Director: Domee Shi
Screenwriter: Domee Shi
Starring: Tim Zhang
Pixar Animation Studios short film Bao, originally released as a pre-screening tie in to Incredibles 2, is a beautiful montage piece filled to the brim with Pixar’s signature effervescence and life; a film tied to the very nature of our being told from the not-so-far-away land of Canada through one woman’s nurturing of a… dumpling. Yes, a dumpling.
The story of a Canadian-Chinese woman suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome is one that hits with a punch to the heart much like those that have been so prevalent in Pixar’s short films and montages since their very earliest releases, the collusion of score, visuals and the simple universal truths within Domee Shi’s written story coming to define this 7 and a half minutes as endearing, artistic, entertaining pleasure; the perfect way to broach such a tough subject to a wide audience through cinema’s most lasting property: empathy.
As is always the case with Pixar, the animation on offer in Bao is simply phenomenal – second to none – with the animation of the food in particular (everything from lettuce leaves to pancakes) being quite appropriately the most salivating aspect of this particular short’s visual feast. In keeping with the mantra of creating a world through which their audiences can escape, the film also samples the fundamentals of what makes a Pixar film feel so alive, with movement within the frame an ever-present feature and the timing of comedy overlapping with traditional silent cinema techniques regarding lighting and editing to drive home the more emotional story beats (through which it truly hits home).
The score, composed by Surf’s Up 2 and Unforgettable composer Toby Chu, was also fittingly to the Pixar standard, the blend of traditional Chinese instruments with the recognisable lulls and rises of the Pixar score working to squeeze each emotion, gently seeking more and more investment into the silent central character until the film’s terrific, beautiful and heart-wrenching reveal.
It’s easy to see why Bao has been so widely heralded and celebrated in its medium, not least with its Oscar nomination. This is yet another truly phenomenal Disney Pixar short film that joins the pantheon of fellow Oscar nominated outings, and one that just so happens to tell its heartfelt tale through food.