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Bao Short Pixar Film Review

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A Beautifully Written Tale About Parenthood

When it comes to Pixar animation two things can almost be guaranteed – the visuals will be on point and emotions will be stirred. Premiered as the opening short at the beginning of The Incredibles 2, Bao is a beautifully written short film, one that taps into parental fears whilst injecting the right level of humour and emotional resonance to make it appealing to kids and parents alike.

The thematic tone and moral behind Bao is something kids may well miss but for parents, this is absolutely a must watch. While kids will still enjoy the visual flair and numerous humorous quips, it’s the way Bao manages to tap into the fear all parents feel about their child growing up and no longer needing them that really makes this one shine. The various life stages are smartly presented through the use of the dumpling and an Asian influenced score, eventually culminating in a touching, emotionally charged finale.

The range of emotions Pixar manage to conjure up during the film’s 7 minute run time is testament to the great work the team do. The film itself bears a lot of similarities to the beginning montage of UP which could easily be a short film in itself. Beginning with hopeful joy and twisting and turning through different emotional states, Bao features no spoken words but instead conveys its message through a combination of music and its characters.

With such a short run time, Bao is a fleeting experience but one that certainly packs one heck of an emotional punch. The characters are well presented and the Asian theme is accentuated through the beautifully written score and moral to the tale. It won’t be for everyone and some may find the tone a little depressing but Bao is another example of just how good Pixar can be at stirring your emotions while delivering an enjoyable, well presented animation in the process.

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Bao (2018) Oscar Nominated Animated Short Film Review

Bao (2018) Director: Domee Shi Screenwriter: Domee Shi Starring: Tim Zhang

Pixar Animation Studios short film  Bao , originally released as a pre-screening tie in to  Incredibles 2,  is a beautiful montage piece filled to the brim with Pixar’s signature effervescence and life; a film tied to the very nature of our being told from the not-so-far-away land of Canada through one woman’s nurturing of a… dumpling. Yes, a dumpling.

The story of a Canadian-Chinese woman suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome is one that hits with a punch to the heart much like those that have been so prevalent in Pixar’s short films and montages since their very earliest releases, the collusion of score, visuals and the simple universal truths within Domee Shi’s written story coming to define this 7 and a half minutes as endearing, artistic, entertaining pleasure; the perfect way to broach such a tough subject to a wide audience through cinema’s most lasting property: empathy.

As is always the case with Pixar, the animation on offer in  Bao  is simply phenomenal – second to none – with the animation of the food in particular (everything from lettuce leaves to pancakes) being quite appropriately the most salivating aspect of this particular short’s visual feast. In keeping with the mantra of creating a world through which their audiences can escape, the film also samples the fundamentals of what makes a Pixar film feel so alive, with movement within the frame an ever-present feature and the timing of comedy overlapping with traditional silent cinema techniques regarding lighting and editing to drive home the more emotional story beats (through which it truly hits home).

The score, composed by Surf’s Up 2   and  Unforgettable  composer Toby Chu, was also fittingly to the Pixar standard, the blend of traditional Chinese instruments with the recognisable lulls and rises of the Pixar score working to squeeze each emotion, gently seeking more and more investment into the silent central character until the film’s terrific, beautiful and heart-wrenching reveal.

It’s easy to see why  Bao  has been so widely heralded and celebrated in its medium, not least with its Oscar nomination. This is yet another truly phenomenal Disney Pixar short film that joins the pantheon of fellow Oscar nominated outings, and one that just so happens to tell its heartfelt tale through food.

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Bao Reviews

bao short movie review

An incredibly creative take on empty nest syndrome.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Dec 5, 2020

bao short movie review

This will probably win the prize, as it's from the Disney-Pixar powerhouse studio, but we found it cloying and sentimental.

Full Review | May 29, 2020

bao short movie review

Bao was sweet and lovely.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Feb 28, 2019

bao short movie review

As a metaphor for (s)motherhood, it's a brilliant example of what Pixar does best, grounding well-timed cartoon gags - including a twist that literally caused audiences to gasp in surprise - with well-earned emotional truths.

Full Review | Feb 24, 2019

bao short movie review

A strong possibility of taking the [Oscar]. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Feb 19, 2019

bao short movie review

Despite its Pixar polish, the film remains a moving testament to how quickly life can pass us by.

Full Review | Feb 19, 2019

bao short movie review

It is incredibly encouraging to see a large creative hub like Pixar make strides towards domestic inclusions of diversity

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Feb 10, 2019

bao short movie review

Domee Shi's short film Bao is a sight to behold

Full Review | Original Score: A | Jan 22, 2019

bao short movie review

Charming, even if it is Disney/Pixar pandering to the increasingly-important Chinese market.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Jun 14, 2018

High On Films

Bao (2018) Short Film Review: An Animated Short That Delves Into Asian Family Upbringing And Parental Dominance

Bao (2018) Short Film Review: Asian representation in mainstream Hollywood has long been caricaturish and cartoonish. A handful of films stand out in terms of getting Asian culture right, and with the recent Oscar win for “ Everything Everywhere All At Once ,” there’s a hope that the proper representation of Asian culture will grow in American films.

There is, however, an animated short film produced by Disney-Pixar, which was shown before “Incredibles 2” when that film was released in theatres. It showcased the immigrant Asian and was pretty effective in its short run time. The film is “Bao,” a heartwarming animated short directed by Pixar’s first-ever woman director, Domee Shi, and it portrays a unique visualization of Asian immigrants and overprotective parenthood.

The short starts quite deliciously, and as the title suggests, “Bao” means baozi, a Chinese steamed bun filled with various meat and vegetable fillings. It follows a Chinese woman, lovingly making baos for herself and her husband, who ferociously eats them and leaves for work, leaving the woman alone.

The woman slowly proceeds to eat her bao, but to her utter disbelief, the bao comes to life, and soon enough, she treats it like her own child. Still, as the bao-child grows up, it demands to be independent, but the overprotective nature of the woman gets the better of her, leading to a shocking sequence even for a Pixar movie.

The woman’s protective nature towards her bao-child would be familiar and relatable to many Asian people who grew up in a protective household. These kids tend to become more rebellious, as was the case with the bao-kid. After being stopped by her human mother to play with other kids, it slowly starts to rebel against everything the woman stops it for, going as far as bringing its fianceé and trying to leave with her.

