Directed by Academy Award-winner filmmaker Domee Shi, who co-wrote the screenplay with television writer Julia Cho, TURNING RED is a strong and unique coming of age story centered on a Chinese-Canadian teenage girl name Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), who one morning discovers she has the power to transform into a giant red panda.
Unfortunately, Mei’s newly found shape-shifting abilities not only come at the most inopportune time, but threatens to forever alter her relationship with her overly-protective mother, Ming Lee (Sandra Oh), and her friends.
TURNING RED premiered to great acclaim from both critics and audience, despite some strong, although erroneous, opposition by more conservative leaning parents, who question whether or not Disney and Pixar may have taken a step too far from its traditional filmmaking approach.
The Most Daring Pixar Animation
From every technical aspect, TURNING RED is a beauty to behold. Domee Shi and Pixar’s art department created a distinct, eye-catching animation that completely stands out from almost everything Disney and Pixar has produced over the past decade, the only exceptions being Academy Awards-winner, Coco, and last year’s Encanto.
Visually, TURNING RED is greatly inspired by Japanese anime, with highly expressive characters, bright colors, light effects and absurd attention to details, while culturally, Mei’s world is brimming with caring family members, a deep respect for her ancestors, rituals, food and friends.
Shi and her co-writer, Julia Cho, who’s best known for her work on Fox’s sci-fi series Fringe and HBO’s Big Love, crafted a simple but very captivating story focused on family ties, self-respect and friendship, and with incredibly smart dialogues.
As a character, Mei is just the sharpest young girl in town. She works hard to be the best at everything she does, and to impress her devoted mother, Ming Lee, someone who, though very loving and well-intentioned, comes across as overbearing and suffocating.
What is TURNING RED Really About and Should Parents Worry About?
As mentioned before, TURNING RED brilliantly departs from Pixar’s traditional model of focusing on subjective themes in order to highlight more mature ones instead.
Domee Shi and Julia Cho do a masterful job using the red panda metaphor to address important topics such as menstruation, puberty and sexuality in a very appropriate and satisfying manner.
TURNING RED also brings the mother and daughter relationship, and their boiling conflict, to the forefront of the story, which some have pointed out as problematic. Nevertheless, parents should have nothing to worry about. The thematics discussed throughout the movie are done so in very good taste and with its audience’s age in mind.
TURNING RED is a one of a kind animated movie, and both parents and children are certain to have an amazing time as they watch Mei Lee navigate through her challenges and growing pains, and as they enjoy every single fun moment it has to offer.
TURNING RED is now available on Disney+ at no additional cost.