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You're so cute I could eat you!
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Bao is a 2018 animated short film (eight minutes) directed by Domee Shi, produced by Pixar, one of the Pixar Shorts.

A Chinese woman living in Toronto is suffering from empty nest syndrome. One day she is making bao (Chinese dumplings), when one of the bao she is making suddenly comes to life, sprouting tiny arms and legs, and a face. The woman is startled but quickly comes to love and cherish her little bao son. Years pass and the little bao baby becomes a teenaged boy and then a young man, while still remaining a bao and not actually growing all that much. The bao steadily grows more Westernized and alienated from his traditionalist Chinese mother. The mom doesn't like that, and when the bao brings home a white woman with an engagement ring on her finger, the mother snaps, and makes a terrible mistake.

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Bao played in theaters in front of Pixar feature Incredibles 2. Compare Sanjay's Super Team, another Pixar short with similar themes.


Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Having an argument with your child that drives them away. Also, there's the fear of your child outgrowing you as their leaving the nest grows imminent. Not to mention they start to grow distant from you over a small mistake, like being overprotective.
    • Parents of special needs children probably had a different perspective. They saw a child who had an abnormal birth, smaller and less capable, who wanted to play soccer with the big kids but can't do so without getting a head injury; making friends with kids (and what seems to be a floozy blonde) who may be out to exploit him. And when she tries to protect him, even though she probably wants him to have as full and normal a life as possible, he won't accept it. Frankly it's a relief to find out he's NOT a dumpling.
  • An Aesop: "Time changes people, but love shared between them doesn't have to."
  • All Just a Dream: Turns out to be a dream caused by the woman feeling guilty about driving away her son and his girlfriend/fiancee, though they make up after she wakes up.
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  • And You Were There: The dream closely parallels the woman's relationship with her son, whose head is indeed shaped like a dumpling.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: A dumpling comes to life.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The plot revolves around a Chinese dumpling that comes alive.
  • Apology Gift: The Chinese woman's son gives her a box of her favorite buns to apologize for running away with his girlfriend.
  • Arc Symbol: Throughout the short, food in general, but most prominently red bean buns or dou sha bao, are used to represent the mother's relationship with her bao son. At the beginning, the mother and the young bao are picking out food in a Chinese supermarket and sharing red bean buns on the bus ride home. When the bao gets hurt, the mother feeds him a spoonful of ground meat and vegetables to re-inflate his dented head. When the bao is slightly older, he wants to play soccer with some other boys, but his mother pulls him away so he won't get hurt which makes him angry; when she offers him a red bean bun, he refuses it. He is then shown taking a soda from the fridge, eating shrimp chips in his room, and refusing to eat the Chinese dinner that she makes for him and goes out with his friends instead, showing that a rift is growing between them. When the real-life son returns to the house, he brings a box of red bean buns to apologize to his mother for running away with his fiancee, and they tearfully forgive each other. The short ends with the newly reunited family, including the son's fiancee, happily making bao together.
  • Book-Ends: The short starts with the woman making bao and ends with her teaching her son and his girlfriend how to make bao.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The mother was being overprotective, barring her son from Western Culture and preventing him from playing with "unsuitable" friends, but the son becomes distant and unappreciative even after he's old enough to try and see her point of view.
  • Canada, Eh?: The short is set in Toronto, since it has a couple of Establishing Shots of the CN Tower in the background, on another scene the characters are seen playing on a park that looks to be in front of the University of Toronto, then they go grocery shopping in what appears to be Kensington Market, and later they ride what's unmistakably a TTC street car; the woman also has the Canadian flag stuck on her fridge. At the end of the short, the father is wearing a sweater with the Canadian maple leaf on it. The director, Domee Shi, was also raised in Toronto.
  • Child of Two Worlds: For all intents and purposes, the bao is a Chinese child, raised by Chinese parents, growing up in the West (specifically, Canada).
  • Cool Shades: When the bao leaves to hang out with his human friends, he replaces his square frame glasses with a sleek set of shades.
  • Culture Clash: As the Chinese bao grows up, he surrounds himself with Western culture, hanging out with white and black friends and dressing in American-style clothing, while refusing to eat the Chinese food his mother makes. He eventually falls in love with a white human girl, which sparks an argument between him and his mother.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Or rather, Dating What Mommy Hates. When the little Chinese dumpling grows up, he falls in love with a human girl, who his mother disapproves of. When he tries to leave in his girlfriend's car, his mother eats him. This is allegorical to the woman's dislike of her actual son dating a blonde, Western girl, leading to an argument.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The bao dumpling goes through every metaphorical stage of babyhood, childhood and teenage angst, while the mother's remolding of the bao's dough when the youngster is injured is framed in the exact same light as a young child's wounds being treated by a mollycoddling mother. In another scene, the mother bakes some more baos, implying she may be trying to get pregnant again. Also, the girlfriend making lots of good dumplings on the first try implies she wants to have a family of 5.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Bao" in Chinese means "dumpling", and "baobao" means "baby" or "treasure" (when referring to a small child).
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Or in this case, with the CN Tower shown in a couple of shots to establish the city as Toronto.
