This summer, Pixar fans will get to reunite with their favorite fish in the long-awaited animated sequel Finding Dory, arriving in theaters June 17. Pixar has a long tradition of introducing new animated shorts in front of every project, and Finding Dory will be no different, with the new short Piper debuting alongside the sequel. Entertainment Weekly has our first look at the title character, a diminutive sandpiper exploring the beach.

The story centers on a baby sandpiper who is trying to both find food, and overcome hydrophobia, the fear of water. Longtime Pixar animator Alan Barillaro makes his directorial debut with this short film, which was inspired by the numerous birds he used to observe while running along the shoreline, just a mile from Pixar's Emeryville, California headquarters. Here's what the director had to say about this young bird who was afraid of the water but had to go near it to eat.

"Seeing the way these sandpipers react to waves and run, I always felt, 'Gosh, that's a film, that's a character.' It's always fun to show a world we're familiar with but from a different perspective. We've all been to the beach, but have we ever viewed water from just an inch off the sand? That could be very fearful from a bird's perspective."

The director has worked as a Pixar animator for nearly two decades, starting with his work on 1998's A Bug's Life. He also worked on Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Brave and Monsters University, along with the shorts Jack-Jack Attack, Igor and Lifted. The first-time director explained that he originally started toying with the character as a test, but he got plenty of encouragement to keep working on the story from his mentor, Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton.

"You always want to show directors, 'Hey, are these cool tools you'd like to use to make films?' So I showed Andrew the Piper tests thinking I was very much just showing him a test, but he kept poking at me, like, 'It's a cool test, but keep working on that story.' And then John [Lasseter] did the same. There's remarkable encouragement at Pixar that when you think of an innovative idea, don't forget the story. It was their encouragement or else I would have stopped at the test phase."

With the June 17 debut just a few months away, it isn't known when we may see the first footage from this six-minute short film, but we'll be sure to keep you posted with more details. Until then, take a look at the first image from Piper below. Are you looking forward to this new Pixar short? Chime in with your thoughts below.

<strong><em>Piper</em></strong> Photo