Bao (2018) Short Film Review

Then the woman acts in a way that can be disturbing for some. But the woman intends to keep the child all to herself, although she does realize that her act is crude and breaks down in tears. All of this was an allegorical dream the woman was having, and we soon see the real kid of the woman, who, not surprisingly, looks just like the grown-up bao. They reconcile and, with the boy’s girlfriend, make baos again.

The unique allegory of using a bao to portray motherhood was a sweet touch. It plays into the idea of how adorable kids can be. Bao is a double entendre, which can either mean a dumpling or childhood endearment. How food can work as an emotional bond is scattered throughout the film: from sharing food with the bao-child to cooking food to make amends with him.

And when the actual son returns, he brings her the sandwiches they used to have together, the same ones he once refused, as a sign of reconciliation. After all, food is a part of whatever culture you are from. It has the power to bring people together, whatever the circumstances.

While Bao has a universal theme, the salient core message is for the children who grow up in a different world than their parents and how the cultural barriers often lead to familial miscommunication. The mother decelerates the self-sufficient struggle of growth. Her sacrifices for her child are forgotten when her overprotective nature takes the better of it, and she cannot accept that her child is no longer her extension. But in the end, in the actual world, she forgives her son and lets it go.

The movie recalls the allegory of empty nest syndrome, the pain & anguish the parents suffer when the child leaves home. This can be the tale of any household, and its brilliance and relatability lie there. The entire film unfolds with gestures. There is no reigning language, making the theme more universal to approach.

No language barrier makes every gesture, every laugh, anger, and cry feel deliberate, and the short weaves a delicious culturally significant magic, telling the flawed immigrant family story and teaching us to let go – because Irrfan Khan , as Pi Patel, once said, “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go.”

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Bao (2018) links: imdb , rotten tomatoes , wikipedia bao (2018) cast: sindy lau, daniel kai lin, sharmaine yeoh, where to watch bao, trending right now.

10 Great Films That Helped Cinema Grow As An Art Form

Just a creative mind stuck in corporate space. Loves reading, cooking, and exploring films. When not doing all this, enjoys writing about his thoughts and exploring various cuisines.

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bao short movie review

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Bao (2018)

A Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive. A Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive. A Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive.

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  • 116 User reviews
  • 31 Critic reviews
  • 1 win & 4 nominations total

Domee Shi on the Credit That Changed Her Life

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  • Trivia First Pixar short to be directed by a woman.
  • Goofs Touch tone telephones should have twelve buttons, but there are only the first nine buttons (1 to 9).
  • Crazy credits Instead of the usual Pixar credit for "production babies" - babies born to people who worked on a given film during its production - there is a credit for "production baos".
  • Connections Featured in AniMat's Crazy Cartoon Cast: The Death of DisneyToon Studios (2018)

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  • Nov 11, 2018
  • June 15, 2018 (United States)
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bao short movie review

bao short movie review

Pixar Short Review: “Bao”

bao short movie review

Bao tells the story of a lonely mother whose only son has moved out, leaving her with lots of unfilled free time. While making dumplings one day, one of them comes to life and becomes her new purpose in life. She dotes upon her little dumpling, giving him everything he needs as he tries to grow up too fast.

It’s often the case that adults will experience a Pixar short on a different level than kids. The Academy Award Winning  Piper is a perfect example where kids delighted in the cute antics of the young water bird while adults understood the mother bird’s need for her daughter to become independent.  Bao  is no exception, but in this case there may be aspects that are above a child’s ability to comprehend. I didn’t think the ending was that hard to figure out, but I overheard at least one adult asking someone else to explain it to them. It’s a short that makes you think, but also has a great lesson to teach parents and kids alike. And being attached to a sequel of a film that came out fourteen years ago, the generation that grew up with  The Incredibles is at the perfect age for this short.

bao short movie review

Like  Ratatouille and the Walt Disney Animation Studios short film,  Feast ,  Bao is a film that is guaranteed to leave audiences hungry. If you’re planning an evening out with dinner and a movie, I recommend pairing  Incredibles 2 with your favorite Chinese restaurant as you’re going to be craving dumplings and a host of other Chinese dishes that the mom in this short cooks for her little dumpling boy.  Bao is the type of film that leaves you suddenly starving, even if you just ate.

I’ve had more than a week to digest my thoughts about  Bao , pun intended. It brought me to tears, but I didn’t fall in love with it like I normally do with shorts from the hopping lamp. It has a kawaii visual esthetic juxtaposed against one of the most depressing topics for an animated short. And while the short is ultimately uplifting, I predict kids will be asking a lot of questions well into the beginning of the main feature. Like an appetizer, an animated short is meant to whet your appetite. For many kids,  Bao might unintentionally upset their tummy before the main course.

bao short movie review

I give  Bao 2.5 out of 5 teenage dumpling chin hairs.

Oscars 2019: Pixar's 'Bao' wins Oscar for best animated short film

VIDEO: Oscars 2019: 'Bao,' Pixar's first female-directed short film, scores nomination

"Bao," Pixar's short film about an adorable Chinese dumpling that comes to life, just won the 2019 Oscar for best animated short film.

The movie is the first Pixar short film directed by a woman, Domee Shi.

"To all the nerdy girls out there who hide behind their sketchbooks, don't be afraid to tell your stories to the world," Shi said as she accepted the award alongside "Bao" producer Becky Neiman Cobb at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday.

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Seven years before becoming the director of an Oscar-winning film, Shi began her journey at Pixar as an intern.

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Oscars 2019: 'Bao,' Pixar's first female-directed short film, scores nomination

In June, Shi told "GMA" she called "Bao" a "love letter to her heritage."

"'Bao' is about a lonely, empty-nester Chinese mom who gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her dumplings comes to life as a little, gurgling, baby dumpling boy," Shi said.

Shi added that it's been challenging being one of the only females in the room.

bao short movie review

"It took me a while to build my own confidence, but I kind of use that as a way to motivate myself," she said.

Pixar gushed on Instagram about "Bao" taking home a trophy, writing, "Take a bow for Bao, our Academy Award-winning animated short film!"

Pixar is owned by the parent company the Walt Disney Co.

ABC's Elisa Tang, Chris Cirillo and Olivia Smith contributed to this report.

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The Creator of ‘Bao’ on That Twist: ‘Part of Me Wanted to Shock Audiences’

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bao short movie review

By Kaly Soto

  • June 27, 2018

Pixar has delved into Indian culture with “ Sanjay’s Super Team ” and Latino culture with “Coco.” In “Bao,” the eight-minute short that precedes “Incredibles 2,” the animation giant is taking a bite of Chinese culture in a way that may have you rethinking your love of dumplings.

