Shi's mom helped out behind the scenes
Pixar is filled with "perfectionists," Neiman-Cobb says, so Shi's own mother was enlisted to teach the artists how to make dumplings from scratch. Her class was photographed so the animators would be able to replicate how much flour she left on the cutting board and what kind of bowl is right for mixing the pork filling. Shi also showed her mother an early cut: "Her one note was: 'If you're going to base the mom character on me, make sure she's beautiful,' and I was like, 'Oh, OK, I'll try.'" But besides that, she instantly got what the short was trying to do, even when Pixar people were getting confused.
Bao also slides in commentary about interracial dating
Things start to go awry when the dumpling brings home a blonde, cheery girlfriend. "When I first came up with the gag of the dumpling bringing home a human girlfriend, I was just thinking of what would this mom's worst nightmare be for this dumpling bringing home anybody, and it would be a person who is the exact opposite of her," Shi says. "It would be someone young, someone non-Asian, this foreign strange woman who is coming into her life and taking her baby away from her." But Shi wanted to, once again, subvert expectations. After the big reveal, the audience and the mother see that this woman isn't so bad. In fact, she's more adept at dumpling-making than the son is. Plus, the animators added a tiny detail to demonstrate how the imagined version of her is not the reality. When she's with the dumpling, she's wearing shoes in the house. However, in the real world ending, she's just in socks, a signal that she's respecting Chinese customs.