Disney Pixar’s “Turning Red” has paved the way for a new force in animated movie magic. The stunning animation pays homage to Chinese culture and the challenges of being a 13 year-old girl trying to find her place.
“Turning Red” becomes the first animated Pixar film in the businesses 36 year history to be led entirely by a female crew under the direction of director Domee Lee. Lee has no short resume, her other projects include popular movies such as “Toy Story” and “Inside Out”, along with her directorial debut in Disney Pixar’s short “Bao”.
The female perspective is evident in “Turning Red”, following the puberty-stricken main character Mei Lee. Set in 2002, Mei is obsessed with the band 4*Town, good grades and boys- much to her mothers’, Ming Lee’s, disapproval. Ming has diligently worked to protect her daughter, mostly from Mei’s own self.
Mei’s family honors the traditions of her ancestor Sun Yee, who with the help of the Red Panda, protected her daughters from danger. Unbeknownst to Mei, women in the family become Red Panda after they enter their teenage years.
Mei experiences these changes overnight, waking up to a fuzzy tail and ears after becoming the Red Panda. Her fear only fuels her Red Panda, as she fights to understand what is happening to her. What was a gift, became a curse for the women when they would transform into the Red Panda when faced with high emotions unable to control it until their Panda spirit was banished.
Following Mei’s journey with her new identity, she leans on the support of her spunky and tight-knit friend group Abby, Miriam and Priya. When she feels grounded, Mei returns to her normal self and can contain her new furry side. The girls vow to help her learn to remain calm and collected until Mei’s ceremony in one month.
With everyday that passes, Mei learns to embrace her inner Panda. Realizing it is a part of her that allows her to be more confident and feel bigger than herself. Her classmates and friends warmly accept her new changes, seeing it as a part of Mei that should be celebrated and not hidden like her family warns.
She is then faced with the decision to become her old self again or continue to use Sun Yee’s gift of the Red Panda forever after an intense moment with her mom who turned into the Panda herself.
“Turning Red” develops new animation styles and a new twist on the struggle of growing up. The film captures the beautiful Chinese culture and the importance of learning to be who you are, even if that’s a giant Red Panda.