Bao, a perfectly formed dumpling, is one of the central characters. Fashioned by a home cook making a meal, Bao sprouts a tiny body under his big head. Instead of popping Bao into her mouth, the cook becomes his mother, cradling him in her hands and never wanting to let him go even as he starts to feel stifled by her love.

Domee Shi, 28, who conceived and directed “Bao,” said the inspiration came from three places in her life, the first being her own experience growing up in a Chinese family that emigrated to Toronto (where the short is set) in 1991, when she was 2.

With overprotective parents, “I was like this little dumpling bao,” she said in an interview from Greece, where she was vacationing.

The second inspiration was food. “Dumplings are a huge staple in Chinese culture,” she said. “You make dumplings with your family at the holidays, Chinese New Year. It’s the perfect metaphor for a family-associated food.”

And third, she said she wanted to put a modern twist on a fairy tale because she liked the way those stories deal with dark and light themes.

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How Food Inspired Pixar's Animated Short Bao

"in chinese and family just go hand in hand.".

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  • The Story Behind <i>Bao</i>, the Adorable Pixar Short With Oscar Hopes

The Story Behind Bao , the Adorable Pixar Short With Oscar Hopes


D omee Shi was thinking of her own mother when she cooked up Bao , Pixar ‘s latest short.

In the film, which airs before The Incredibles 2 , a Chinese mother is struggling to transition to life as an empty nester when she accidentally creates a giggling, cooing anthropomorphized dumpling. At first, the mother is delighted to be caring for another child, until the baby bao begins to rebel.

At just 28, Shi is the first woman to direct a Pixar short. She was initially worried that the film would be too dark or too culturally specific for the studio. But Pixar producer Becky Neiman says that the studio is looking to expand the types of stories they tell, and the sorts of storytellers that they hire. And everyone understands the idea of cooking and eating together as a family.

Shi and Neiman spoke to TIME about dumpling recipes, how Pixar is shaking off its boys’ club status , and specific details from her a Chinese-Canadian home that Shi snuck into the movie.

TIME: How did you come up with the idea for Bao ?

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.

Was there a particular reason to use the dumpling as opposed to any other food?

Domee Shi: I really wanted to do a gingerbread man kind of fairytale but with Chinese food, and I grew up making dumplings with my mom on weekends and holidays around the dining room table.

Becky Neiman: She’s promised me though that the sequel can be about a matzo ball. That’s the thing: The story is so universal that everyone in our crew knows that experience of cooking with a parent. They would say, “That would be a matzo ball” or “That would be ravioli.”

There’s this looming idea of the parent eating the child. I thought of that Goya painting of Saturn devouring his son. Were you thinking of those darker themes?

Domee Shi: I love that painting. And yes, my mom would always hold me close when I was a fully grown adult and say things like, “I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I knew exactly where you were at all times.” I would think, that’s sweet but also kind of creepy. We all feel that way. Even when you look at something very cute, like a baby, it awakens something violent as well, like, “That’s so cute I could eat it!”

Becky, can you talk a little bit about why Pixar chose to do the short?

Becky Neiman: There was an open call to artists at Pixar to pitch shorts ideas, and Domee was one of the 20 people to pitch. She was hesitant because she thought it might be “too dark or too weird or too culturally specific.” But that’s exactly why Pixar chose it. We hope that this trend of telling different stories from different storytellers continues.

Domee Shi: Everyone in the world has been an overprotective parent who won’t let go of their kid or the kid who has left the nest. And they’re brought together by food at some point. We’re using that universal theme of food and family as a Trojan horse to introduce people to baos and Chinatown and what a Chinese home looks and feels like.

What are some of those details you wanted to include?

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.

Pixar's Bao Recipe

bao short movie review

How did you work with people on your team who weren’t necessarily familiar with Chinese food to Chinese culture?

Domee Shi: Rona and I would explain our choices to them, like we need to cover the drip pans with tin foil because it’s more practical to get rid of the aluminum foil than wash the drip pan. A lot of our non-Asian crew members asked, “Why is there a toilet paper roll on the coffee table?” And we’d explain it’s more practical to go to Costco and buy toilet paper in bulk. Then you don’t have to waste money buying Kleenex in boxes. They got it immediately.

Becky Neiman: We took everyone to Chinatown. We would go out for dim sum. We also flew Domee’s mom down to the Bay Area two times to do dumpling-making classes at Pixar. We would film her try to make dumplings. Nobody could do it well. It’s a fine art.

Pixar has lately been labeled a boys’ club. What have your experiences at the studio been?

Domee Shi: Something like 75% enrollment in animation schools is now female. That’s going to create a shift in the industry. I feel like Bao coming out is a signal of change—that such a big studio has gotten behind such a culturally-specific short led predominantly by women.

I worked on Inside Out and had a great experience and great mentors. The veterans of the industry have always been really generous and kind in their knowledge. Recently there has been way more female hires at the studio. I’m optimistic.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at [email protected]

  • Entertainment /

The director of Pixar’s Bao on the challenges of animating a living dumpling

What do you do when your precious dumpling baby becomes a dumpling man.

By Dami Lee

Share this story

bao short movie review

This interview originally ran in conjunction with Bao ’s premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. It has been updated for the short’s theatrical release ahead of Incredibles 2 .

The title of Pixar’s latest short film, Bao , has two meanings in Chinese: “steamed bun” or “precious treasure.” In the short, it could easily mean both. The bao in this film is a cute homemade dumpling that comes to life, turning into a weird little dumpling baby that delights the empty-nesting Chinese mother who made it. From there, the bao-baby starts growing up. That sounds surreal on paper, and the execution is just as jarring. Writer-director Domee Shi has described it as a “magical, modern-day fairy tale, kind of like a Chinese Gingerbread Man. ” But there’s more to it than just yet another fable about runaway food .

Bao plays ahead of Pixar’s new feature Incredibles 2 . Shi, a Chinese-Canadian storyboard artist, has worked at Pixar on Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Toy Story 4. She started at the company as a story intern in 2011, and is now the first woman to direct a short in the studio’s history. I sat down with Shi and producer Becky Neiman-Cobb to discuss the challenges of animating food and crafting a relatable story, plus how Isao Takahata and Japan’s Studio Ghibli influenced the short film.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

This short made me cry, which surprised me. I wondered, “Why do I empathize with the mom here so much? I’m not the mother of a Chinese bun.” Were you aiming to have viewers relate more with the mother than with the child here?

