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ETM-LA Shares the Magic Behind Disney Pixar’s Bao in Honor of Lunar New Year

Los Angeles, CA – On February 15, 2024, Education Through Music-Los Angeles (ETM-LA) continued its Family Hour Series, bringing the charming world of Disney-Pixar’s Bao into the classrooms of ETM-LA Partner Schools across LA County. Over 3,000 students tuned into this virtual celebration of Lunar New Year, which featured a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process for the Academy Award-Winning short film Bao along with an interactive drawing session.

Award-Winning Production Designer Rona Liu (Pixar Animation: Bao, Turning Red) unfolded the artistic process of Bao and the inspiration behind the story, and shared early sketches and storyboards of the original concept art. “What you’re seeing is a lot of people coming together collaborating, giving each other notes, and making this project better,” Liu shared as she presented a visual design process for the beloved characters, Bao and the mother. She also revealed how using contrast in light and color affects the emotional journey of the film.




Composer & Arranger Toby Chu (Pixar’s Bao, Tron: Legacy, Call of Duty) shared the transformative power of music in conveying perspectives and understanding others. He reflected, “When you learn about music you get this almost magical ability to understand others, even if they don’t speak the same language. Music is a sort of language of feeling that we all understand, that we all relate to.” The students got an exclusive peek into Chu’s creative process of seamlessly blending Eastern and Western influences within the music. Chu relayed how he found his musical voice for the score, showcasing how the magic in Bao extends beyond the visuals.


After watching the short film, Liu led the captivated students in an interactive lesson sketching Bao, the main character. Liu demonstrated how various techniques help capture different facial expressions to convey emotions and also showed the elegance of traditional Chinese brush strokes, as seen in the film’s poster and artwork.

In honor of Lunar New Year, Liu and Chu shared their insight into the film’s representation and celebration of Chinese/Asian cultures. Liu highlighted the film’s resonant portrayal of food as a love language within many Asian households, creating a window of understanding among the attendees. She encouraged, “As we celebrate Lunar New Year, I hope we can all appreciate the different ways that our families show love to us.” Chu emphasized that one’s culture and identity are often reflected in their artistic choices within composition and scoring.


The event concluded with a question and answer session. One student asked whether the artists knew “[Bao] would cause such an emotional response.” Liu answered, “I think the only thing we know is ourselves and we first have to go with something that is very true in terms of emotions to us…If this emotion is true for one person it must be true for so many other people.” In response to a question about “what words of wisdom they have for students,” Chu shared, “Stick with what you love; what you’re doing is special and the more you do it, the more it grows and matures. Your light becomes so bright that no one can ignore it. Don’t give up.”

The event was not only a celebration, but also a remarkable odyssey into the heart of creativity and cultural connection. One participant shared: “As a Mandarin dual language program teacher, it is great to have my students learn more about Chinese culture from the forms they enjoy, like cartoons, movies, and animations.” Another teacher commented: “It was a great presentation and experience for [the students] to be able to listen to the artist and the musician of the movie.” 


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Contact: Xina Yee
Phone: (818) 433-7600


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Education Through Music-Los Angeles is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide and promote music in under-resourced schools as part of the core curriculum for every child
in order to enhance students’ academic achievement, creativity, and overall development.

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