Pixar has a proud history of producing quality feature-length animated films, but they have another important tradition that goes along with that — the production of shorts. It got its start as an animation studio pushing the boundaries of technologies through iconic shorts as “Tin Toy” and “André,” and it’s something they continue to do to this day. While not every film is accompanied by one of these shorts, a good number of them are. This will also be the case with Incredibles 2.
At the front-end of that film is a short called “Bao.” The story follows a Chinese woman who makes a child out of a steamed dumpling and proceeds to eat him — wait, no. I meant raise him (dodged a bullet there). As with any short, there was a lot of experimentation in animation styles, but in this case, it was mostly influenced by anime in Japan, along with other 2D animation. While speaking at a presentation for the press at Pixar (which LRM had the opportunity to attend), director Domee Shi discussed this, saying:
“Animation is especially critical in Bao because it’s really where these characters come to life. And before starting animation, I would start gathering examples of styles I wanted to go for, and I’d show them to my animation supervisor, Juan Carlos Navarro. I was heavily influenced by Japanese animation, like the visual styles of My Neighbors the Yamadas and One Piece, this really popular cartoon in Japan. And I love how squishy their characters looked and how pushed their expressions are. We drew our inspiration mostly from 2D animation, which was going to be a challenge in 3D because of how big the character’s heads are and how exaggerated their limbs are. So we knew early on that we had to do a lot of planning and preparation and exploration to really nail down the animation style that would suit the short.”
Shi went on to discuss some of the difficulties in trying to replicate some of the visual quirks of 2D animation. While both 2D and 3D are animated mediums, they are still very different mediums, and things that look good on literal paper, may not look so hot on the computer screen.
Still, you can certainly see some of the influence in the character designs, which sport very round features that lend themselves to “squishyness,” which is pretty cool.