Domee Shi: Definitely. I’m like you; I’m not a mother either. I am the steamed bun in this story. I thought this would be a really cool exercise for me to put myself into the point of view of this mom, I guess to understand my own mom better. I’m an only child, and I’ve been coddled and protected my whole life, but I wanted to understand “Why did my mom always act this way? Why was she always so protective?”

Becky Neiman-Cobb: I’m a new mom, and I kept being floored by Domee’s total understanding [of motherhood], like, “How do you know that that’s a mom thing?” This was Mom’s story, so everything she talked about, and all of Domee’s direction was about that. Down to our composer, Domee would give notes to him and say, “This needs to feel like how Mom feels right now. Follow her emotions.”

The composer, Toby Chu , is Chinese-American. Was it important to you to not only have a representation of Asians on-screen but also behind the scenes?

DS: For sure. The production designer, Rona Liu , is a Chinese-American artist as well. I specifically went to her, not just because she was Chinese-American, but because I love her style and aesthetic. I knew this short would require an art director who knew those specific details of a Chinese household — Asian parents, the food, and Chinatown — to make the short feel as authentic as possible. We worked really closely together, going on research trips to SF Chinatown and Oakland Chinatown. We’d visit our families’ homes, and we’d take tons of pictures of her grandma, my uncles and aunts, and my parents. We made sure every single detail felt like the household we grew up with.

Accurate down to the Asian mom visor.

Even though Chinese culture plays such a dominant role in the film, it’s still a universal story.

BNC: The thing about the story is that it’s very personal. Because the story is so personal, genuine, and authentic, it becomes relatable. Yes, it’s culturally specific, but those themes of family, food, and love are so universal and relatable. The more specific Domee went with details, it just meant it felt more real.

DS: I never felt like I had to water anything down. There was this one discussion where a non-Asian person asked, “Why is there a toilet-paper roll on the table?” and I was like, “We must keep it there, it’s very important and a staple in all Chinese parents’ homes to have it there.”

I definitely made sure that I showed the early storyboarded versions of the short to different groups of people — Chinese groups, non-Chinese groups at Pixar — just to make sure the story was clear. I wanted the details to be specific, but I wanted people to come away from the film feeling the same way, that food brought this family back together, and that this is a universal story of a mom letting go of her kid. I definitely wanted everyone to get that, but also learn something about a world they weren’t used to.

bao short movie review

I understand your mother was a dumpling consultant on the film. What was it like working with her?

DS: It was cool! We invited her to Pixar twice to do dumpling-making classes for the crew because I really wanted the animators and the effects artists to touch the dough and fold it, and watch my mom make it, so we could replicate her technique exactly on-screen. I definitely learned more about dumpling-making watching my mom. Growing up, she’d make dumplings for me all the time, but I didn’t appreciate how much work was involved.

Is food particularly hard to animate?

DS: It’s one of the most difficult things to make look good on-screen because raw pork doesn’t look that good in real life.

BNC: We’re all experts on what food looks like, so if it’s even a little bit off, you can tell. So it was really important that we do it right.

DS: It felt like we had to exaggerate a lot of stuff. We had to make it brighter, more saturated. Kind of like how food photographers have to enhance the food. We had to do that on the big screen as well.

Given that food connection, were there crew members from Ratatouille who also worked on this film?

DS: We consulted with one guy who had worked on it, and his advice for us was, “One thing that makes food look really good is that shiny layer of fat that coats it.” That was a breakthrough for us. There’s a really quick shot of Mom stir-frying the pork in the wok, and we made sure it was glistening and oily because we wanted that nice, shiny fat.

Bao concept art by Domee Shi.

I saw your tribute to Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata on your Instagram . You said he was an influence on the story, and he resembles the father in Bao . Was that intentional?

DS: That was completely unintentional, but maybe his spirit was driving me to design the dad to look like him? [ Laughs ] But yeah, he was a huge influence. I love My Neighbors the Yamadas . Takahata’s style in general, and how he explores slice-of-life moments for these families. I wanted to incorporate that spirit into Bao. In the opening, I wanted to get every detail of Mom making the dumplings, and I wanted the dining room shot of Dad and Mom eating breakfast together — have it play it out very naturally, as if you were watching your own parents eating breakfast in the morning.

BNC: When our animators first came onto the team, we had a screening of My Neighbors the Yamadas for all of them. Domee refers to it so much, so we wanted to make sure everyone had seen it.

DS: I love the subtlety in the way his characters are animated, how they can be so expressive. Their mouths can go so big, but also they feel so human and real. And I really wanted that in my short as well.

Bao concept art.

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Home » Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s Newest Short Film, ‘Bao’

Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s Newest Short Film, ‘Bao’

Before you see  Incredibles 2 , you’ll be treated to the latest Pixar animated short film,  Bao , which is about a woman’s homemade bao (or dumpling) coming to life, giving her a new chance at motherhood.

Bao was directed by Domee Shi, the first woman to ever direct a Pixar short. And this is definitely one of Pixar’s most conceptual short films in years, especially compared to the beautifully simplistic  Piper  (2016) and straightforward  Lou  (2017).

Over the course of about eight minutes, we see a dumpling become a baby boy, growing up under his mother’s love until eventually becoming too old to stay home with her. Essentially,  Bao  is a Chinese retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.”

In an interview with  Eater , Shi discussed what inspired her to make the short film:

“The story was loosely inspired by my own life growing up as an only child to my two Chinese parents. I found that they always treated me like this precious little dumpling, always making sure I was safe and never wandered too far. And when it was time for me to leave the nest, it was hard for them to let go. I wanted to kind of explore that in an allegorical, modern-day-fairytale way with this short.”

Shi started as an intern with Pixar in 2011 and eventually became a story artist for  Inside Out .   She’s also worked on  The Good Dinosaur ,  Incredibles 2 , and  Toy Story 4 .

Last fall, Shi pitched three other original ideas to Pixar , and one of them is being developed into a feature film. Her official role with the project has not yet been confirmed, but if her trajectory with Pixar is anything like Peter Sohn’s (who started as a short film director for the studio and went on to direct The Good Dinosaur ), then she could very well be the first female director of a feature-length Pixar film since Brenda Chapman directed  Brave  (although she was eventually replaced by Mark Andrews).

Bao  premiered a few months ago at Tribeca Film Festival, and it’s had a warm reception so far, though there is a jarring twist late in the short that might throw off some viewers. I found the short to be completely wonderful and a loving expression of a mother’s love through food and specific cultural values. It’s also refreshing to see a Pixar short hone in on the depression of empty-nesters, a topic we don’t often see in animated films.


