In "Bao," an aging Chinese mom suffering from empty nest syndrome gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life as a lively, giggly dumpling boy. Mom excitedly welcomes this new bundle of joy into her life, but Dumpling starts growing up fast, and Mom must come to the bittersweet revelation that nothing stays cute and small forever. This short film from Pixar Animation Studios and director Domee Shi explores the ups and downs of the parent-child relationship through the colorful, rich, and tasty lens of the Chinese immigrant community in Canada.
A Chinese couple, consisting of a husband and a wife, live in Toronto, Canada. While the wife cooks some dumplings after the husband leaves for work, one of the dumplings comes alive. The dumpling begins to cry like an infant and sprouts a body of its own. The woman takes sympathy for the creature and she decides to raise it as her own child. However, since the Bao is very soft and frail, the mother becomes overprotective of it while the Bao grows, and in his teenage years, he grows more rebellious and independent, preferring to play soccer and be with his friends. The mother worries that the Bao is growing distant from her and feels ignored. One night, the Bao brings home his fiancée and intends to move out. The mother refuses to let the Bao leave, and while she struggles to stop him, she takes the Bao and eats him. Immediately horrified of what she has done, the mother breaks down in shock.
While the mother weeps in bed, her biological son (who resembles the Bao) enters, revealing that the premise of the Bao was a metaphor for the mother's relationship with her son. The son is urged by his father to apologize to his mother. He offers her the treat his mother used gave the Bao, and they reconcile as they eat the treat together. The film ends with the whole family, including the now-welcomed fiancée, joining together to make dumplings.
- In Chinese, the word "bao" can refer to the characters "包," a bread-esque pastry or bun, or "宝," which means "treasure."
- Bao is the first Pixar short film to be directed by a woman.
- This is, for so far, the last Pixar short film to be released in theaters worldwide, due to Disney+ launching their own series of Pixar shorts simply titled SparkShorts.
- "Pixar's new short ahead of 'Incredibles 2' will be about a Chinese mom’s baby dumpling". The Washington Post (March 28, 2018).