Design

An 8-Minute Film That Made Me Cry

Disney Pixar's Bao short film

This summer, Alex and I took the boys to the movies, and I wept in my seat…

I didn’t cry because of the movie Incredibles 2 (which I actually didn’t love — so frenetic!), but instead because of the short animated film called Bao, which played first.

Here’s the story: In Bao, an older Chinese woman feels lonely at home. One morning, while eating breakfast with her husband, one of her pork dumplings springs to life as a giggly dumpling boy. She adores the little guy, but as he grows up, she realizes that nothing stays small forever. An unexpected twist? She eats him.

Here, the director Domee Shi tells the New York Times:

Your animated short, Bao, which is currently screening before Incredibles 2, is about a woman who raises a pork dumpling as her son. In the end, the mother eats him. That was a crazy moment! What inspired it?
My mom would always hold me and hug me and say, “I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I knew exactly where you were at all times.” And I would say, “Aw, Mom, that’s sweet … but creepy.” That was the spark for that particular moment.

When I saw it, everybody in the theater gasped.
Oh, good. I love that. That swirl of conflicting emotions.

And one of her quotes in the LA Times:

There was even a point where I almost chickened out and I changed the ending so it wouldn’t be as shocking. But then luckily I pitched it to Pete Doctor, the director of Inside Out and Up and Monsters Inc…. He heard my more watered down ending and said, “Pitch the original one! Pitch the original dark one!” He was awesome in really encouraging me to stay true to my weird, original idea. I think through his support, saying “Don’t be afraid to push it, be as culturally specific as you want it to be,” it gave me the confidence to push the style and push the storytelling in the way that I really wanted it to be.

There’s another twist at the end, and it’s so, so sweet and touching. Every adult was a blubbering mess!

Watch Bao here, if you’d like. Have you seen it?

Disney Pixar Bao

P.S. 30 amazing documentaries, and how to stop yourself from crying.

(Via Kottke.)

  1. Elly says...

    Oh yeah, bawling. My husband and kids thought I was crazy. My kids (3 & 6) at the time still talk about how she eats him! So good!

  2. Omg, same! My boyfriend and I (we’re both 29) went to see INCREDIBLES 2 in the theater and I liked it, it was adorable, but when I left I was in tears talking about how much I loved this little short film. My boyfriend was like, “Whatttt, it was so weird and I didn’t get it,” lol. It really moved me. I went home and read all about the director and made a note to myself to follow their work. xo

    • Mel says...

      SAME! Went with my too-cool kid brother, who’s a freshman in college, and we both bawled and wanted to call all the mom figures in our lives afterwards – aka before Incredibles 2 even started :D

  3. Traci says...

    I remember seeing this! It was such a good film! I was ready to go home after seeing it! Thank you for providing the link. Well done all around for those who worked on this short but super impactful film!

  4. Kate says...

    To be honest I think I had the same reaction as some of the freaked out younger kids to this – I was horrified when she ate the son!! I hadn’t picked up on the symbolism of the dumpling as a grown son and had totally bought into the idea of a little dumpling boy (it IS Pixar after all – all kind of inanimate objects come to life AND I was thinking how similar the story was to The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, or the Japanese folklore hero Momotaro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momotar%C5%8D).

    Amazing animation though, I love how perfectly human the characters are, every little emotion and no words needed. Seriously though, I do still feel a little traumatised.

  5. Susan says...

    Thank you so much, Joanna, for posting this short film. It really resonated with me as I am Chinese and my mom was a dim sum pastry chef for many years. In fact, the years of handling all that cold dough crippled her hands and by age 60, her fingers were twisted and she could no longer use chop sticks. My mom worked 12 hour days 6 days a week and on her one day off, she would spent most of the day making delicacies for us. My older sister and I were responsible for cooking the daily dinner rice and side dishes everyday so dinner would be on the table when my parents returned in the evening. Mom would arise at 4 AM to do dinner prep for us. As we got older we were responsible for the entire meal. All 5 siblings were expected to have bathed before dinner so there would be enough hot water for my parents to use after dinner. If there had bene harsh words between my mom and the kids (especially the daughters), mom would always cook something special for that child to show how sorry she was. We would be especially well behaved and keep the flat very clean and tidy and be especially quiet and respectful to show how sorry we were. For many years, after dinner, mom and eldest brother would go off to wash dishes at another restaurant for extra money. Now my mom is 91, in full blown Alzheimer’s and has not recognized any of us for the last 8 years. I forwarded the movie to my older sister and several of my Chinese friends who said they could not stop crying after they viewed Bao because it brought back so many memories of their relationships with their mothers

