This past Monday (December 17), the Academy Awards released its 2019 shortlist of films currently still in contention for the upcoming awards. Included in the list for Best Animated Short was Pixar short film Bao, a poignant and powerful ode to mums that uses a dumpling to explore parent-child relationships, originally screened in cinemas as part of The Incredibles 2. In celebration of its success, Pixar have made Bao available to watch on YouTube for free, from now until Christmas Eve.
The 'creepy but sweet', as director Domee Shi puts in an interview with Thrillist, eight-minute short (Pixar's longest) follows an older Chinese mother dealing with empty nest syndrome. She gets a second go at new motherhood when a teeny-tiny dumpling she's about to eat pops a body, arms and legs and turns into a bao-baby. According to Pixar, as the baby quickly grows into a cute kid and onto an awkward adolescent, the lesson we learn is 'Nothing stays cute and small forever'.
Not only has China-born, Canada-raised Shi made history as the first woman to direct a Pixar short in the still male-dominated industry, she also shares and explores the experiences and stories of Chinese immigrant communities, that in an interview with Vogue, she says she felt there was 'a lack of' on screen.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Shi talks about her inspirations for the short, explaining it 'mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom... And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds...'
As for what she learned in the process? Shi tells Vogue 'I definitely understand [my mom] a little better. The mom character is the main character, so I had to put myself in her point of view... Making the short, I feel more empathy toward parents who experience empty-nest syndrome. Your whole life is raising this kid, and they’re your everything, and then they’re gone.'
Catch the full version of Bao below or click here (VPN on).