Our Look At The Making of Disney Pixar Short Bao!

Hey All!

As you all know, Disney Pixar films always have an amazing short that comes before the feature film. We got to check out the details of the new Pixar short Bao in addition to the press conference for The Incredibles 2. The creator (Domee Shi) and producer (Becky Neiman) of the accompanying Pixar Short Bao came out to provide insight into the making of this touching and adorable piece.

The creator herself, Domee Shi, came out to first explain why Bao was the perfect title for the short:

“So bao has two meanings in Chinese. Said one way, bao, it means steam bun. But said another way, Bao, it means treasure or something precious.”

Domee began as a story artist at Pixar with the first film she worked on being Inside Out in 2014. She showed us a sample of her work from Inside Out comparing her story board to the final product.
Working late one night she decided that she wanted to make something on her own. Something that was personal to her.

“What was it going to be about? At the time my number one obsession in life: food.”

“I also loved food fairy tales as well, because they’re so cute and strange, like the gingerbread man. And I wanted to do a Chinese version of that with a little dumpling instead of a cookie. And I also wanted to do a story about family. And I thought it was a perfect fit because in Chinese culture, food and family just go hand in hand. Especially dumplings.”

“So the first ingredient for Bao came from tapping into what I loved which is food. And the second ingredient was taping into what I knew; which was my own personal experience growing up as an only child. This photo is of me and mom in China. And I feel like ever since I was little she always treated me like I was her precious little dumpling. Always watching over me. Making sure I was safe. Making sure I never wandered away too far.”

Much like the dumpling in Bao, Domee and her mother did everything together. And also like in Bao, there came a point where Domee wanted to pull away and become her own person. Domee even mentioned where a key scene in the short came from:

“(My mother would) often hold me close and say ‘I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I knew exactly where you were at all times.’”

Which Domee of course responded to her mother saying:

“Aw that’s sweet but creepy.”

Domee’s mother was a real inspiration for the short. So much so that she even flew her mother in to give the effects and animator crew classes on how to make dumplings. This was clearly taken to heart as when you watch Bao, the dumpling making scenes are illustrated to look both realistic and beautiful.

Domee continued:

“And the third ingredient for this short was China Town. Torronto China Town. I wanted to honor the equally vibrant residents of China Town: The China Town Grannies. I wanted to celebrate their bold color choices. Their keen eye for the freshest produce. Their determination to get the best deal and to mow down anybody in their way. And so Bao originally started out as a personal side project I was doing outside of work. But on a whim I pitched it to Pete Docter, the director of Inside Out, of Monsters, Inc., and my mentor at the time sort of. Just to get his advice on it. And he just love it so much that he encouraged me to pitch it out to the studio when there was an open call for short pitches. And so I pitched Bao and a couple other ideas, not knowing if Pixar would ever go for a story this off kilter. But they did and in fact that’s what they loved about the short. That it was so weird and unique and so surprising.”

Getting into the actual story, Domee explained:

“I always knew I wanted to create the story about a lonely empty nester mom who goes through a crazy dumpling fantasy in order to process her real son moving away.”

Domee then flashed for us her beat boards, essentially story boards, which showed the outline of the story.

She then showed us some inspirations that lead to the style used in the short saying this:

“Style-wise, me and Rhona (the production designer) were looking at a lot of classic Chinese folk art and folk figurines. We were drawn to these really simple and graphic characters. We loved how the design emitted details and joints and necks and made the characters look really round and cute. And they already really looked like dumplings which I thought was really cool.”

Getting into the physics of the character of dumpling, Domee continued:

“(Dumpling) was a fun challenge as well. We really wanted to take advantage of the fact he’s made of dough. That he’s really squishy, he’s not going to grow really big or small. His arms and legs can stretch out. He’s a got a little bounce to his step. He’s a squishy, doughy steam bun and we really wanted to honor his material in every shot that he is in. And so as a test, the animators did this really fun little test of dumpling.”

While showing us the test footage, Domee explained:

“We can treat his head like a doughy sock that forms around anything you stuff it with.”

Taking on audience questions, it was asked if Pixar is looking for more diversity like Coco and now Bao. Becky answered:

“It’s hopefully the start of a really great trend. And like Domee said people tell the best story when it’s something they know really well or something personal. So to find stories like this, you go to find people. It’s about finding diverse story tellers.”

Then when asked, if she had any plans to do a feature length production Domee responded:

“Maybe. Yeah. That’s the plan.”

At which point Becky quickly stated:

“She’s in development now.”

Which means Domee Shi is now someone to be on the lookout for in the next few years as her feature is sure to be something unique and memorable, just like Bao. Finally, Domee’s mother was able to come down from the audience and take photos with her daughter and Becky.

It was so fun to learn how this amazing short came to be. Be sure to check it out before the INCREDIBLES 2 June 15th!

Visit the official INCREDIBLES 2 website here: http://disney.com/incredibles2


Jesse Delia