by Julia Pierrepont III, Gao Shan
LOS ANGELES, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese-born Canadian director Domee Shi says the Chinese elements of her Oscar-winning short film "Bao" have universal appeal.
Shi's film "Bao," produced by Pixar Animation Studios, won Best Animated Short at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in February. Shi became the first Chinese writer and director of a Pixar short.
A tasty morsel, "Bao" explores the life of a Chinese immigrant mom living in Toronto with her inattentive husband, struggling to cope with loneliness after her beloved son flies the nest.
The mom's empty-nester angst turns to joy when a leftover dumpling (a bao) comes alive in true Pinocchio fashion.
"The mom character is definitely based on my own mom, who is very over-protective toward me, her only child," said Shi, Pixar's animation wunderkind, who is racking up trophies and accolades for her animated short directorial debut.
Born in China's southwestern municipality of Chongqing, Shi spent most of her life in Toronto, Canada. Her mother is a cook, while her father is an artist and arts professor at Sichuan Fine Arts. It was her father who first encouraged her to draw.
"Chinese parents don't say 'I love you' to their kids. They say it with food or by fussing over them. I didn't use dialogue in the movie because I wanted it to be a universal story... with the theme of parents learning to let go of their children," she said.
Shi graduated from the animation program at Sheridan College. She began as a story intern at Pixar Animation Studios in June 2011. "People at Pixar began to notice my work and that boosted my confidence and helped me find my own voice."
In "Bao," Shi set out to make a short film that would profile real Chinese culture yet appeal to all audiences. "There are cultural differences, just like with 'Coco'. We had to explain to our American crew why we had to do things a certain way and what a traditional Chinese home would look like."
In true family fashion, she started by bringing her mom in on the project to show the team how to make Chinese dumplings.
"I used my mom's hands in the movie," she laughed.