From “Luxo Jr.,” the movie that served as a proof-of-concept for Pixar animation, the animation studio has made its bones on shorts.
They’re generally dialogue-free, little marvels of visual CGI animated storytelling — “Geri’s Game,” “Piper,” “For the Birds.” They set a standard that is now company wide at Disney Animation, which produced the likes of “Paperman” in the Pixar wordless style.
“Bao” is the latest, is attached to “Incredibles 2,” and like most Pixar shorts, is the perfect appetizer for the noisy but family-centric action comedy to follow.
Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi’s sentimental ode to Chinese cooking (“Baozi” is a Chinese bun) and doting Chinese motherhood is simple, inventive and surprising, an utter under 10 minute delight.
A lonely woman prepares her dumplings each day with care, even if her rushed workaholic husband is too busy to notice.
One day, one dumpling isn’t eaten. It starts squalling, yawns and stretches its legs. Mom has a little dumpling, all her own, to care for and nurture.
She’s got to protect him from his rambunctious spirit, distance him from the soccer-playing boys he wants to join as he gets older. His little head get squashed flat every time he takes a header.
And just as he left the dumpling steamer, some day he’s going to meet a special someone and leave mom behind. She just knows it.
Disney and Pixar have long parked their cartoons outside Walt’s suburban Kansas/Missouri version of “Americana” — “La Luna,” and “Geri’s Game” for example.
“Bao,” a product of North America’s Chinese diaspora, stands out as an example of corporate outreach to what Hollywood sees as its dominant market of the near future. Disney might be pandering in green-lighting it, filming it and releasing it. But the writing is on the demographic and box office wall. China matters, Chinese content is important.
As “Mulan” and “Crazy Rich Asians” and other fare from the Far East takes to screens, more and more of Hollywood’s product will reflect that shifting priority. We can only hope it’s all as engaging as “Bao.”