  6. Karen says...

    Gives new meaning to “eating your feelings.” :)

  7. JK says...

    I hadn’t seen Bao before….and I wish you hadn’t put one of the twists in your article! It’s a big spoiler to put that he’d been eaten, and I wish I could’ve felt the same surprise as others mentioned in the comments.

    Maybe next time you could consider saying spoliers ahead?

  8. Emily says...

    My 6 yr old daughter was terrified of this film. She had nightmares and talked about it incessantly for about a week. She thought it was sooo scary that the mom ate the baby! It cracked me up, actually. This made more of an impression on her than Incredibles 2.

  9. Ellen W. says...

    I ugly cried when I watched this in the movie theater. It is one of the most moving things I have ever seen and reminds me so much of parents love for me. I also wanted to thank your your posts this week – between this post, the Korean food post and the outfit post featuring a person of Asian descent – thank you. Representation really does matter.

  10. Jenny says...

    I saw this with a few white friends – and they didn’t get it! They thought I was so odd for literally sobbing during this short. They just thought it was weird. I thought it was beautiful and moving -and I’m not even a mom. But it really is cultural. While the general mom and child theme is universally relatable, there is really something so specific about an Asian mom and child dynamic that’s hard to explain, especially if we’re talking food. Really got to give kudos to Pixar for putting a cartoon by an Asian (woman!) in front of such a high profile movie, not really knowing how it would be received.

  11. Jennifer says...

    I never cry from watching movies but I SOBBED in a theatre for the first time ever watching Bao. My family has been in the States for over three generations so I’ve seen how my family has adopted many Western traditions (like actually having turkey on Thanksgiving!) while maintaining our Chinese culture (Red envelopes on Chinese New Year, always being asked if you’ve eaten yet, the pink boxes of bao and egg tarts) my entire life. It’s always easy to see the American parts of my family represented but to see a portrayal of Asian family dynamics that isn’t just tiger mom parenting is so nice. Bao captured that tension of wanting to keep your family and your culture together so beautifully without judgement. It’s so common for someone to judge our Asian parents as controlling and overbearing that to see an honest and dignified portrayal of them will never stop bringing me to tears.

  12. Jordan says...

    My heart! A coworker checked in to make sure I was okay after they saw big red eyes welling with tears as I watched this at my desk this morning. As an adult (without children of my own yet) this helped me empathize with my mother’s experience transitioning into her role as “parent of an adult” and how heartbreaking that may be at times. I needed that, especially as we move into the tension of the holidays.

  13. Libertad Vera says...

    Bao just made me and my husband cry so hard at the cinema, we are “newly parents” our 2yo has chance the live so much for us. We noted almost every day that became in parents make us very emotional and sensitive. More than we used to be.

  14. Sarah says...

    Has anyone watched Coco? I didn’t think an animated movie could make me cry harder than Up, but MAN my husband and I were both destroyed!!

    • Alexandra says...

      Yes! Big sobbing tears with this one!

    • Bec says...

      Omg yes! My fiance and I watched it a few weekends ago… Cue two 30 year olds sobbing in bed.

    • Sarah says...

      I loved Lava!

    • Jill says...

      I saw Inside Out in the theater with my then 5 year old. She sobbed after the Lava short and wanted to leave the theater immediately before the main feature. She has always been touched by deeply sad stories and that nearly did her in! I love that shirt even more because of the experience!

  15. Amy says...

    My kids still bring up this movie regularly and we saw it over the summer too. They’re always asking a million different questions around why the mom ate her son and it’s yielded some of the most interesting and touching conversations between us. We all loved it! I think sometimes we sugarcoat things too much for our kids and these more deep-felt and sort of shocking pieces really open the door to real life.