The short film was produced by Becky Neiman-Cobb, who has worked in different capacities for many Pixar films over the years, most recently as an editorial manager for  Coco . The score was done by Toby Chu ( Burn Notice ), and Pete Docter and John Lasseter served as executive producers. Lasseter will permanently leave Pixar and Disney at the end of the year.

Bao  will officially release alongside  Incredibles 2  on June 15.

bao short movie review

Jon Negroni

Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Jon Negroni is TYF’s resident film editor and lover of all things oxford comma. He’s the author of two novels and a book about Pixar movies, plus he hosts Cinemaholics, a weekly movie review podcast.

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  • What To Watch Next?


BAO is the cute animated short from Disney and Pixar. It tells the tale of a Chinese-Canadian mother who is struggling with empty-nest syndrome. Her loneliness is assuaged when one of her dumplings comes to life.

Pixar became famous for the quality of its animated short films. Let's not forget that Pixar Studios started with ‘Luxo Jr' way back in 1987. BAO follows in the tradition of the studios' other award-winning shorts like LAVA and PIPER .

BAO is just 7 minutes long, but this animated gem packs a lot into those moments. The dumpling is super adorable, and the story has a twist in the tale (no spoilers ahead). The short covers the complex subject of parenthood, and the story will probably resonate more with parents than it does children. However, kids will love animation too.

The short was shown initially before ‘Incredibles 2' at the cinema. Reactions to BAO on social media were mixed. Many claimed it brought them to tears, while others stated they ‘didn't get it'. Personally, I loved BAO and would recommend everyone watch it. If you don't get it, you've only lost 7 minutes, and you'll still see some impressive animation.

BOA is just one of the Pixar shorts which is available on Disney+. You can now view a whole collection of splendid animated short films on the streaming platform. The current line-up includes classic such as LAVA, FORKY ASKS A QUESTION, PARTY CENTRAL and the brilliant PIXAR IN REAL LIFE.

Don't forget that Disney+ is now the home of all PIXAR shorts and major motion pictures. You can watch every TOY STORY movie, MONSTER INC and INSIDE OUT to name just a few.

bao short movie review

Disney Plus offers a large collection of movies and TV shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. You can watch classic Disney films, as well as new releases and original content created specifically for the platform.

Stream on up to four screens at once on compatible devices.

For a limited time, customers who purchase the annual subscription can save 16%.

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That Moment In

Behind the Score of Pixar’s ‘Bao’, Q&A with Composer Toby Chu

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Bao is a 2018 Pixar short about a Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from empty nest syndrome who gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive.

Hardcore fans of movie music know that Pixar films have a very specific, enchanting sound. Examples being Randy Newman ’s Toy Story score and Thomas Newman ’s memorable Finding Nemo tunes. Even though Bao is a short film, the score by composer Toby Chu does not disappoint and stays in line with the emotional magnitude of Michael Giacchino’s Incredibles 2 score that precedes it. Chu, whose recent credits include NBC’s The Brave , Warner Bros. Unforgettable and Freeform’s Beyond, was able to bring a specific warmth and authenticity to the score through the use of traditional Chinese instruments and more specifically his knowledge of the culture, he is Chinese American.   We spoke with him further on these topics in the below interview.

bao short movie review

Some people have called Bao a landmark in Asian visibility. When first signing on to the project, did you know it was going to make such an impact on certain people?

Toby Chu:  I grew up loving Disney and Pixar films. So when I watched Bao for the first time and saw that it was a Chinese story, I was incredibly excited. Excited that Pixar trusted me and put forth a story that so many viewers have been able to connect with. My hope is that this is just the beginning when it comes to shining a spotlight on Asian artists in our country.

What sort of direction were you given from the director, Domee Shi, when first starting out?

TC: Domee had the brilliant idea that the instrumentation should be a mix of east and west. She was super helpful and thoughtful through the process, and had a really clear vision of what she was after. We talked about growing up as a Chinese immigrant, the emotional elements in the story, the overall arc, and, of course, dumplings!

What is your personal favorite scene of the short? And your favorite scene to score?

TC:  There’s a quiet moment when mom and her real son make up after the time apart. The scene is a powerful one that reflects the subtleties and complexities that are part of growing up in an immigrant family. It’s also specific to the Asian immigrant story, and the tension of being raised in a culture different than the one you experience when you’re outside of your house. There’s a desire for independence, and an identity separate from your background. That scene moved me deeply because of the multiple layers: coming back home again, returning to your roots, remembering the importance of family and the love of a mother for her son.

The entire short was a joy to score. It’s was great to bring everything together – the eastern and western elements musically at the end – when the orchestra gets to let go, playing out the theme in its richest form.

bao short movie review

You are Chinese American, with dual citizenship in the United States and Croatia. Were you able to relate to this story on a different level because you have experienced a lot of it first hand?

TC:  Absolutely. I did some reflecting upon my own upbringing before I started. It was eye opening in many ways. I really wanted to get the emotion just right. Having a personal connection with the story was both invaluable and inspiring.

We read that you used very specific Chinese instruments to make this score feel as authentic as possible. Did you already have these pieces in your collection or did you have to go out and find them?

TC:  I reached out to a good friend, Chi Li , who is the erhu player featured in the film, and also happens to be an ethnomusicology professor at UCLA who specializes in Chinese traditional music. Through her I got to play and experiment with all of the major Chinese instruments.

You have scored thrillers such as last years Unforgettable , animated projects such as Surf’s Up 2: WaveMania and shows such as Covert Affairs and Burn Notice . Is there a genre and type of project you haven’t scored yet that you would like to?

TC:  I’ve been really fortunate to work on so many different projects and genres over the past twenty years. It’s exciting, and one of the things I love most about composing for picture. Although every project is different, I throw myself into every one. That said, I haven’t scored a period piece yet. I think I would enjoy that very much.

On IMDB it says your next project is the animated feature Henchmen . Can you tell us anything about your involvement with that?

TC:  I just got back from recording the orchestra. I was drawn to it because it takes a very unique angle with the superhero genre. The good guys are completely obnoxious, the villains are ridiculous, and the henchmen assume a leading role. That the real heroes in the story are the blue collared workers was an element that I really loved.

Learn more about Toby Chu at his home page .

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Bao (2018) | Short Film Review

Hi! I wanted to shine a bit more of a spotlight on Bao (because it's the first Pixar short created by a woman and also the first to be created by someone of Chinese-Canadian descent, which I think is cool and important), so I made a review on YouTube to talk about it!

