After simmering exclusively in theaters over the summer as a lead-in appetizer for Incredibles 2, Pixar’s animated short film Bao is now available in its entirety for free on YouTube — and it’s a poignant, charming tale of how we always try to eat the things we love.
A bad case of empty nest syndrome becomes the main ingredient in a lonely mom’s newfound recipe for happiness: adopting an adorable little baozi dumpling and nurturing it from googly-eyed infancy through an accelerated childhood (hey, dumplings have a short shelf life), straight into the dark heart of its rebellious teenage years. What happens next is jarring — especially for a Pixar film — but it’ll ring true to anyone who’s had to wait for an estranged loved one to circle back around.
There’s a happy outcome, though, so be sure to stay to the end:
Directed by Domee Shi and set against the backdrop of her childhood neighborhood — the Chinese Canadian immigrant community in Toronto — Bao weaves food and family together in a self-contained seven-minute story that’s both shocking and sentimental, cutting to the heart of how severed family bonds are sometimes painfully hard to reconcile.
The short already has racked up more than 5.2 million views on YouTube, and has put a fresh spotlight on Shi’s other contributions as a Pixar storyboard artist (and now director). In addition to her animation work on Inside Out and Incredibles 2, Shi’s also reportedly helming a new, unnamed Pixar project, while remaining on the creative team for the hugely anticipated Toy Story 4, which assembles in theaters on June 21 of next year.