Family in my life is my number one priority, but as any mother knows children grow up way to fast. It is as if you blink your eyes and they are no longer in diapers and can now text you from the living room to ask for something to drink. Bao is a short created by Director Domee Shi & Producer Becky Neiman Post. While in LA for the #Incredibles2Event I had the honor of meeting these powerful and creative women in person and interview them.
The short story of ‘Bao’ is Pixar’s first ever all woman-directed short in Pixar History. In this short story, you will find a touching yet familiar story that I feel as though all of us mothers go through in our own special way. I was truly touched by this story and cannot wait to see it in the theaters again with the kids. As an Asian American (Filipino American) I am more than excited to be celebrating this short and showing it off to my children.
Disney and Pixar have done it again by letting us peek into that Asian Culture inside of the home. We have gotten little tastes of how Disney has highlighted our Asian culture, but with this short, it was like a cherry on top running in front of the Incredibles 2 film. Without further ado, I am sharing an inside look on this short as told by Director Domee Shi & Producer Becky Neiman Post.
PS: If you like this interview you should definitely check out the other Incredibles 2 Film Interviews listed below!
- Incredibles 2 Interview with Craig T. Nelson & Holly Hunter | Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl Inside Look – Click Here.
- Incredibles 2 Interview with Samuel L. Jackson | Frozone Tells All – Click Here.
The inspiration for the short ‘Bao’
Domee Shi: I came up with the idea over four years ago technically. I think it was in my office late one night and I was really hungry. I really wanted to do a modern take on a classic fairytale like The Little Gingerbread Man but with a Chinese dumpling. Actually, I was like just doodling in this image of this mom nuzzling her little baby boy dumpling to death. It just popped into my head. I had to draw it out, and as I was drawing I started developing this story. I was also drawing a lot of inspiration from my own life growing up.
I’m an only child, and ever since I was little I feel like my mom and my dad have always treated me like a precious little dumpling, always making sure that I’m always like safe and never wandered away too far. My mom is actually over there. So, I didn’t wander away too far. I want to explore that relationship between this parent and this child and this mom character learning to let go of her little dumpling.
Producer Becky Neiman Post shared a fun fact with us
I’m not sure you all know this, but the title Bao has two meanings. One is steam bun and one is treasure or something precious.
Want the Full ‘Bao’ inspired recipe as made by Domee’s Mom? Head over HERE to check it out and download it today!
Choosing the point-of-view of the mom versus the point-of-view of the child
Domee Shi: When I’m coming up with stories or when I’m developing any art or anything like that, I wanna learn something new as well. And if it was just from the dumplings point-of-view, I already know ’cause that’s me. And I guess I wanted to learn what it was like for my mom like learning to let go of me. And so, I decided to explore this idea from the parents’ point-of-view.
Becky Neiman Post: Didn’t she do a good job? Every day I’d be like how do you know that. Well, my mom like — yeah
Domee Shi: Then if it gets too autobiographical, then you get too precious with details and you don’t wanna cut stuff out. So, it was good to kind of tell the story from a distance.
Did you consult your mom a lot?
Domee Shi: Yeah, she has a creative consultant credit actually. In the short. We brought her in twice to do dumpling-making classes for the whole thing.
So, it was really important for us to get all of those little details right and to get the animators and effects artists like in there like studying my mom technique of like how she folds the dumpling exactly and kneads the dough and just like, you know, poking the dough and smelling the pork filling. ‘Cause it was important to get those details right, like just to get them as accurate as possible on the big screen.
Have you gotten reactions from children seeing it yet?
Becky Neiman Post: Yeah, it’s touching everyone what we have, yeah.
Domee Shi: We showed it at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, and this little girl, I think she was like ten years old came up to us afterward, and she was like, oh, I loved it so much. I loved the little dumpling. And then she said like I turned to my mom after and I said you better not eat me when I go off to college. So, I was like, oh, good. I didn’t traumatize you. Good.
