Turning Red is a charming and important film that exemplifies creating a fantastic entry in the Pixar catalog.
Pixar has always been the more interesting side of Disney’s megacorporate catalog of entities. Even when they were not a Disney property they consistently put out great film after great film. Coco one of their films post-Disney buyout is one of my favorite films of all time. It is safe to say that Pixar has a clear and present impact on multiple generations. They are truly one of the pioneers of the animation medium of filmmaking. For a lot of us, Pixar holds a massive chunk of our childhood and they continue to do that for the coming generations. Without further ado, let us journey into the life of an Asian American teenage girl who turns into a big red panda every time she gets too excited.
Turning Red is directed by Domee Shi who worked on the Pixar short film, Bao. This marks her feature film debut while also having contributed to the animation departments for films like Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4. The film’s story was created by Domee Shi, Julia Cho, and Sarah Streicher while translated into a screenplay by Cho and Shi. The film’s voice cast includes Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Orion Lee.
The film set somewhere during the late 90s looks at the life of a confident teenager, Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang) or known to everyone around her as Mei. Mei is an average teenage girl she likes boy bands specifically the dreamboats, 4Town, she is desperately trying to see live in concert with her friends. Her friends Miriam Mendelsohn (Ava Morse), Priya Mangal (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and Abby Park (Hyein Park) are all on the cusp of making the big jump to being full-on teenagers. The big bear in the room is that, unlike her friends, if Mei gets too excited she suddenly turns into a huge red panda bear. At first, Mei does not know what to make of it but as our journey through the film continues we realize a deep cultural and familial story behind the panda exists. A clash between family dynamics, cultural divide, generational trauma, and puberty commences as it paves the way into a beautiful story about growing.
Turning Red is yet another fantastic effort from Pixar but also one of the best feature debuts of all time. The film is directed with precision and heart that keeps the audience locked in until the credits roll. A beautiful and necessary story about the cultural importance of family creates the atmosphere for a splendid film for all ages. The animation is superb bringing a unique look to the oversaturated world of computer-based animation. The film feels accurate to its era calling back to the fashion of the 90s and music composed fantastically by Ludwing Göransson along with the soundtrack provided by Jordan Fisher. The world of Tamagotchis and boy bands could not feel more suitable to tell such a personal story. Turning Red is an achievement in personal filmmaking that left me in tears over its message. I hope we all understand it is not about keeping things sealed by finding a healthy balance within us.
Watch Turning Red on Disney+.