Bao, Pixar Short before the main feature of the Incredibles 2 is a story about a woman who makes a Bao bun that comes to life and cares for it as you would a child. If you didn’t know, Bao is a Chinese steamed bread roll with a filling of meat or vegetables.
We had the pleasure of meeting writer Domee Shi, the first woman to direct a Pixar short, was inspired by her own experiences as a child molding and cooking the Chinese dumplings with her mom. Shi’s mother even flew into the Bay Area to teach the Bao team how to make the dumplings themselves.
Bao is a story about a Chinese mother who’s struggling as an empty nester when she accidentally creates a giggling, sweet, lovable, helpless dumpling. At first, the mother is delighted to be caring for a child, until the baby bao begins to grow up and evolve into his own person.
Domee Shi discussed how she came up with the idea of Bao and most of all what fascinated me, the mom's kitchen had an ethnic homey feel to it. It resonated love, patience, and memories that were built in that kitchen. How Domee Shi was able to capture all of that was remarkable.
Domee Shi: Growing up as an only child, I felt I was that overprotected, mothered little dumpling. My Chinese mom was always making sure I never wandered away too far, that I was safe. I wanted to explore that relationship between this overprotective parent and this child using a Chinese dumpling as a metaphor.
Domee Shi: The mom’s whole house is populated with these specific little props every Asian person can probably recognize: The rice cooker in the back of the dining room, the cheesy grocery store calendar that you get from a Chinese supermarket, the lucky cat on the shelf, the tinfoil covering the drip pans on the burners in the kitchen. I really wanted to Rona Liu to be my production designer because she’s not only an amazingly talented artist, but she also grew up in a Chinese American household and knew all those details. It felt like a real Chinese mom’s house because Rona and I basically copied our Chinese moms’ houses.
As a multicultural mom this movie hit home with me, love is everything you imagine but most of all, it’s expressed with food. Living in an ethnic home, cooking was done with patience, when you’re standing there mixing a plethora of ingredients, stirring the pot, and literally watching water boil was the moments I most cherished. Those were the times that I’d talk to my mom, share stories and explored new ideas. This was where the bond between mother and child was grown, nourished and strengthened. Then came the actual feeding everyone in the house, everyone eats together and we made sure all plates were always kept full.
I don’t want to spoil this short for you by telling you the ending but I will share with you what I always tell my little, “I wish I was a kangaroo, I’d stick you in my pouch so I know you’re always safe.” He starts laughing and says, “we’re not kangaroos mama.” As a mom of a boy, a mom, we give our children wings to fly, we wish them independence, strength, the wherewithal to know the difference between right and wrong and most importantly that he knows that I love him, this, however, will not make it any easier when he leaves the nest to live his life. Just because it’s our goal to have them fly doesn’t mean we really want them to leave. Someone once said, “The days are long but the years are short,” this statement rings true, hug and kiss them as much as you can because one day you’ll look and they’re all grown up. They are, who we helped them become.