The video is here if you wanna check it out! VIDEO LINK !

I'd love to talk about it some more, particularly if there are any people who were culturally represented by it! One person commented on my video already and it made me really emotional!

(I also uploaded a Ranking the 20 Pixar Short Films from Worst to Best video today too if you wanna check it out!"

Watch the Oscar-Nominated 'Bao' in the Pixar Short Films Collection, Vol. 3 Blu-ray


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If you're all caught up on today's Oscar nominations , you might have seen that Disney-Pixar's Bao has earned itself a nod for Best Animated Short Film. The competition is fierce for writer-director Domee Shi 's tale about a Chinese-Canadian mother-son relationship, but the Pixar pedigree is strong with this one. I highly recommend seeking out each of the nominees, including Bao and Trevor Jimenez 's award-winning animated short Weekends , which you can learn more about here. But if you're all-in on all things Pixar, you'll want to check out the Pixar Short Films Collection, Vol. 3 Blu-ray.

The home release includes the following awards-worthy shorts, in addition to bonus features discussed below:

  • Oscar-nominated Bao
  • Oscar-nominated Lou
  • Oscar-winner Piper
  • Oscar-nominated Sanjay's Super Team
  • Riley's First Date
  • The Radiator Springs 500 1/2
  • Party Central
  • The Blue Umbrella
  • The Legend of Mor'du
  • Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex

Check out the trailer for the collection below:

These facts are short and sweet! Find plenty of Easter eggs and more on the Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 3, now available on digital and Blu-Ray.

Shorts and Audio Commentaries:

Each short is accompanied by a commentary option that includes a video intro from the filmmakers as well as an audio commentary track from them:


Bao (Commentary with director Domee Shi, producer Becky Neiman-Cobb, and production designer Rona Liu)

  • Turns out that food, and specifically raw meat, is pretty difficult to animate in an appealing way.
  • Bao is a word that means both "steamed bun" and "treasure", depending on how it's pronounced in Chinese.
  • Domee and Rona took trips to their relatives houses to take pictures of their decor and their family members as inspiration.
  • Keep an eye on Bao's mom's outfits as the short goes on; they grow brighter and bolder the more emotional she gets. They were inspired by women's outfits in Toronto's Chinatown.
  • The static camerawork and family dramas of Yasujirō Ozu was an influence on Bao .
  • Chinese folk art inspired the characters' designs and proportions; One Piece and Japanese anime was also referenced for expressions.


Lou (Commentary with writer-director Dave Mullins, producer Dana Murray, and editor Tony Greenberg)

  • Dave Mullins talks about his inspiration for Lou as a kid who moved around a lot and was always the "new kid" in school.
  • Lou is a "magical guardian of the elementary school." J.J., on the other hand, is a kid who wants attention but only knows how to get it through bullying.
  • During the storyboard phase, Lou was originally going to have a human voice in order to convey emotions, but they opted to let the animation do the heavy lifting.
  • J.J.'s stuffed animal toy is named "Pickles", named after Dave Mullins' beloved toy as a kid. The little girl with the toy pig on the playground is modeled after Mullins' daughter and her favorite pig toy. J.J.'s name comes from Mullins' mother's initials while his eyes are Mullins' wife's eyes.
  • Lou was always intended to "give himself away" to the point that he disappears, but the filmmakers had no idea that it would be received so well.
  • "Lost and Found" was originally the title, but legal issues forced a change to Lou .


Piper (Commentary with writer-director Alan Barillaro and editor Sara Reimers)

  • Barillaro opted to features rock musician/ Piper composer Adrian Belew to help him with his own unique video intro.
  • Barillaro's impetus for the short was to tel a story about being a parent; he has three kids and wishes he was more like the mom in Piper .
  • The rhythm of the waves on the shore is meant to feel like rhythmic breathing and a gentle waking up of the environment.
  • They opted to shoot the characters from farther away like a documentary-style film. This was important to establish scale, especially for such a small and fragile character.
  • In the world of Piper , older birds behave more naturally while young Piper is a bit more cartoonish.
  • Once Piper emerges from under water, her whole worldview has changed and so has the perspective of the camera, the lighting, and more.


Lava (Commentary with writer-director Jim Murphy and producer Andrea Warren)

  • Murphy uses a ukulele and some anecdotes from his Hawai'ian honeymoon to introduce his short story.
  • The clouds around the island are based on actual weather patterns and the leis from Hawai'ian culture and hula mythology. Look for cumulus cloud leis throughout.
  • The Pizza Planet truck is hidden away within the timelapse montage as one of the starry sky's constellations.
  • Originally, the island's eyes were going to be red-hot lava, but that proved to be too creepy and looked like a jack-o-lantern.
  • The characters' names are Uku, for the male island, and Lele, for the female island, so that their union is the island of Ukulele. You can see Uku's arm around Lele as part of the landscape in one of the final shots.


Sanjay's Super Team (Commentary with writer-director Sanjay Patel and producer Nicole Grindle)

  • Patel talks about preferring to stay home and work on his drawings rather than direct, but Sanjay's Super Team was too important and very personal to him not to give it a shot.
  • The TV and the Hindu shrine being the same shape and being opposite each other on the Western and Eastern sides, respectively, were by design.
  • The 2D cartoon animation proved particularly difficult for Pixar animators since they're set up for 3D computer-generated productions. Patel also wanted a cheesier Saturday morning cartoon show, but John Lasseter advised making it a cool show which necessitated some production tweaks.
  • In the altar, the diah (a small brass candle) is introduced as a stand-in for the Hindu culture. The three deities are Vishnu, Durga and Hanuman.
  • Blowing out the light of the Diya, even accidentally, allowed darkness to creep into the world. It's also a stand-in for Sanjay disrespecting his father's culture.
  • The deities' motions were brought to life through traditional dance.
  • The bad guy in the short isn't destroyed, he's calmed and allowed to meditate.
  • The end-credits drawings were submitted by kids, who sent them in at Pixar's request.


Riley's First Date? (Commentary with writer-director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen)

  • Cooley got the idea for the short while working on Inside Out . The character of Jordan is based on him a bit, while Riley's parents are inspired by Cooley's own parents and father-in-law.
  • Riley's First Date? takes place after the events of Inside Out , so it's important to see the movie first.
  • Riley's dad's start-up company is "Brang", a company that makes it easier for partygoers to send things directly to the party rather than bringing it themselves.
  • There's an unfinished live-action clip called "Ninja Shark" used in one of the TV monitors within Jordan's mind.
  • Bill Hader voices the guitar player and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is the voice of the guy who attacks him.
  • Riley's dad is wearing a "Shatter Daddies" logo from one of the production team's bands, but Legal shut that idea down.
  • Diane Lane apparently called her own daughter to check in on whatever the script's slang was supposed to mean.
  • AC/DC's "Back in Black" was used since it was often played at Cooley's high school.
  • The idea of getting Riley's dad and mom to kiss at the end was one of the main reasons Cooley wanted to make the short in the first place, to see how that would look in the world of Inside Out .


