Food, Family Inspired Pixar's First Female-Directed Short Film, 'Bao'

Pixar's first female short film director, Domee Shi, creates a touching portrait of an immigrant mother.

Food, Family Inspired Pixar's First Female-Directed Short Film, 'Bao'
Pixar Animation Studios / "Bao"

Pixar's latest short film, "Bao," is about a Chinese-Canadian mother suffering from empty nest syndrome when one of her dumplings comes to life.

Twenty-eight-year-old Domee Shi is the creative force behind the film as well as the first female animated short director in Pixar's 32-year history. "Bao" is also the first Pixar short to feature a Chinese person. On a Canadian newscast, Shi describes the title of the short this way:

"Bao has two meanings in Chinese. Said one way, 'bao,' it means steam bun. ... And said another way it means 'precious' or 'a treasure.'"

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Hollywood lacks female directors — women make up about 7 percent — as well as female and Asian leads. So some say this touching portrait of an immigrant mom offers authenticity and diverse storytelling.  

Shi is an only child of Chinese immigrant parents in Toronto, and she drew inspiration from her experiences and culture. Even the main character was inspired by her mother. 

"My mom, I tried to involve her as much as possible in making this short as well. Like, she's come twice to do dumpling-making classes for the whole crew. ... Those opening shots in the short of those hands, making the dumplings, those are basically my mom's hands," Shi said.  

And, if watching a baby bao gets you hungry, Shi shared her Mom's dumpling recipe — complete with drawings. 

"Bao" plays in theaters before the film "Incredibles 2."