Why Everyone Talking ‘Bao,’ Pixar’s Animated Short Preceding ‘Incredibles 2.’

Animated Short

Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” made $200 million in just four days, and the family-friendly movie has also received glowing reviews from critics. However, it’s not just the feature film itself that has people buzzing: “Bao,” the animated short playing before “Incredibles 2,” is giving kids the giggles and making parents in the audience nod in teary-eyed, “I know that feeling” agreement.

“Bao” was directed by Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi. It tells the story of a Chinese mother who is now an empty-nester since her son has grown up and flown the coop. Like many empty-nesters, the mom feels lonely, sad and without an outlet for all her motherly affection.

Luckily, a dumpling she cooked for dinner suddenly comes to life! He’s crying, cooing and needs some nurturing — and who better to care for him than this loving mama?

As the film progresses, we see how the little dumpling goes from adorable and needy to sometimes petulant and even downright disobedient. The mom struggles to care for him and finds herself occasionally losing her patience, but she stays the course and keeps on loving and protecting him, as any dedicated mama does.

But then the little dumpling starts to grow up. Suddenly the viewers begin to understand that this is not just a story about a cute, mischievous little creature — it’s also about the universal struggle of parents everywhere who have to eventually let go of their children so they can spread their wings and leave the nest.

Getty, Roy Rochlin

In addition to being an expertly told story that has parents everywhere feeling weepy, “Bao” is also the first Pixar film directed by a woman. Shi was one of 20 people who pitched Pixar with ideas for a short, and although she feared that her concept would be too dark or culturally specific (due to the many nods to Chinese culture in the film), the team at Pixar absolutely loved her pitch.

“Everyone in the world has been an overprotective parent who won’t let go of their kid or the kid who has left the nest,” says Shi, explaining the film’s universal appeal to Time magazine. “And they’re brought together by food at some point. We’re using that universal theme of food and family as a Trojan horse to introduce people to baos and Chinatown and what a Chinese home looks and feels like.”

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