Well congratulations DOMEE SHI for being on the path to making her first 90 minute feature with Pixar. This all comes after the success of her short “BAO” which played before Incredibles 2, and tells the story of a Chinese Canadian mother who misses her child who has left home, when she finds that one of the Chinese dumplings she made has come to life, hence the name “BAO”. Shi also becomes the first woman to direct a Pixar short which is Oscar contending, which is pretty amazing.
Her career all started back in 2016, when she was really just doodling outside of work, when she was offered the opportunity to pitch to Pixar in a studio open call.
I practiced really, really hard, the weeks leading up to it. I drew a ton of boards for it, and then I just presented all three ideas,”
“I pitched a rough beginning, middle and end for each idea. I had some concept art, some reference images, and slowly, I made it through each round.”
The 90 minute feature she will be working on hasn’t been released yet, but as Shi states, it is still early to say what it is:
“We’re just developing the story for it right now,”
What were you thinking about when you set out to write the short?
Honestly, it was just a combination of things that I wanted to draw, and see in a short, and see on the big screen. I’m a huge fan of Asian food; I love cute, old Asian people; I love weird, dark fairy tales, like The Little Gingerbread Man, or Thumbelina. I wanted to do a modern version of that—my take on that—and I think all of that went into making Bao. It was a personal story, but that personal element came after I decided, “Oh, I want to do my own fairy tale. I want to make a short that has all of these elements.” I incorporated more personal elements into it to flesh out the story, and give the characters more depth.
Was the empty nest conceit one of those aspects that came later on?
No, that was pretty much there from the beginning. But that’s an element that you see in a lot of folk tales in many cultures. The beginning of The Little Gingerbread Man has that old lady who’s super lonely, and one of her cookies comes to life; in Japanese culture, you have Princess Kaguya, where an old bamboo cutter finds a little baby inside a bamboo shoot, or that other story about Momotarō, where this old couple finds a baby boy inside a peach. There’s these themes that you see a lot in these folk tales, and that seemed like a natural element to explore if I were to make my own fairy tale. Then, as I was writing it and exploring it, I thought about the empty nesters in my life, which are my parents, and my mom especially. I tried to flesh out this mom character more by tapping into that feeling that all parents have when their kids leave the nest.
To my understanding, the idea of food-based art is something you had explored before.
Yeah, I had this silly web comic series I used to do with my friends called My Food Fantasies. It was just based off of conversations we’d have—like, “Oh, I’m so hungry. I wish I could wrap myself in pastry dough, and sit in a sauna, and bake myself into a croissant, and eat my way out.” We’d have these funny little scenarios that we’d draw back and forth, and through doing those web comics, I found that I really just enjoyed drawing food. When I was coming up with ideas for short films, I was like, “Well, one of them has to revolve around food in some way.” Because that’s the one thing I could never get tired of drawing.
Congratulations on this opportunity and we all can’t wait to see what this feature length animation will be! I loved “BAO” as it resonated with myself and my life growing up as an Asian Australian and I think whatever her next project is will also have some personal elements.
Images via Deadline Hollywood
To read the original article, please click on: The First Woman To Direct An Oscar-Contending Pixar Short, ‘Bao’s Domee Shi Is On Her Way To First Feature Project