Disney / Movies & Events

A Mom and Her Dumpling in the Pixar Short ‘Bao’

Updated January 21, 2019

Photo Credit: Mom Start

Bao means One is steam bun and one is treasure or something precious.

The Pixar short ‘Bao’ debuting before ‘Incredibles 2’ is adorable, squishy, huggable and loveable all into one. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and I know you will too. While I was in LA last week I had the chance to sit down and talk with “Bao” Director Domee Shi & Producer Becky Neiman. We discussed the making of ‘Bao’, the inspiration for the film, the making of a dumpling, being the first female director and more. Read on to find out more!

Inspiration for the Film

Domee Shi: I came up with the idea over four years ago and really wanted to do a modern take on a classic fairytale like The Little Gingerbread Man but with a Chinese dumpling. I was doodling this image of this mom nuzzling her little baby boy dumpling to death. It just popped into my head. I had to draw it out, and as I was drawing I started developing this story. I was also drawing a lot of inspiration from my own life growing up.

I’m also an only child, and ever since I was little I feel like my mom and my dad have always treated me like a precious little dumpling, always making sure I was safe and never wandered away too far. My mom is actually over there. So, I didn’t wander away too far. I want to explore that relationship between this parent and this child and this mom character learning to let go of her little dumpling.

Photo Credit: Disney

Mom’s Point of View

Domee Shi chose the point-of-view of the mom versus the point-of-view of the dumpling for 2 reasons.

-Wanted to know what it was like for a mom to let go of a child.
-Wanted to tell a story from a distance.

Her Mom was the Consultant

Domee Shi consulted her mom on several things while making the short ‘Bao’ including one of them as to how to make dumplings. Get her mom’s dumpling recipe below.

Domee Shi: Yeah, she has a creative consultant credit for the short. We brought her in twice to do dumpling-making classes. It was really important for us to get all of those little details right and to get the animators and effects artists in there studying my mom’s technique on how she folds the dumpling exactly and kneads the dough, poking the dough and the pork filling. It’s important to get those details right and accurate as possible on the big screen.

Bao Steamed Dumpling Recipe

Bao Steamed Dumpling Recipe


For the Dough

  • 4 cups of flour
  • ¾ teaspoons of dry yeast
  • 500 ml of water

For the Filling

  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 lb of Chinese cabbage (minced)
  • 1 carrot (minced)
  • 2-3 green onions stalks (chopped)
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 2-3 tsp cooking wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • (adjust all seasonings to taste)


  1. Mix flour with yeast in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add water and knead until a solid ball forms. If it gets too sticky add more flour. If it’s too dry add more water.
  3. Let the dough rise for 2 hours.
  4. Cook half of the ground pork in a pan and mix it with the raw pork.
  5. Mix the por with the chopped cabbage, carrots, green onions, ground ginger, sesame oil, olive oil, pepper, chicken bouillon powder, oyster sauce, cooking wine, beaten egg and salt.
  6. Once your dough has risen, dust your countertop with flour and roll out the dough into a long rope, using the “windmill technique”.
  7. Cut the dough rope into ½ pieces. Roll each piece out into a wrapper.
  8. Spoon a ½ tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper. Then carefully pinch and fold the wrapper closed, twisting the top to finish. Make sure to press the dough tight to seal the wrapper.
  9. Bring a pot of water to boil. Place the baos in a steaming basket lined with cabbage leaves to prevent sticking, and place the basket on top of the boiling pot of water. Close lid. Steam for 15 minutes, then turn off heat and let the baos rest for 5 minutes.
  10. Enjoy and eat.

Photo Credit: Disney

A Challenge with No Words

One thing that can be challenging for a short film is that you must tell a story that everyone will get with no words. They did find it challenging but pushed it through animation.

Domee Shi: It was challenging, but I really loved the challenge, ’cause my background is storyboarding. And I just love visual storytelling so much. And so, it was a conscious decision for us to like early on like take out the dialogue completely from the whole short so that the story could be understood, like more universally. Like, anybody from like any country and like any like age could understand what was happening. And I think animation is such a cool visual medium, too, that I thought it’d be a cool challenge for the team to just push themselves to just tell the story and emotions through the acting and through the set dressing, and through the colors.

Becky Neiman: Yeah, there’s a lotta little details in the sets. Like, in the kitchen there’s tinfoil covering the burners, which, you know, in that subtle way you’re seeing Mom’s practicalness. It’s also something that’s common in Asian households and lotta little things like that to help teach you who this character is and tell the story.

Photo Credit: Mom Start

How Domee Shi Came to Work at Pixar

Domee Shi: I worked on Inside Out for about two and a half years, and then I moved on to The Good Dinosaur. Then I moved on to Toy Story 4 and even did a small stint on Incredibles 2. It just so happened that one year Pixar did an open audition at the studio for anybody who has ideas for short films, you can pitch ‘em to us. And I was like me, me. And I then signed up. I pitched three ideas. Bao was one of them. And the rest is history.

First Female Director of a Short at Pixar

Domee Shi: I feel super honored and humble, but hopefully I’m the first of many female short film directors and feature film directors. It’s been awesome. I was telling Becky it almost didn’t hit me that I would be the first because making the short I was just focused on finishing it and hoping that people liked it or understood it. And now I can kinda sit back.

Becky Neiman: It’s happening. Yeah, and you had a really strong female leadership team. We, you know — it’s us, but it’s also our editor, our production designer, our sound editor, our production manager, technical manager and they were super inspiring.

Photo Credit: Mom Start

About Bao

In Disney•Pixar’s “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. “Bao” opens in theaters on June 15, 2018, in front of “Incredibles 2.”

See Incredibles 2 in theaters on June 15th along with the Pixar Short ‘Bao’! 


Everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2” – but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life. It’s a tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again—which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.

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Additional Incredibles 2 Exclusive Interviews You May be Interested In

Incredibles 2 Interview with Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter

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