After the tremendous success with the animated short Bao in the awards circuit, Domee Shi and Julia Cho developed Turning Red as PIXAR’s next film. What’s created isn’t too different from past films, namely Brave, but in this case, we’re seeing a story set in modern times and in Toronto, Canada no less!
It’s tough to live up to a parent’s expectations. Dealing with overprotective mothers is perhaps the hardest and this film hits a very familiar tone faced by most during their childhood. And what’s shown isn’t necessarily restricted to just her, but also for anyone growing up in a Chinese family. It’s not about the cultural barriers, but also in honouring traditions. The screenplay nails those aspects down because I’ve lived through much of it myself!
But for Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang), mom (Sandra Oh) guards a family secret to which the young tween is not ready for and wants to accept. The 12-year-old wants to live out that life with her besties, attend concerts and fawn over one particular boy. But after a embarrassing ‘confrontation,’ the embarrassment is too much to handle. She wakes up the next morning as one huge cute and cuddly puffball. She can morph into a red panda!
One reason is because of puberty and the other is a result of a magical spell. She comes from a long line of protectors of the peace. They aren’t needed in today’s age, but should the need arise, I’d be curious what further adventures this girl would face. The film is left open enough for Disney & PIXAR to expand upon.
This film will certainly resonate with many Asian viewers given the spiritual and symbolic significance of the red panda. It doesn’t get heavy with explanations, but I would’ve appreciated this added nuance since not everyone is familiar with this animal.
When Mei is roaming loose in the city, the humour doesn’t stand out too much and I’m simply reminded of Girl Meets World. This tale is tailored towards an audience already familiar with works like Paddington the Bear.
There’s a passing reference towards embracing the inner beast in classic yin and yang style. However, to allow one aspect to get too loose, as Ming, the mother, reveals is very classic Wolfman type material. Some kind of threat needs to be subdued. But in this case, its in getting mother and daughter to bond. That’s tough when both are headstrong. At least, like in past PIXAR films, we get to see the ties that bind instead of keeping people apart.
4 Stars out of 5