  16. Sasha L says...

    “baby baby dumpling, boiling in a pot. Butter her, and sugar her….. And eat her while she’s hot!!!!”
    No idea where this rhyme comes from but my little girls loved it. You bounce at the boiling part, then butter (pet), sugar (sprinkle) and eat up (give smooches). Ugh, wasn’t crying at the film, but crying now remembering their giggles. It all goes by much too quickly.

    • shannon says...

      Love this little lap song! I’m a therapist who works with mother-baby groups and am planning to use this as a fun activity for them.

  17. celeste says...

    I haven’t but I’ll put it on my watch list!

  18. Catherine says...

    I saw Bao with my beloved only daughter, who was 4 weeks away from leaving for college . We both held each other in the theater, weeping. I could not believe how it captured everything I had been feeling- how fast the time had gone, my fear of her not needing me anymore, the sheer sadness of physically not having her live in our home. For my daughter, it allowed her to acknowledge that it was OK to be sad at the same time as being excited to start this next journey.

  19. Abbe says...

    YES. I’m not a parent, so this short didn’t resonate with me in the same way, but I remember being super horrified when she ate the bao! But the more I’ve thought about it, I think it was a really clever way of depicting the ways in which parents can destroy their relationship with their children by trying to control them. I didn’t love the Incredibles 2, but Pixar is still a gem in my book — I have definitely cried at many of their movies (don’t even get me STARTED on some of the scenes in Finding Dory).

  20. Christine says...

    While I loved this short, it completely FREAKED my 5 year old out. The next day we were leaving to go somewhere and he wouldn’t move. His little lip started quivering and he started BAWLING (I had taken him to the movie so my husband didn’t know about the film). He burst out with “Why did that mom EAT HIM?!??!” He was so upset and my husband was like what in the world is he talking about?? It took forever to explain to my son in terms he’d understand and he still never truly recovered. It is burned in his brain that the mom just ate (read: killed) the little dumpling that she loved. He was so traumatized :(

    • Emily says...

      My 6 year old had the same reaction! Totally terrified and traumatized for weeks by this film. It totally eclipsed Incredibles 2 for her. I thought it was very clever and interesting but wished it wasn’t attached to a kids movie. Too mature for little ones.

  21. Kristy says...

    It was so relatable that within the 8 minutes I experienced the range of emotions from “omg I can’t wait to show this to my mom to ooh maybe it’s too close to home to ooh phew happy ending I think she can handle it!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes!! In eight minutes, I was laughing, delighted, shocked, sobbing, happy — it’s amazing what a short film can do!

  22. Kristy says...

    Wow this was so relatable on so many levels, it reminds me not only of me, but of my fellow Asian-American friends who negotiate with this all- consuming (pun-intended) love. Not only visually (the food, the al fresco vegetable market, the prepping the dough in fat little triangles and the raw pork that I used to think looked so gross, like naked organs), but also the non-asian partner and imperfect pouty mama (hah!).

    I love that she literally depicted the metaphor of you’re so cute I just want to eat you up!

    Thank you so much for sharing! I LOVE Pixar but skipped out on Incredibles 2.

  23. Thank you for writing about this! I was crying in the theatre too, sitting next to my two boys. My son was next to me and he put his popcorn down to hold my hand. As a 10-year old I’m sure he didn’t understand why I was crying, but it was nice to see that he knows something about taking care of ladies in his life when they cry :). So, so precious. We love them and they leave, but they come back.

  24. Christie says...

    I had heard about this and I knew it was going to be emotional, so I was avoiding watching it. Then I took my daughter to the movies one day and this was playing right before the movie – I couldn’t avoid it any longer! Of course I cried my eyes out.

    I think it’s even harder to take when you’re a parent. You know that heartache of watching them drift away from you and just wanting to hold on as long as you can.

  25. Sarah says...

    Loved this short, cried many tears, and had a sudden craving to eat dumplings afterwards! (Literally and figuratively. Ha! :))

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hahahaha!

  26. Illana says...

    Yes!!! It destroyed me in the theatre! I hated it at that moment, and then later I absolutely loved it for the shocking specificity of the emotions.