The Radiator Springs 500½ (Commentary with co-director Scott Morse and editor Torbin Bullock)

  • Morse introduces Lightning McQueen's defense of Radiator Springs from a band of hooligans.
  • The idea of the short was to celebrate the town and its people. That morphed into a Spaghetti Western idea centered on a showdown during the off-road Baja 1000-style race.
  • Mater sets up the course through Carburetor County to show off the landscape and the points of interest. Mater also acts as the sort of "Jungle Cruise" tour guide of the slower, older cars in Radiator Springs.
  • The dual storytelling allowed them to jump between the off-road race and the sillier but just as picturesque tour, keeping things from getting stale.
  • The nighttime sequence reinforced the dangerous nature of the Baja 1000, and the car graveyard sequence gave them a chance to create monster movie elements.


Party Central (Commentary with writer-director Kelsey Mann)

  • Mann, the story supervisor on Monsters University , pulled an idea from that film to create this short: The Oozma Kappa brothers finally get to throw a party. He shares seven tips he learned from the experience:
  • Get into your story as quickly as possible.
  • Take advantage of things that can only happen in this specific world.
  • Have a simple setup that pays off with gag after gag.
  • Conga lines are complicated; a conga line gag proved to be too difficult to make the final cut.
  • Sometimes going too far is just the right amount, when it comes to story, animation, lighting, or effects.
  • Just have fun!
  • Oh, and cross-stitching is kind of relaxing.


The Blue Umbrella (Commentary with writer-director Saschka Unseld, lighting supervisor Brian Boyd, and supervising technical director Chris Burrows)

  • Unseld talks about his experience moving to San Francisco and finding a crumpled, "miserable-looking" umbrella discarded on the sidewalk; he wanted it to have a happier ending. The umbrella is an homage to Unseld's childhood in rainy Hamburg, Germany.
  • The decision was made to go with a photorealistic look for the city and its characters, but also make them stylized.
  • Sarah Jaffe sings the song throughout the short.
  • The animators worked with several types of rain in the short; Unseld sees the rain as the third main character.
  • Easter eggs: The bus stop that the owner of the red umbrella is waiting at features a German poster for John Carter of Mars . The model of Elinor from Brave was used as the driver of all the vehicles in the short, while Pixar's models for Andy and Andy's mom are all the people under the umbrella, who were stretched out and dressed in business suits; that may mean that Andy and his mom are the two people on a coffee date at the end of the short.


The Legend of Mor'du (Commentary with writer-director Brian Larsen and writer Steve Purcell)

  • Larsen talks about the tragic version of the lesson learned in Brave : If you don't figure out a way to work together and fit into society (as in a medieval kingdom), bad things can happen.
  • Mor'du means "great black" in Gaelic.
  • The lore of Mor'du didn't quite fit into the main story, but Larsen and Purcell felt that it was a tale that needed to be told.
  • The four cuts of the families' feud mimics the seasons of time. The elements of the stones, the wisps, and the witch are enduring throughout time.
  • Scott Morse suggested the idea of the bottle passing in front of Mor'du's face that teased his change into the bear.
  • The runes going into the horn spell out Mor'du.
  • The character is compared to Moby Dick; you never quite know how long he's been around but clearly he's quite powerful.
  • Louis Gonzalez painted the bear/stone background for the end credits sequence.


Partysaurus Rex (Commentary with writer-director Mark Walsh)

  • Walsh talks about two sources of inspiration: Bath time and his own childhood insecurities. He reveals that he used to make things up in order to fit in, which complicates things for Rex.
  • The commentary was recorded on the night of their crew wrap party; some of the short's fellow creative teams pop in to add their own two cents. It's a cute little setup for the party-themed short.
  • The biggest shot in the bathtub had 3.3 million bubbles; that's a lot of bubbles.
  • Electronic artist BT composed the music for the short.
  • John Lasseter wanted a bunch of dancing toys for the bathtub rave, so the animators put their own dance moves into their specific characters.
  • "What up, fishes?" came from sketch artist Jay Shuster.


Marine Life Interviews (Commentary with director Ross Haldane Stevenson and Finding Dory associate producer Bob Roath)

  • The original idea to have the animals interviewed about Dory came from Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton.
  • Angus MacLane helped to put together the stage play with Stevenson and Roath to record with the cast and edit the interviews together.
  • There are lots of elements of "found footage" throughout, making it stand apart from the main feature.

Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool (Commentary with writer-director Jim Murphy and producer Marc Sondheimer)

  • The inspiration for this short spotlighting crazy characters from Cars 3 comes from a cheesy informercial. They studied car commercials, local used car ads, and local appliance store ads to see how canned music and applause could be used for this short.
  • The long shot was one of Pixar's most difficult production pipelines in the studio's history due to how many characters, interactions, props, and set dressing elements there were throughout.
  • 1-800-FRITTER was already taken, so they had to use 1-800-RETTIRF


Bonus Features:

Making Bao (6 minutes)

  • Writer-director Domee Shi walks viewers through the process of making Bao , from working on stills in her spare time, all the way up to getting to direct her first short.
  • "Bao" can either mean a steamed dumpling or something precious, like a treasure, depending on how it's pronounced.
  • There's some sweet memories captured in photographs and on-camera interviews with Domee and her mom, who also shows up to demonstrate how she makes dumplings.
  • Shi talks about Toronto as a setting and the various Easter eggs for the city scattered throughout, along with specific items in the house that were included to make if feel authentic.
  • The decision to keep the camera static is shorthand for the mother's stagnant life, just one of many details that Shi and her team call out in this behind-the-scenes featurette.

Caricature: A Horrible Way of Saying "I Love You" (~4 minutes)

  • Pixar's story artists let off some steam by drawing pictures of each other in caricatures, which they reveal along with their live-action inspirations in this super cute featurette.
  • To keep things civil, they designated a "Mean Caricature" night to show off the most extreme versions of the caricatures and their subjects. Things get pretty weird as the night wears on, so luckily they include all those oddities here.