  • Empty Nest: A lonely mother is gifted with a magical dumpling.
  • Eyes Always Shut: The Chinese characters are all stylized this way, although the mother does open them several times to accentuate a shocked expression. The bao son also has these because they're only indentations in his dough, and also to serve as a visual parallel to the real son.
  • Food Porn:
    • Holy crap, the food that the mom puts out to tempt her little bao son looks delicious.
    • And just in general, the bao-making is given a lot of attention and love.
  • Get Out!: During the bao's teenage years, his mother hears him talking and laughing on the phone with someone. When she tries to enter his room, he pushes her out and slams the door.
  • Hidden Depths: The son's Western girlfriend/fiancee turns out to be surprisingly good at making bao (and it is made clear she did not learn it from him).
  • Interspecies Romance: The bao son hooks up with a real human, much to his mother's shock. Subverted, when the bao was an allegory for her real son, who is obviously human—the fact his girlfriend was shown as human is an allegory for him dating a non-Chinese girl..
  • Locked in a Room: After the dream ends, the woman's husband takes a shadowy figure and pulls him into the bedroom with the woman, locking the door behind him. After the woman wakes up, she initially sees the grown-up bao, but then she rubs her eyes and sees the figure properly as her real-life son. The father locked them in to make them resolve their differences.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: The final argument that leads to the mother eating the bao was when he introduced her to a Caucasian girlfriend. This exact issue is revealed to have been the final argument that caused her to drive her son away. After her husband forces them to reconcile, she accepts her new daughter-in-law, who turns out to be happy to engage in her new family's traditions.
  • My Beloved Smother: The woman tries to keep the bao son safe at all times, preventing him from playing with other kids. He gets increasingly rebellious as a result, eventually leading to him trying to run off with his girlfriend.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The obvious reaction on the woman's face when she eats her bao son in a fit of anger. This is reflecting her real life guilt about driving her son away in an argument.
  • Offing the Offspring: The mother impulsively eats her dumpling son to keep him from running away with his girlfriend. After realizing what she's done, she immediately looks regretful afterward. This is an allegory of her driving away her son in the same argument.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The mother's eyes are almost always closed, but when she sees her son's fiancee, a white girl, for the first time, she is so shocked that her eyes pop open and stay open for several seconds.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: After the mother eats her dumpling son, she wakes up in her bedroom, and it appears that the entire short was just a dream. But it turns out that her dream about the life of her dumpling child was actually her remembering the childhood and teenage years of her real-life son, who left the house after their argument over his new girlfriend. The audience only comes to this realization when the dumpling son appears in the doorway in shadow, and then the lighting reveals him to be the human son, who has a dumpling-shaped head.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: The bao's white girlfriend has bright blonde hair; there is no mistaking that she is Western.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: The mother tearfully pleads the bao to stay when he tries to leave in his girlfriend's car. The mother eats him as a last resort.
  • Puni Plush: The human characters are all short and rotund, with soft curves and large heads roughly the same size as their bodies.
  • Secret Relationship: The bao and his fiancee are implied to have had one, because he doesn't introduce her to his mother until they're already engaged. Because of the implied parallels between her dream relationship with the bao child and her real relationship with her son, it's likely the latter also had this. Justified when you consider how the woman seemed determined to keep her son from integrating into western culture, so he had every reason to believe that a western girlfriend would be immediately rejected.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Despite being present in the household, the father makes almost no appearances throughout the montage of his bao son growing up. This is because the montage is the mother's dream, revolving around her relationship with her real-life son.
  • Silence Is Golden: Like most of the theatrical Pixar shorts, Bao is told without any dialog, though it goes a step further by having almost no sound at all besides music. The only vocal effects are the crying/giggling/cooing that the little bao makes when it is born, and the mother sobbing in regret after she impulsively eats her bao son for trying to run away with his girlfriend.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The father practically disappears from the story just before the bao child comes to life, until the mother wakes up and he pushes their real life son to reconcile with her.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The little bao is shown to have passed puberty by growing a teen boy's wispy chin hairs. Justified because the mother's real son has a similar beard.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Subverted. When the bao child spurns his mother's elaborate Chinese dinner in favor of going out to hang with his friends, she eats the whole thing herself in retaliation.
  • Through His Stomach: Of the platonic/familial type. When the mother feels that she and her teenage bao son are drifting apart, she cooks him a huge Chinese dinner, but he goes out to eat with his friends instead.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Nobody seems to think it strange that a Chinese mother is walking around with a living dumpling child. He gets invited to play by some boys and, when he grows up, falls in love with—and runs away with—a human girl. This is foreshadowing that this is All Just a Dream.
  • Volumetric Mouth: The baby bao has one when he cries.
  • Wham Shot: When the teenage bao brings his girlfriend home for the first time, and the camera zooms in on the engagement ring on her hand with a "ding!" His mother is as shocked as the audience.

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