This year at the 91st Academy Awards Ceremony Disney Pixar’s short animated film ‘Bao’ wins the Oscar.
One of the main reason to celebrate this occasion is this film is directed by female director Domee Shi.
Here in this blog let’s have a look how short film ‘Bao’ bagged the Oscar award.
With this film ‘Bao’ Domee Shi became the first female short director in the Disney Studio’s history.
Domee shi is a Chinese-Canadian storyboard artist and director for Pixar Animation Studio.
What Is ‘Bao’ All About?
Well, Computer Animated Short Film ‘Bao’ (2018) is all about an aging and lonely Chinese-Canadian mother who is suffering from empty nest syndrome.
The Chinese-Canadian mother gets another chance of motherhood when her handmade steamed bun or Bao comes to life as a boy.
The mother welcomes this new bundle of joy into her life.
She becomes busy in raising the steamed bun as a child.
The dumpling grows fast into teenager and he wants independence.
Mon realises that nothing stays cute and small forever.
Through Bao, the director Domee Shi explores the parent-child relationship, different time phase of parenthood.
Finally when the steamed bun introduced his fiancée and tries to move out of his mother’s house, the mother protests.
The mother tries to stop the Steamed bun and in a fit of anger, mother eats the steamed bun.
After this she cries and feels guilty for her action.
Later her husband understands her loneliness and he calls her real son.
Her real son enters the room and we realise that the whole beginning sequence was an allegorical dream.
At the end the whole family involves in making steamed bun including son’s fiancée while watching television.
Bao was premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018.
Pixar has allowed Bao to be available on You Tube and it is a first time that studio has offered a short in this way.
Making of ‘Bao’or Steamed Bun
Before introducing the idea about Bao to her crew Domee Shi worked on the dumpling alone for 2 years.
To create the main character of Mother, Domee Shi got inspired from her own mother.
As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, Shi put herself into her mother’s place to show the emotional journey.
The director presented the idea of primal love.
The mother loved the steamed bun so much that she did not wanted to let the bun go anywhere.
Shi as a Chinese artist is exposed to many different style of art, animation and film.
Shi has portrayed very diverse characters within this film.
Shi said in her interview that she is feeling tremendous pride in presenting her culture and heritage through this short film.
It is a story regarding food, characters and themes; it is about people around her.
Domee Shi and her crew did lot of research about the food Baozi or steamed bun that is presented in the short.
The crew ate many steamed bun and restaurant trips in San Francisco and Oakland’s Chinatown.
Shi’s mother contributed as a consultant because as a immigrant woman she made her recipes and steamed bun shapes.
In fact Domee Shi’s mother delivered steamed bun making classes twice at Pixar for the filmmaking crew.
The real baozi was tasty but animating the food was quite challenging for the FX artists.
Animating Food Was An Challenge
Shi did lot of storyboard of dumpling to add details in the bun character.
The rendering process was difficult as the food is organic and soft.
The most complicated shots of the film are kneading and wrapping.
The shot of steamed bun with pork filling took two months to complete for the animation artists as they wanted the raw pork to look tasty.
Animating the food follows the same principles of food photography.
To make the shots more colourful artists added big chunks of carrots and onions.
Chinese Culture In Every Shot
Animators followed Japanese Cartoon Animations as for reference to add extreme expressions.
The steamed bun character was made out of dough, so the animators worked hard to highlight bun’s squishy qualities.
The steamed bun has extremely flexible mouth which could be open very big.
Bun is made to be bouncy and he could stretch his limbs out.
The team applied the principle of squishy, round and simple to the whole film scenario including the humans and set design.
In Chinese culture love is expressed through actions not words.
Short film Bao has no dialogues.
To make the story universally understandable for the audience, the makers added acting, emotions and actions into the Bao.
Shi worked with good female Supervisors for this film.
Production designer Rona Liu helped Bao to be more authentic towards Chinese Culture.
Rona Liu is a Chinese American and she got inspired from her personal life.
Both Shi and Liu did lot of research on Chinese culture and art for this film.
Production designer added the cultural details as by adding soy sauce bottles and rice cooker at the background, toilet paper on the kitchen table and more.
The crew visited San Francisco and Oakland Chinatown and took lot of pictures of Chinese people to gather the every single detail about Chinese culture.
Bao is an 8 minute film and is distributed by Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures.
The music was given by Toby Chu, a Chinese-American film composer.
During the Oscar ceremony Domee Shi said “all the nerdy girls who hide themselves behind their sketchbooks; don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world”.
Bao faced a tough competition from four other animated short films.
Asian community around the world appreciated this animated short and congratulated Shi for her achievement.
Bao produced by Becky Neiman-Cobb received applause from all over the world.
Making a mesmerising animation film is always a challenge for the filmmaker but hard work gets recognised at the end of the day.
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