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First look: Pixar's short film Bao is your  Incredibles 2 appetizer

Incredibles 2 may be the main course this summer, but audiences will absolutely adore the appetizer.

Before Elastigirl saves her family, another mom tends to a different kind of baby in Pixar’s new short film, Bao , debuting in front of the animated superhero sequel on June 15. The seven-and-a-half-minute short is a culinary fable about a Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from the depression of an empty nest, who gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive.

Domee Shi, a storyboard artist who, with Bao , becomes Pixar’s first female short director in the studio’s history, was inspired to write and tell a story flavored by her upbringing as the only child to Chinese immigrants. “Often times 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,” Shi tells EW. “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.”

The double meaning works wonders, as Bao tracks the lengths a mother will go to protect her child, even as she watches her sweet baby grow sour. (“What is puberty for a dumpling?” Shi opines. The answer: sesame seeds.) It’s purely coincidental that the coming-of-dough short ended up slated to run in front of Incredibles 2 , which also explores maternal themes by centering its focus on Holly Hunter’s character Helen , but it’s no accident that Bao feels so personal and familial. When word of the story got around Pixar after Shi presented concept images at a studio-wide meeting, employees with Asian and immigrant parents contacted Shi and producer Becky Neiman-Cobb, eager to work on the film (a mirror of what happened with last year’s Mexico-feting Coco , which received similar enthusiasm from Pixar’s Latinx community). “It felt like a really universally appealing story that a lot of people could identify with,” says Shi. “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.’”

Another willing volunteer: Shi’s mother, Ningsha Zhong — a “dumpling master,” her daughter raves — served as a cultural consultant and gave the crew two close-up, hands-on dumpling-making demos which the animators studied intimately. “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,” Shi recalls. “We [basically] recreated those shots with her hands and used them as the reference for animation.”

It’s also what’s on the inside that counts. While the exterior design of Dumpling was an exercise in adorable (see: the exclusive concept art above), crew members who also worked on 2007’s Ratatouille warned the Bao team that designing food would be no cakewalk. “You know Pixar and you know the special effects we can pull off here: explosions and water and splashes and fire and fireworks,” says Neiman-Cobb. “One of the biggest challenges, and what brought our effects department to their knees, was Dumpling’s pork filling. That was hard. We learned there’s a very fine line between looking delicious and appetizing and looking wrong or gross. Making our food look delicious was a big triumph.”

One could argue that perhaps the filmmakers even did their job too well. “We did a lot of ‘research’ and ate so many buns,” Shi says, “and as soon as I felt like I couldn’t eat another dumpling, I would go to a Bao review, watch a shot of the dumplings being made, and be like, ‘Oh my God… I’m hungry again.’”

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Pixar's dumpling short Bao had me crying, but the themes are universal

Domee Shi's culturally specific film is not "confusing". It's special.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Bao .

I've never cried as hard and as many times during a film as I did watching Bao .

Bao, Pixar, Short film

And yet it is upsetting to see a number of people, mostly white, speaking out on social media, dismissing the film as being too difficult to understand. One particular tweet garnering tens of thousands of retweets called it "the most confusing ten minutes of my life" . One of the replies described the dumpling as a "ball of crap".

There's no denying that a major factor in what made me an emotional wreck was the cultural specificity of it all. Take the details in the setting, for example. The interior of the family home accurately evokes the feel of a Chinese immigrant home, down to the toilet roll on the coffee table.

It's an environment which I have rarely seen portrayed in any media, and the level of authenticity and care delivered by director Domee Shi is evidence that representation matters behind the screen as much as in front of it.

"The tinfoil on the burners – that's something that my mom did growing up," Shi, who is Asian Canadian, recently told Cosmopolitan . "I love all of the little tchotchkes and decorations that fill the mom character's house. We have this Chinese calendar in the dining room that we've specifically designed to be like those calendars that you'd get if you go to a Chinese supermarket.

"Those little things that I felt like really were staples in every Chinese home that I visited or lived in growing up."

Bao, Pixar, Short film

But it's Shi's heartfelt, immigrant-family-inspired story that elevates the film into a must-see experience.

As the dumpling grows older, despite his overprotective mother's influence he shows signs of rejecting his Asian heritage. This is something many second-generation kids can identify with, especially if they went to a predominantly white school – there's a pressure to assimilate and 'become white' in an attempt to fit in better.

In one scene, the mother – realising that she and the dumpling have become distant – goes above and beyond to proudly cook a mouthwatering Chinese feast for dinner, only for the dumpling to shrug at the food in a lackadaisical manner before heading out with his friends.

There's another layer to that scene as well. For many Asian immigrant parents, they rarely if ever say the words 'I love you' to their children. They say 'I love you' by taking care of you, by making sure you're well-fed. Preparing all of this food for the dumpling was the mother's way of saying 'I love you' – and that love was rejected.

I was heartbroken for the mother. I was in tears.

Bao, Pixar

Although the tears were already flowing when the twist happened (to anyone confused, the dumpling sequence was all a metaphor), the moment when the mother's real son returned home and offered her the Chinese treat which he turned down as a child sent me over the edge. It was only after university when I learned to be proud of my Chinese heritage and to embrace it.

But regardless of the Asian perspective, Bao is a story with universal themes which should resonate with most cultures. Motherhood, loneliness, family, love, food bringing people together – these themes are hardly unique to Asian culture, and if somebody's refusal to look beyond their own experience leads them to miss the point of the short, then they're truly missing out.

Fortunately, there have been plenty of non-Asians emotionally affected by Bao , and you can find a boatload of comments on social media singing its praises . In fact, when the credits came up at my screening and I was busy wiping my tears and sniffing repeatedly, one white person to my right clapped in appreciation.

preview for Bao Clip (Disney/Pixar)

"If they are Asian, I hope they enjoy a bit seeing themselves on screen," Shi told the New York Times . "If not, I hope they learn about Chinese culture and community and are more curious about Chinese food, Chinatown. I hope they call their moms and take them out to lunch."

I left the cinema and treated myself to some dumplings for dinner. It felt only right.

Bao and Incredibles 2 are out now in cinemas.

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Chief Sub-Editor

Jess has more than 10 years of experience writing and editing online, specialising in entertainment. 

As Digital Spy 's Chief Sub-Editor, they oversee the subs' desk while working with the wider team to ensure news and features content fits the brand's editorial vision.

 Jess also helps with gaming coverage, including anything to do with The Sims , and has volunteered as a judge for the Independent Games Festival Awards since 2018. 

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