Becky Neiman Post: But she got it. And also at Tribeca we had a woman come up to us and she said, you know, my boyfriend he never cries. He’s like not very emotional, but he sobbed at your short. We just need to make sure you guys know this.
Comments on How This Film Helps Gently Depict Empty Nester Mom’s
Becky Neiman Post: We have found that it’s this very unique and culturally specific story, but the themes are so universal. And we found that with our crew. Anybody who would join would just be like I am Dumpling. I’m the mom. I’m the girlfriend. You know, I started. I was the dumpling. I became a mom during the making of this short. And then I related more to the mom.
Speaking of the dumpling scene, what did that mean to you being the daughter and creating that?
Becky Neiman Post: Oh, yeah. It’s been awesome. I never, yeah, I never would’ve expected that I would collaborate professionally with my mom on my first short film. So, it’s been amazing. Yeah.
How does she feel like you portraying like her eating you?
Domee Shi: The idea for it came from a true story. She would always hold me close and be like, oh, I wish I could put you back in my stomach. And I’m like, oh, Mom, that’s sweet but creepy.
Becky Neiman Post: Now I say it to my baby.
Pixar’s really well known for their rules of storytelling. So, what were the most important rules that you followed while you were making this?
Domee Shi: Oh, we definitely we follow one protagonist. I think that’s really important to kinda just pick your main character and then like follow them emotionally throughout the whole story. And for us the main character was the mom character. And we tried to tell the whole story from her point-of-view. And we tried to get the audience to feel what she’s feeling on screen and to never feel like they were ever ahead of her or behind her like emotionally.
Becky Neiman Post: Yeah, even when we were working with our composer, that would be the direction that we would give ‘em. Mom feels terrible right now, the music needs to reflect that, this is a happy time for her. They’re really connected. And even the lighting direction would support that.
Domee Shi: Everything has to support the characters and their emotion throughout the story. So, we couldn’t design stuff just for the sake of it looks really cool or colorful. It has to be like, okay, where are in the story? Is she feeling really low or lonely, or is she feeling really happy? And we would design her clothes to be even more colorful if she’s like feeling really happy and close to the dumpling. Or like the lighting would reflect the relationship between Mom and dumpling.
Conveying the storyline without using any words
Domee Shi: It was challenging, but I really loved the challenge, ’cause my background is storyboarding. And I just love visual storytelling so much. And so, it was a conscious decision for us to like early on take out the dialogue completely from the whole short so that the story could be understood more universally. Anybody from any country and any age could understand what was happening. And I think animation is such a cool visual medium that I thought it’d be a cool challenge for the team to just push themselves to just tell the story and emotions through the acting and through the set dressing, through the colors.
Becky Neiman Post: Yeah, there’s a lotta little details in the sets. Like, in the kitchen there’s tinfoil covering the burners, which, you know, in that subtle way you’re seeing Mom’s practicalness. It’s also something that’s common in Asian households and lotta little things like that to help teach you who this character is and tell the story.
The Story of how Director came to work with Pixar?
Domee Shi: I came to Pixar as a story intern in 2011, and the story internship is a three-month storyboarding Bootcamp, and you just do assignment after assignment. You pitch to a whole room full of like veteran story artists, supervisors, directors, every week. And that was kind of my way of training myself to be up for this job. And then I didn’t know if I was gonna get a position afterward, but they offered me a full-time position as a story artist on Inside Out after.
And so, I worked on Inside Out for about two and a half years, and then I moved on to The Good Dinosaur. Then I moved on to Toy Story 4. I even did a small stint on Incredibles 2.
Domee Shi’s thoughts on storyboarding the sequences with Edna and Jack Jack.
Domee Shi: Those were super fun to board. Then it just so happened that like one year Pixar had almost like an open audition at the studio. Anybody who has ideas for short films, you can pitch ‘em to us. And I like me, me. And I then signed up. I pitched three ideas. Bao was one of them. And then, yeah, the rest is history.
As the first female director/team of a Pixar Short, how do you feel about that?
