'Bao,' First Female-Directed Pixar Short, Is Nominated For An Oscar

The film draws from director Domee Shi's experiences growing up in Toronto’s Chinese community.
Pixar’s “Bao” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
Pixar’s “Bao” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.

The team behind “Bao” has (dim) sum celebrating to do. 

The short film, directed by Chinese-Canadian Domee Shi, received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short on Tuesday. The film is Pixar’s first original short directed by a woman. 

Warning: Spoilers for “Bao” below!

In it, a Chinese mother grapples with empty nest syndrome. When one of her dumplings springs to life, she gets another stab at motherhood. But her little boy bao (which means “steamed bun” and “treasure” in Chinese) won’t stay cute and small forever, and he eventually turns into a rebellious dude who attempts to leave home with his blond girlfriend. 

Out of desperation, the mother eats the dumpling. But the audience soon sees that the dumpling was a metaphor for her actual son, who bears a strong resemblance to the glasses-and-goatee-sporting bao.  

The short’s road to recognition hasn’t been all that easy. Shi’s film draws from her experiences growing up in Toronto’s Chinese community and illustrates that familiar tug between Chinese and Western cultures that so many kids of Chinese immigrant families know well. Peppered throughout the short are cultural markers like the classic red bowls, shrimp chips and a rice cooker. 

Shi also touches on the well-meaning overprotectiveness of Asian parents as well as interracial dating. 

“Interracial dating is just a huge thing, and a lot of immigrant families are dealing with it,” Shi explained to Thrillist. “[Their] kids are bringing home spouses or partners or people that are not from the same culture as their parents. There isn’t a lot of conflict, but it’s more like there’s an awkwardness because there’s just a strangeness to it.”

But many non-Asian viewers found the short confusing or even laughable. 

Regardless, Asians everywhere seem pretty stoked that a story that hits close to home for so many is in the running for an Oscar. 

“Bao” is available for rent or purchase on YouTube. The Academy Awards will be given out on Feb. 24.

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