A new Pixar movie is on the way, which means that a new Pixar short is on the way as well. This time around, it’s Bao from director Domee Shi, who will be the first female short director in the studio’s history. Per EW, “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.” I’m already crying.
The title, “Bao”, actually has a double-meaning in China. One way, it means steamed bun, but it also means “something precious. A treasure,” says Shi. When word of the story got around Pixar, people with Asian and immigrant parents contacted her to work on the short (similar to how Pixar’s Latinx community wanted to work on Coco). “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.’”
Shi’s mother also volunteered on the movie, serving as a cultural consultant and providing hands-on dumpling-making demos:
“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.”
Bao also offered its own challenges in terms of getting the look of the dumplings right. “You know Pixar and you know the special effects we can pull off here: explosions and water and splashes and fire and fireworks,” says producer Becky 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.”
Check out the first look at Bao below. The short film will be attached to Incredibles 2, which hits theaters on June 15th.