  27. Keli says...

    This film made me tear up, as I thought about how my mother has (in her love) struggled with how to let go. The bao short also may be poignant because, as a tonal language, Chinese is particularly suited to double meanings. Bao is the word for bun. And in Chinese, when you call your children bao-bei, you are calling them precious.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh that’s so interesting! I didn’t know!

  28. Jeanne says...

    The bao film goes perfectly hand-in-hand with your previous post about raising teen boys (and sending them to college). I held back tears in the movie theater.

  29. karen says...

    LOVE IT!! Thanks for sharing.

  30. Christi says...

    I went to see this movie alone, and I tried very hard to hide my stream of tears during this short. (It’s awkward to cry alone in public, let alone when you’re surrounded by kids commenting how weird this short was!) I’m Korean-American and was deeply moved by the depiction of a mother’s love in a culture I could relate to. Every time I visit home, my mom is either: slaving away in the kitchen, peeling and slicing up fruits for me, or asking if there’s anything I want to eat. I have a complicated relationship with my mom, but this short reminded me that I never have to doubt her love for me.

    • Sarah Kay says...

      Hi Christi,

      You are not alone. I am Filipino-Canadian and also have a complicated relationship with a Asian mom who loves a little too hard ;) I immediately messaged her after watching this, though, to go for brunch. I know no matter how complicated things are, I never have to ever doubt how much she loves me. Which is … a lot. A *lot*. Lol.

    • Christi says...

      Sarah Kay, Your comment means a lot. I too reached out to my mom afterwards. <3 I love this CoJ community.

  31. Nollie Haws says...

    Watched it while sitting next to my 13-year-old son and totally bawled bc I relate so much to the joy and sadness of them growing up.

  32. Jill says...

    omg! This summer my husband and now 14 year old daughter came home from the movies and told me all about this short, I am not sure about the main feature they were seeing. But it made me cry! Just a synopsis, and I decided I could not handle seeing it IRL!

  33. Dayna says...

    Aw, that’s too bad. Would’ve loved seeing this without knowing the twist ending! Maybe put spoiler alert in the title or the paragraph ahead of the twist? That would be so appreciated.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh that’s not the twist ending! It’s just a middle part.

    • MB says...

      But the spoiler is in your description: In Bao, a Chinese mother feels lonely at home, after her grown son moves out. I’m not sure I get what the other twist is?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh you are right, I see now! I’ll change the text xoxoxo

  34. Tracy says...

    This resonates so much with me. I used to say the same thing to my son when he was younger, he always would say ‘That’s very creepy, mom”. Argh. I definitely ugly-cried and had to explain to my teenage boy (yes, he’s growing up…) why I was sobbing in front of the computer.

  35. Sarah says...

    NPR had a great interview with the director too! She was so interesting.

  36. sarah says...

    I adored this (wept) and my 7 year old just mentioned it yesterday! So dear and hilarious

  37. kate says...

    my kids are still talking about this weird, cute, creepy, loving short film. it really made an impression.

  38. Emily says...

    Oh, man! I shouldn’t have watched this on the bus after a tough work day, on the eve of my oldest boy’s 13th birthday.

  39. sarah-mai says...

    I’m so glad you posted about this. I didn’t find it creepy, I found it so sweet.

  40. Colleen says...

    Yup, totally cried at this. My daughter wasn’t at all surprised because I cried all through Inside Out, Finding Dory and Lava, the short about the volcano. They all stab me in the heart. It’s good for your kids to see you cry, life is about cherishing humanity.

    • Carolyn says...

      I’ve always been emotionally obliterated by animated films, starting with An American Tail when I was about five. I don’t even remember the movie, but I still can’t hear “Somewhere Out There” without weeping. Zootopia was exhausting. Moana totally ruined me. I’m honestly a little bit afraid to watch this one, lol.

    • chris says...

      I still can’t sing along to Let it go without tearing up!

  41. shade says...

    Wow! I had the exact same experience! I took my son to see incredibles (also didn’t really like for the same reason) and loved the short film they played beforehand (also cried).

  42. julie says...

    love all the Canadian references – CN Tower in the background of the park and outside mom’s kitchen window, Canadian flag on the fridge and dad’s sweater!! LOVE this – crying at my desk!!! (also, only looking forward to seeing Incredibles 2 for the architecture! LOL!)