Domee Shi: I feel super like honored and humble, but hopefully I’m the first of many female short film directors and feature film directors. It’s been awesome. I was telling Becky it almost didn’t hit me that I would be the first because making the short I was just focused on like finishing it and hoping that people liked it or understood it. And now I can kinda sit back and bask and be like wow. We’re blazing that trail.
Becky Neiman Post: It’s happening. Yeah, and you had a really strong female leadership team. It’s us, but it’s also our editor, our production designer, our sound editor, our production manager, technical manager.
Was Dumpling’s girlfriend always gonna be a white girl?
Domee Shi: Well, the whole purpose of that story point was to show was to present to Mom a woman the complete opposite of her, so someone who was younger, someone who wasn’t Chinese. And she was almost presented as like almost like Mom’s worst nightmare. But with this Mom character, we’re showcasing her through the ringer basically, kind of just she has to adapt to change.
And this character, this like female Caucasian girlfriend character is like the most different thing that she’s ever seen ever. And she’s gonna like come in and swoop in and take her baby son away. So, Mom has to come kind of go through that hurdle and accept her at the end.
Why a boy instead of a girl dumpling?
Domee Shi: Well, like I mentioned before, like I like that creative separation between me and my arts. So, if it was gonna be a girl, then I think I would’ve gotten too heady and like this is me, this is my life. And I also it was always a boy in my head. That first image was of that mom like nuzzling this baby boy dumpling to death. And I just wanted to kind of run with it and see where it would take me.
How did you feel when they found out their short was gonna be in front of Incredibles 2?
Domee Shi: Oh, my gosh. It was amazing. We had no idea
Becky Neiman Post: When we start on these things, one, we’re not even sure that they’ll, green light it. Two, we’re not sure we’ll be able to finish it. So, we’re definitely like the indie wing of Pixar, the shorts programs is where the feature films are what need to get made. And so, oftentimes we’ll have to stop production so that artist can go work on those. So, we had a lotta starts and stops. Then we don’t even know if we’ll be able to be in theaters.
We only just found out like within the last year that we could finish it and that we’d be attached to Incredibles 2. We could not believe it. We know that this feature is so highly anticipated and so we hope more people will be able to see it. And the thing too is that we’ve noticed is on the surface they look like very different films, but they both feature strong super moms. And so, we feel like there’s this really sweet connection between two. So, it’s been awesome for us.
How did it feel to be able to bring this Asian culture to Pixar with this short film? We’ve only had like small doses of it Asian culture Disney film.
Domee Shi: Oh, it’s been awesome. My original intention with this short is just to like tell this story that might be familiar with a lot of people around the world between like a parent learning to let go of their child. But that’s almost like a Trojan horse to kinda introduce the world to these different little like specific cultural details that I grew up with that I think are super cool, like making dumplings and like what a Chinese household looks like, or just like what a typical day in this Chinese mom’s life is like shopping for groceries, like, you know, not at an Albertson’s but a Chinatown.
We’re telling this universal story but with like this culturally specific paintbrush. More people can learn more about this stuff that they don’t know much about. So, I’m really excited about it.
Although this is the end of the interview, don’t forget that Pixar’s newest film The Incredibles 2 movie is premiering June 15th! It’s been a film 14 years in the making but picks up where the last film had let off at. Check out the information and trailer below for more deets on this new Incredible film.
INCREDIBLES 2 opens in theatres everywhere on June 15th!
In INCREDIBLES 2, Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is called on to lead a campaign to bring Supers back, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell), Dash (voice of Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack—whose superpowers are about to be discovered.
Their mission is derailed, however, when a new villain emerges with a brilliant and dangerous plot that threatens everything. But the Parrs don’t shy away from a challenge, especially with Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) by their side. That’s what makes this family so Incredible.
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Visit the official INCREDIBLES 2 website here: https://disney.com/incredibles2
INCREDIBLES 2 opens in theatres everywhere on June 15th!