Pixar is well known for its dynamic yet heartwarming animated movies, with THE INCREDIBLES 2 being a highly anticipated release this year. However, before every Pixar classic, one can expect a Pixar original animated short, and the one going up before The Incredibles sequel looks to be resonating strongly with Chinese and East Asian families.
In Bao, a lonely Chinese-Canadian mother who misses her own children watches her homemade steamed bun spring to life as an adorable baby. The project is being helmed by Domee Shi, who is making history as the first woman to ever direct one of Pixar’s prized shorts.
The child of Chinese immigrants, Shi recalls, “Oftentimes it felt like my mom would treat me like a precious little dumpling, wanting to make sure I was safe, that I didn’t go out late, all that stuff.”
Of the project, Shi notes “I just wanted to create this magical, modern-day fairy tale, kind of like a Chinese Gingerbread Man story. The word ‘bao’ actually means two things in Chinese: Said one way, it means steamed bun. Said another, it means something precious. A treasure.”
Parenthood can be an emotional roller coaster in any form, even for bao. The titular bao goes through its own teenage years, growing sesame seeds and an attitude as it ages.
Shi also found herself touched by the many Asian Pixar employees eager to work on and support the project. She adds “We got a ton of e-mails from people identifying with the mom character, or the dumpling character, saying, ‘Wait, that’s me,’ or ‘That’s my parents,’ or ‘I’m dealing with this right now.”
And perhaps the sweetest thing of all, Shi’s own mother, Ningsha Zhong, was a part of the filmmaking process. A dumpling-making master, she demonstrated her techniques in cooking classes for the studio’s animators.
Describing the meticulousness involved, Shi says, “Our technical directors and special effects team put the camera super close to her hands and recorded every single little detail of how she folded the dough, how she cut each piece, how she rolled each wrapper into that perfect little bun shape.”
Zhong’s hands served as a model for the mother’s hands in the film in shot for shot recreations. The team also ate A LOT of dumplings to aid in their research and understanding of their delicious, precious subject.
The Incredibles 2 and Bao, will premiere on June 15th, 2018.