Just as Marvel Fans expect an end credits scene with every new feature, Disney-Pixar fans expect an exciting and original animated short with every new Pixar release. Bao is no exception, adding to the long standing tradition of short features that are just as famous as the films they are apart of.
The director and creator of the new short, Domee Shi, discussed her inspiration behind Bao and the dual focus of the film that connects food and family. “Bao has two meanings in Chinese. Bao means steambun…said another way, it means treasure or something precious”. Shi wanted to create something weird, unique, and food based. The idea formed back in 2014 when she was working as a story artist on Inside Out.
“I was feeling this itch to make something on my own”, Shi said. In college, she honed in on her obsession with food, creating animated web comics and drawings of her favorite food fantasies. For Bao, Shi figured that food would be a universal element that everyone can enjoy.
Food was just the beginning, as she also wanted to take her own family experiences and create a family based story. “It was a perfect fit. In Chinese culture, food and family go hand in hand”. The trick was to meld a weird food story with her relationship with her mother. Growing up, they were an inseparable duo. “We did everything together. We ate together, commuted and went to school/work together…she would often hold me close…found it difficult to let me go”.
For Bao, she would cook that experience into a budding relationship between a cute dumpling and a Chinese mother that wants to keep him close forever. It all came together, transforming and evolving as she constructed the short with her production team at Pixar. The entire team became immersed in the culture, learning about the food traditions, styles, and mannerisms of Chinese grandma’s in the San Francisco Bay area. Shi’s own mother came in, teaching the crew how to make dumplings. The goal was to generate a level of realism, since food is an element that we pay very close attention to. Everything had to be as perfect as it can be, not only for the sake of aesthetics, but also to prevent viewers from being pulled out of the story should the realism not take hold. Every frame was carefully constructed and referenced.
Laced through it all would be an intricate tale, focusing on the relationship between mother and child. As Shi’s directorial debut, Bao will be a perfect representation of those dynamics and also be a great example of cultural diversity. Becky Neiman, the short’s producer, spoke up about their work on the project and how it’s become part of a growing trend with the studio. “I think the story is really relatable. It connects with a lot of people. The themes are very universal: Food, Family, and Love…It’s very culturally specific, which is super exciting for us all to see on screen”.
Neiman believes that the best stories come from those who can tell a personal story. Coming from a background they know very well, it opens up a lot of opportunities to reach a larger audience. Shi agreed, who was happy to see the growing cultural shift in the industry, especially at Pixar. “I think Pixar has started really embracing really creative and unique storytellers. They’ve always wanted to tell unique stories. It’s been awesome that Bao, Sanjay’s Super Team, and Coco have been the start of a really great trend”
Take a look at some of the amazing behind the scenes images from the newest Pixar short. Bao will debut alongside Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 on June 15th.