EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) - Pixar's first female director for a short film has been nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short film category.
A KTVU crew met with director and producer Domee Shi at Pixar's animation studios in Emeryville for a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration behind the film, Bao, which means dumpling in Chinese.
Shi says she drew from her personal experience in writing this story.
"That's my grandma in China. She plays mah ong," says Shi as she pointed to the photos of her family and art work that lined the wall at Pixar.
She says they are the influence behind her Academy Award nominated 8-minute film.
Shi brings to life on the big screen her love for her family and food.
The 29-year-old recalled a conversation she had with her mother.
"I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I'd know where you are at all times," Shi recalls her mother saying to her. "I'd say, 'Oh Mom, that's sweet, but creepy.' I had this urge to tell this story that I had this personal connection to this overprotective mom character learning to let go of little dumpling."
She wanted to showcase how food and love are linked in the Chinese culture.
"My mom and dad wouldn't say I love you," Shi says. "They'd say, 'Have you eaten yet? Eat more. You've eaten too little."
At the same time, she hopes the universal theme of Bao -- learning to let go of loved ones -- resonates with all cultures.
Shi was joined by a mostly female team in creating this film including the producer.
"If you can leave hungry and thinking about your mom, that was our goal," says producer Becky Neiman-Cobb,
Shi says she's grateful that her film is among five who received a nomination in the animated short-film category.
From intern at Pixar to its first female director for a short film in a span of just eight years, Shi says her success comes from pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.
She's the little girl from China who immigrated to Canada with her parents before coming to the U.S. as an adult to pursue the dream of sharing her journey
"I've always wanted to continue telling stories with drawings and getting paid for it. That was my goal," says Shi.
Bao is available on iTunes and it's on the Incredibles 2 DVD. The Academy Awards takes place Feb. 24.