Bao, which will play before Incredibles 2, tells the story of a woman whose children no longer live with her. One day, one of her handmade dumplings has come to life! Bao is directed by storyboard artist, Domee Shi, who is now the first female director of a Pixar short. She drew inspiration from her background as a child of Chinese immigrants, telling Entertainment Weekly, “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. 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.” While animating the short, the animators used footage of Shi’s mother making dumplings as a reference! Shi referred to her mother as a “dumpling master!”
First reported by Entertainment Weekly, this new short is seven-and-a-half minutes long, giving the Chinese-Canadian woman a second shot at motherhood after suffering from the sadness of an empty nest, when one of her dumplings comes to life. Shi goes on to say about the short, “We did a lot of ‘research’ and ate so many buns,” Shi continues, “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.’”
While the exterior design of Dumpling is a smash hit visually, animators who worked on Ratatouille adhered a warning to the Bao team that designing food would not be as simple as it may seem. Producer Becky Neiman-Cobb said, “You know Pixar and you know the special effects we can pull off here: explosions and water and splashes and fire and fireworks. 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.”
This adorably made dumpling will make its premiere in Bao before Incredibles 2 on June 15th.