homework and then bounce back outside to play, like, that was my thing. And I'd run across the street - I remember being like in middle school, I’m eight years old and I'm riding bikes with my friends, two cities over, so when kids are dropped off on a doorstep, just show up on the doorstep, little kids, too, because I knew parents would be like, ‘Hey, go to the store.’ They would send like six-year-olds to the little corner store. Kids had more autonomy and I kind of liked this idea of this, if this character is like a real firecracker, a real star, real ball of energy, she's not going to be introduced. She’s going to show up like Anton Ego in Ratatouille with lightning in the background like a big - ‘Here I am, grandma!’ And [grandma’s] like, ‘Oh, damn.’ So having her show up by herself was way more powerful than if dad dropped her off. Cause then it brings in questions, like why is the dad leaving? But to make her more empowered, when she came in by herself, it just, it worked, so we never changed it.

There’s a saying “write what you know” so isn’t surprising that writers pull from personal experience when telling the stories we see come to life on screen. What’s even more interesting is that the more specific the story, the more relatable it becomes. So even if you were never dropped at the doorstep like Louis Gonzales, you can probably relate to the experience of interrupting someone you care about. Or on the flip side, maybe you’re more like the grandma who gets interrupted and now has to rearrange her plans for the day.

The decision not to show Renee’s father in this film is so powerful because as director Louis Gonzales says, it would have raised additional questions that the short film does not have time to answer, but also because it allows the audience to feel empathy for both characters and wrestle with which to root for while the characters are literally wrestling each other. Had Nona been aware that Renee was arriving, it would feel selfish of her to be so resistant to entertaining Renee. But we get a look at why watching the Smashdown is so important to Nona and really want her to have that time, while also wanting the adorable Renee to have all of Nona’s attention.

Nona is streaming exclusively on Disney+ September 17th. For more shorts on the platform that give you all the feels, check out Let’s Be Tigers and Us Again.

Samantha LaBat

Obsessed with Hamilton and most things Disney. Gets too attached to TV show characters. Loves a good thriller, but will only tolerate so much blood.