    • Chloe says...

      Me too! I picked up on the CN Tower too and it made me miss home (Canadian living in the Netherlands).

    • AH says...

      SAME!

  43. Katrina Lindauer says...

    This past summer my now husband (then fiance) saw this went we went to watch the Incredible’s. My husband’s mother is Chinese, he is her baby, and I am white with blonde hair. We have laughed at the irony of this and even debated framing this as a family photo. We’ve haven’t yet, but we’re lazy.

  44. Sandra says...

    Maybe I need to watch this again. I guess I missed some sort of intro. in the theater, but when I saw it I thought it was part of the movie and kept thinking “what in sweet hell is this nonsense, and where are the Incredibles characters????”

    • Katie says...

      Same! My kids and I were so jazzed for Incredibles 2 and were so ready for it to start after the previews and then this came on and we were totally confused for the first part of it….

  45. Bawled my eyes out and then had to explain to my 8 year old twins the message of this beautiful little film. So precious.

  46. DP says...

    ah you should have said spoilers ahead!

  47. Mary Glenn says...

    I’m so glad you posted this–I too loved this short film this summer and tried to hold back my unexpected tears! My boys, 8 and 10, looked at me and smiled in the dark theater–I swear they “got it” for a tiny second.

  48. CB says...

    Truly sobbed watching this in the theater!!! My husband laughed so hard at me because he knew I was crying before he even looked over.

  49. Vivian says...

    I read that the director’s Mom came and gave cooking lessons so that they could get the animation just right! :)

    Loved this short and totally cried in the theatre!

  50. Tami says...

    I remember this Joanna….my mouth was quivering as I tried to hold back the tears (for fear that my 6 y/o would wonder WTF?)
    I was incredibly moved by this short.
    Well done, so relatable and sweet.

  51. Lindsey says...

    I 100% agree on both Bao and Incredibles 2!

  52. We took our kids for Dim Sum recently and I was thrilled that they made the connection to this. We had no hand in making them, but I think they knew there was love in sharing them.

  53. Madison says...

    Reminds me of Alt-J’s Breezeblocks / Where The Wild Things Are — “please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole, I love you so, I love you, so I love you so.” Loving someone so much you’d rather eat them than live without them. It really resonates!

    • Jessica says...

      Also a line from Where the Wild Things Are!

  54. Katie says...

    Yep, I’m not a mom and it still made me cry. How sweet!

  55. Julia says...

    Pixar. Gets me nearly every time. I sobbed- SOBBED – in the theater watching the Lava short that came before Inside Out. And I still cry when I watch it. It’s the sweetest story to me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg the lava short!!!!!!! i heard that song when i was getting a pedicure the other day and almost burst into tears in the nail salon!

    • Melanie says...

      I cried during Lava and wept wept wept during Inside Out. I almost left the theater (I was alone). My kids want to watch it (ages 5 & 7), but I don’t think I can handle it again.

    • Heather says...

      My dog loves to watch tv and particularly loves the Lava short. My husband and I bought a ukelele just so we could serenade her in the mornings with that song. We don’t have children, but our little Pearl is our baby. I still get choked up when I watch it.

    • Colleen says...

      Oh Heather, I love this! Our dog used to love to listen to the Jonathan Edwards CD, especially the Sit Around the Shanty song. So amazing.

    • Katie says...

      I cried during Inside Out when (spoiler alert) her imaginary friend jumps out of the car, sacrificing himself. I was BAWLING and then I was bawling AND laughing uncontrollably because I remembered his name was BING BONG and I was crying over an imaginary elephant clown’s death. My friends all looked at me like I was crazy and I could only mouth through the laughter and tears “his name was BING BONG” 😂 Pixar…gets you every time.

  56. gfy says...

    I am always in awe of the depth of subtle, complex expression the animators are able to capture and convey – mindblowing every time. This one was extraordinarily well-done!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      in an interview, she said the hardest part was getting the raw pork in the dumplings to look real and squishy! :)

  57. Claire M. says...

    So many tears! This was incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing.

  58. Amanda Metzler says...

    Love this! “I’ll eat you up. I love you so” from Where The Wild Things Are comes to mind.