Pay no attention to talk of a ‘target audience’ for Turning Red, landing March 11 on Disney+.
Although it’s a confidently Asian, female-driven story—and a special treat for Millennials—Pixar’s latest feature has universal appeal as an allegory of the hormonal insanity of puberty.
Director and co-writer Domee Shi captures the myriad insecurities and humiliations of teenagehood. At times it seems that involuntarily transforming into a giant red panda is the least of main character Meilin Lee’s (Rosalie Chiang) troubles.
Meet Meilin Lee in this official clip from Pixar
Mei’s caring but demanding mother Ming (Sandra Oh) serves up a buffet of social disaster for her, all in an effort to keep her ‘safe’. (Jin, her dad, is a tempering influence, or at least tries to be.)
Things only grow wilder as Mei’s epically-intimidating grandma and aunties get involved, culminating in an epic showdown. Thankfully for Mei, her “ride-or-die” trio of friends stick around.
As we expected from the trailers, Pixar has done a fabulous job bringing the real local color of Toronto—Canada’s largest city and Shi’s hometown—to screen. There are a couple of shots during the final action sequence especially that will have locals cheering.
Keep an ear out for music by FINNEAS and Billie Eilish. They provide some very catchy tunes as songwriters for 4Town, the movie’s in-universe boyband (and Ming’s parental nightmare).
Yes, it’s unfortunate that Turning Red won’t receive a wide theatrical release— not in regions where Disney+ is available. This movie truly was meant for the big screen.
I also would have preferred a more science-y rather than magical explanation for Mei’s pandaness and its cure; she’s entrepreneurial and academic so it would have fit. And hey, we would might gotten more geometry puns.
Watch a short official clip from “Turning Red”
But all told, Turning Red is a success for Pixar, built on a fresh, empowering story that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Speaking of which, the film’s “chunky cute” animation style—think overly expressive eyes—just add to the fun. Make way for the memes.
As my wife likes to say, “GIRLS RULE!”