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‘Burrow’ Creators Madeline Sharafian And Michael Capbarat On Sharing Vulnerability: “There’s No Shame In Admitting You’re In Over Your Head”

Ryan Fleming
·2-min read

On her Oscar-nominated animated short Burrow, writer and director Madeline Sharafian wanted to create a film based on overcoming the fear of showing ignorance in new environments. With the help of producer Michael Capbarat, Sharafian was able to make her dream into a Pixar SparkShort.

Burrow follows a rabbit as she tries to dig a burrow to create her dream home, without any knowledge of how to do so. “Rabbits in burrows were a visual that I was always interested in,” says Sharafian, “but the story comes from my first couple of years at Pixar and really feeling like I had to prove that I deserved to be there.”

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As the rabbit digs her burrow, she meets her neighbors and becomes embarrassed by how intricate and grand their burrows are. Rather than request help, the rabbit digs herself further down and away to create her burrow entirely by herself. “I kind of pushed away people’s help and would just work late or work weekends instead,” says Sharafian, “and it’s kind of like me learning how to let people know that I need a little extra help. I was trying to convey that there’s no shame in admitting you’re in over your head.”

To make this Pixar SparkShort, Sharafian and Capbarat were given a six-month deadline. “The process of making SparkShorts for Pixar involves pulling your team from other feature films to make it,” Capbarat says, “and with feature films taking priority at Pixar at any given time, finding the staff at the right moment in order to make the movie happen was one of the biggest hurdles.”

“We kind of just had to cut corners in other ways so that we could put more into the animation in the visuals,” add Sharafian. “We didn’t have any voice actors, but that was another little corner we could cut, so we used real animal sounds.”

Although it was originally scheduled for a theatrical release with the Disney Pixar movie Soul, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in Burrow being released on Disney+ instead. “We heard that this was going to come out on Christmas day, says Capbarat, “we’re bummed that it couldn’t have a theatrical release. But then people would send photos of their family cuddled up on the couch, watching it together.”

“My favorite feedback to get is when I hear parents tell me that their kid has been watching it on repeat,” Sharafian adds. “I wanted the backgrounds to be so detailed and to hide so much stuff in everything that you really would want to rewatch it over and over again.”

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