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'Far From the Tree' creator discusses her Disney animated short


If you've gone to the movies recently to see the new Disney animated blockbuster "Encanto," you know there's a special treat for audiences right before the main feature.


FLORIDO: It's an animated short film. And if you haven't seen it, here's what you're missing.

NATALIE NOURIGAT: "Far From The Tree" follows a family of raccoons that live next to a beach in Oregon, where I'm from. And it's a seven-minute short that plays before Disney's "Encanto."

FLORIDO: That's Natalie Nourigat. She's the writer and director of "Far From The Tree."

NOURIGAT: It was based on something really personal - growing up in Oregon, going to the beach with my family and how special it was just to all be together. I'm reaching my mid-30s and wondering if I'm ever going to bring a little person to the beach, like, pass that on and just thinking about parenting and how complicated it is - like, seeing some of my friends go through that and their struggles with what do they want to repeat? What do they not want to repeat? - and realizing, when they actually get there, how difficult it is and understanding a bit more what their parents might have been going through with them.


FLORIDO: Originally, this short film wasn't meant to star a family of raccoons. It was supposed to be a film about parenting featuring human characters. But as Nourigat and her creative team got down to business, they thought they might need to rethink their approach.

NOURIGAT: We went through a really intense development period where we tried to push that and find, OK, what's the conflict? What's the plot going to be? And as we started going into these really juicy questions of parenting and intergenerational trauma and, you know, breaking intergenerational curses, the subject matter, it was starting to feel really dark. And someone in a development room asked us, what would you think about, you know, making this animal characters instead of humans? And it was like a light bulb went off. It just solved so many of the problems.


FLORIDO: As she and her team worked to make "Far From The Tree," Nourigat says she had no idea whether her film would ever make it to the big screen, let alone be paired with a big studio release like "Encanto."

NOURIGAT: We hoped that it would be, but we just made the best film that we could. My producer, Ruth Strother and I, we were just hoping, like, let's make the best film we possibly can. Let's be happy with it. And then wouldn't it be so cool if it was theatrically released? And when we found out earlier this year that it was going to be released with "Encanto," we were so happy. And even without planning it, the themes of "Far From The Tree" and "Encanto" line up really well. They're both about healing these intergenerational traumas and conflicts and listening to each other. So it just felt like a really wonderful pairing.

FLORIDO: And what does she hope people will get from watching her seven-minute short?

NOURIGAT: If the film could make somebody feel like something was healed inside of them, or they could understand their story a bit better or their parents' story a bit better or just start a conversation with a parent or hug their kid a bit closer, that would make me so happy. That's why I made this.


FLORIDO: That was Natalie Nourigat, writer and director of the short animated Disney film, "Far From The Tree."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.