At the #Incredibles2Event, I got the chance to watch “Bao”, the upcoming Pixar short that will be featured right before the Incredibles 2! Get the scoop on the new short, plus check out this interview with the Director and Producers of Bao where they talked about the inspiration behind the short and how they brought the story to life!
Watch the sneak peek here!
What is Bao??
The short Bao is about a Chinese-Canadian mother dealing with a recently empty nest and she gets “another chance at motherhood” when one of her dumplings comes to life! The Director, Domee Shi, has worked as a story artist on Inside Out and Toy Story 4, and will be the first female director of a Pixar short.
“Bao” can mean two things in Chinese, depending on how it is said: “said one way, it means ‘steamed bun,’ but said another way … it means ‘treasure’ or ‘something precious.’” – She
Shi always knew she wanted her new short film to be about her number one love… food!! She not only loves to eat, but also loves to draw food related stories. She found that everyone can relate to their love of food and eating!
This food folktale was also inspired slightly by the Gingerbread man, creating a story that was equally “so stange but so charming”.
Inspiration from Chinatown
Director Domee Shi used her own background for inspiration on this short. She is an immigrant from China but grew up in Toronto, Canada. She says in Chinese culture, food and family go together hand in hand,
“If you love someone, you ask, have you eaten yet?” – Domee Shi
Her other inspiration = Chinatown! Shi grew up going to Toronto Chinatown to grocery shop and eat dinner all the time. The vibrant and lively setting is honored in the short with bold colors while she also was inspired by the citizens of Chinatown in the characters.
Additionally, Production Designer Rona Lui immigrated to the United States from China when she was 10 and was so grateful to be able to express her experiences through this short.
“Working on “Bao” was extremely special to me because it gave me the chance to express my experience as an immigrant through color and design.” – Lui
Lui wanted the short to feel very cute, and have strong ties to Chinese folk art. Chinese folk art can leave out things like joints and necks in order to create rounder, cuter characters! Knowing that they wanted to create that kind of look in Bao, they focused on simplisitic, chunky and minuature designs.
“In asian art, there is the tendency to make the smaller things in life the main subject. Omit what is not necessary.” – Lui
But the parallels don’t stop there. Domee Shi’s dad worked a lot and she spent a lot with her mom growing up. In fact, Shi talked about how her moms struggle with her leaving the nest inspiried this short, and how the character of mom must cope with “the bittersweet revelation that nothing stays cute and small forever.”
“Creepy, sweet love of a mom that learns to let go of her little dumping was the spark that became the heart of this short” – Domee Shi
Her mom is also the self-proclaimed dumpling queen! During production, Shi’s mom worked as a cultural consultant. Her mom came into the studio and taught the entire crew how to make authentic dumplings while they filmed to use during the creation of characters!
“I wanted to make sure the animators knew how to fold and make the dumplings and to see how much labor and detail goes into it.” – Shi
The charming and lovable character of Mom is the star of Bao. “While researching in Chinatown, we were passing by a lot of bold fashion choices!” Lui said with a laugh.
The crew wanted to make that we used those colors and patterns when creating Mom’s look and tell the story of her evolving emotions, using brighter prints when she was happy and more muted tones when sad.
Lui also adds that her mom constantly told her to wear a hat to protect her skin, and thats where Mom got her visor!
The first step to creating a perfect Pixar short- doodling!
Domee Shi spent the first few months doodling plenty of ideas for her characters. She wanted to create the perfect Mom for this short, down to the comfy shoes and floral shirts.
At first, she wanted Mom to create a dumping girlfriend for Bao, but she ended up cutting other characters out to focus on Mom and Bao (the dumpling son!).
More ideas and drawings were discarded than the ones she ended up keeping, practice makes perfect!
The character of Bar (the dumpling) had multiple character plans before settling on the final design. He even developed a wide range of personality! Lui added, “Dumpling needed to feel cute, delicious, and squishy!”
The color and texturing was based off of working with real dumplings (prepared by Shi’s mom!).
Everyone can relate to this short through the universal themes of love, family, and food!
“When you watch it, we hope that you will feel like you do when you’re at your mom’s house: feeling cozy, and safe, and loved.” – Shi
Bao premieres right before the Incredibles 2 on June 14th!