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Pixar's Bao: Top 10 Facts to Know!

Top 10 Facts about “Bao” Subscribe:… Script written by Johnny Reynolds This short film by pixar is incredible! For this list, we’re looking at the most interesting facts surrounding the short film that played in front of Pixar’s latest release, “Incredibles 2.”

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Top 10 Facts About “Bao”

If it’s Pixar, you know it must be incredible. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts about “Bao.”

For this list, we’re looking at the most interesting facts surrounding the short film that played in front of Pixar’s latest release, “Incredibles 2.”

#10: “Bao” Has Multiple Meanings

In Chinese, some words can take on multiple meanings depending on how they are pronounced. “Bao,” for example, means “steamed bun.” But it can also mean “something precious” or “treasure.” The short revolves around a woman who makes these steamed buns for dinner one night and is surprised when one of them comes to life. Raising it as her own, the relationship becomes strained as the child grows older and feels his mother is smothering him. The end reveals that her relationship with the dumpling is representative of what happened between her and her real son. This means that the title takes on a couple of literal meanings, both equally important.

#9: It’s Been a Project for a Long Time

Director Domee Shi realized her love for writing about food through her animated web comics. But this specific project has been in the works since 2014. As a story artist for Pixar, she’s contributed to films like “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur.” While working on these projects, the ideas that would go into creating “Bao” began to formulate in her head. She started combining some of her favorite things like food and family, and worked on her side project as a “way to let off creative steam”. When the short was approved, she created all storyboards on her own, even though she was also busy working on “Toy Story 4.”

#8: It Includes a Statement About Interracial Dating

As the short goes on, the relationship between the mother and Bao becomes strained. And things really come to a head when Bao brings home a white fiancée. Shi wanted the woman to be the exact opposite of the mother to show the strangeness some parents feel when their children begin dating interracially. But she also wanted to play with the expectations of the audience. The mother’s imagined version of the girl wears her shoes in the house, while the real version at the end does not. The real version is also better at making the dumplings than the son, all around showing her respect for Chinese culture and customs.

#7: “Bao” Is Influenced by Japanese Animation, Chinese Folk Art, & Asian Art

Though “Bao” was inspired by traditional folktales like “The Gingerbread Man”, Shi and her production designer, Rona Liu, drew inspiration from a variety of art forms. From Japanese animation, they were influenced by the Studio Ghibli film “My Neighbors the Yamadas,” as well as the Manga series, “One Piece.” They also both loved how Chinese Folk art emphasizes the little things in life, and wanted their film to achieve something similar. As far as designing the style for the locations, Liu looked to Asian art, as she stated it isn’t “concerned with perfection”. This is most apparent in the mother’s house, which has a distinct lack of perfectly straight lines.

#6: The Setting & Character Design Were Inspired by Real Life

The setting of “Bao” was inspired by Toronto’s Chinatown in Canada, where Shi was raised. The production team took research trips and used Shi’s hometown for inspiration. But they also used the resident “Chinatown grannies” as inspiration for the mother in both visual design and characterization. Inside the mother’s house, the inspiration gets even more personal. The team sought to blend the visual elements of East and West, so while the house’s design is Western, it is filled with trinkets that reference Eastern culture. These small details serve to subtly build up the betrayal the mother feels when her son distances himself from her heritage.

#5: The Animation Has a Lot of Little Details – but Also Took a While to Get Right

“Bao” includes many small details that enhance its world. For example, the way the mother dresses reflects her emotions. When sad, she wears subdued colors, and when happy, she wears brighter colors like gold and red. This color trick can also be seen in the lighting for each shot. Building a world so distinctly also came with several challenges, as the team found most of the food difficult to animate. The dough proved challenging due to it’s consistency and how it looked under different lighting, and it took months for animators to perfect the look of the pork filling. But it was well worth the effort.

#4: There Were Different Versions

Shi thought up several different outcomes for the short before deciding on the final one. At first, she thought Pixar might not like the dark version where the mother eats the dumpling to keep him from leaving. But Pete Doctor, the director behind “Inside Out,” urged her to keep it. Her actual ending would go through several changes as well. In one version, the mother created a girlfriend and house for her dumpling son, and angrily ate everything when the dumpling tried to leave. In another version, Shi had the mother collapse after swallowing her “child”, before waking up in the hospital with her real son. But the ending she kept fits better, keeping the story at home.

#3: The Dumpling-Making Was Realistic (With Shi’s Mom’s Help)

Shi’s mother worked as a “Cultural Consultant” on “Bao”. During her childhood, Shi and her mother used to make these dumplings together during the holidays and on weekends, so she knew her mother would serve as an excellent source. Shi’s mom gave the entire creative team tutorials on how to make the dumplings from scratch. This helped them during the animation process, as they observed details like the proper bowl to use for mixing the filling, and the amount of flour to leave on the cutting board. Her classes helped to make “Bao” much more realistic.

#2: It’s Inspired by Shi’s Own Life

While growing up in Toronto, Shi’s father would often be out on business trips, so she spent most of her formative years with her mother. The two would bond over making food, and Shi drew on these memories when making her short. In Chinese culture, people show love for one another through food, and she wanted “Bao” to capture that. Shi can also remember her mother squeezing her tight and saying, “I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I knew exactly where you were at all times.” This blend of creepy and sweet is something that she would channel in creating the story for “Bao.”

#1: “Bao” is the First Pixar Short by a Woman

“Bao” isn’t just incredible for the thoughtful and touching story it tells. It is also a big step forward for Pixar, as it’s their first short directed by a woman. While it’s been a long time coming, the director is very hopeful for the future. Not only is she grateful for Pixar greenlighting such a culturally-specific short, but she also stated that the studio has been hiring more female employees. “Bao” will hopefully be a signal of change within the industry as it’s director, production designer, producer, and various other crew members are women. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of Domee Shi, as well as other talented female animators, very soon.


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