A little sandpiper—specifically, a sanderling—is nestled in its mother's nest on a beach. The mother sandpiper urges the little chick out of the nest and teaches it to forage for clams, an experience that turns bad when the inexperienced chick is pummeled by a wave. The chick quakes with fear at going out on the beach again, until some helpful crabs show it a trick.
Played in theaters in advance of the Pixar feature Finding Dory.
Piper is associated with:
- Ambiguous Gender: The chick is never identified as male or female. Though Alan Barillaro has publicly referred to the character as a she, and "Piper" is usually a girl's name, assuming the title refers to the name of the chick.
- Artistic License Ornithology: The sandpiper chick has exactly the same feather pattern as the adults, even though based on its body size and proportions it should still be covered only in downs.
- Eureka Moment: The sandpiper chick eventually realizes it can get lots of clams by going underwater.
- Figure It Out Yourself: The mother sandpiper's approach to teaching her chick how to fish for food.
- Good Parents: The Mother Sandpiper is loving and attentive to her chick, but recognizes that it needs to learn how to get its own food and thus refuses the chick's insistence on being fed.
- Jump Cut: From a shot of the sandpiper taking the full brunt of the wave, to the sandpiper in its nest, feathers ruffled, shaking and eyes twitching.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Along with every other theatrical short that Pixar has ever made except for Boundin' and Lava.
- Nearly Normal Animal: The sandpipers in the short look, sound and behave mostly like real birds, although their face is slightly more expressive and they can communicate with the (also largely realistic) hermit crabs. Of course, real sandpipers aren't able to burrow into the sand like crabs.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Look at the little sandpiper! Look how cute it is!
- Rite of Passage: For a baby sandpiper, leaving the nest and foraging for clams. The little sandpiper eventually finds an even better way to do it.
- Seldom-Seen Species: This is probably the only animated film featuring sandpipers. A curlew also appears briefly in the background in the beginning of the short.
- The Stinger: The sandpiper eventually figures out that if it stays under the water when the waves come, it will see where all the clams are when they surface. After the credits the sandpiper is shown falling asleep, next to the pile of empty clam shells left after it ate them all.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The sandpiper appears to be sentient. The little crabs that guide the sandpiper back into the water appear to be sentient—one crab raps the sandpiper on the beak to get its attention. The clams, that the sandpiper is eating? Not so much.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The sandpiper chick becomes afraid of water after getting soaked by a giant wave, but its hunger forces it to go out onto the beach in search of food. It eventually overcomes its fear when it learns that there are many delicious clams underneath the water.
- Xenofiction: The short is from the relatively realistic view of a sandpiper chick.