bao short film

Toronto-based animated short film Bao wins an Oscar

The story of a lonely Chinese-Canadian mother whose tiny dumpling comes to life has won the hearts of millions around the world since it came to life as a Pixar short last summer — including the majority of voting members from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

That's right, Toronto-raised, Sheridan-educated filmmaker and storyboard artist Domee Shi is now an Oscar winner.

Shi, the first woman ever to direct a short film for Pixar, accepted the Academy Award for best animated short film on Sunday night after wowing the world with Bao, which was shown to audiences in theatres ahead of Disney/Pixar's Incredibles 2 beginning in June.

"For all of the nerdy girls who hide behind their sketchbooks, don't be afraid to tell your stories to the world," said Shi during a rousing acceptance speech. "You're going to freak people out, but you'll probably connect with them too and that's an amazing feeling to have."

Bao, which is set in Toronto, is just 7 minutes and 42 seconds long, but it packs a powerful emotional and aesthetic punch.

"BAO is about a lonely Chinese mother suffering from empty nest syndrome who is thrilled to become a parent again when one of her homemade dumplings comes to life," reads The Academy's description of the 2018 short, which was written, directed and produced by Shi.

"As Dumpling grows, however, the inevitable conflicts between parent and child arise and Mom must acknowledge that no one stays little forever."

Shi, who was born in Chongqing, China but settled with her family in Toronto by the age of 3, graduated from the renowned animation program at Oakville's Sheridan College in 2011.

The 29-year-old artist told Vogue in April that her own mother was a creative consultant on Bao (specifically the parts in which the dumplings are made.

"She usually makes the classic half-moon-shaped, Beijing-style boiled dumpling," she said in an interview last spring. "But she's a really creative immigrant woman, so through time she's developed her own recipes and dumpling shapes."

Shi developed the concept for her award-winning film as a side project while working for Pixar as a storyboard artist on such hits as Inside Out, Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2.

Set in Toronto, the short film gives locals plenty to be excited about. Shots of Spadina's bustling Chinatown, the inside of TTC streetcars and, of course, the adorable dumpling itself make for a visual feast that's enjoyable to all, but is especially cool for Toronto's Chinese-Canadian community.

"Bao, was a moving love letter that every immigrant Asian mom and adult child could relate to," said Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam on Twitter after Shi's big win.

"I know it represented a part of my own Toronto story. Thank you Domee Shi for telling it so beautifully."

Lead photo by

Disney/Pixar


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