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?