28, March 2022
Pixar has just released a new children’s movie following the release of Encanto, which saw an extreme amount of success in a short time. Debuting with a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, Turning Red has become the new social media hot topic among people of all ages. The film was written and directed by Domee Shi, who is also known for her work on Bao (2018).
Turning Red is a fantastical comedy that follows a thirteen year old, Chinese-Canadian girl named Mei Lee. Mei has always been an uptight overachiever in order to live up to her mother’s standards. The film depicts Mei going through the chaos of navigating her youth, all while managing her red panda powers that appear whenever she is overwhelmed — a generational quirk among all the women in the Lee family.
One theme depicted in the film is the hectic nature of puberty. Mei’s red panda counterpart effectively demonstrates the struggle of accepting changes in your life when you’re already used to a routine. After receiving the red panda shape-shifting powers, Mei becomes more motivated to ‘rebel’ against the mother she once devoted her life to impressing for validation. Mei’s extreme lifestyle change gives her strong character development and helps express her passion for the interests she once hid.
Puberty as a theme also connects with another concept, adolescent sexuality. It is common in strict households to hold resentment towards the discussion of common puberty attributes such as crushes and hormones. The embarrassing situations that Mei and her friends experience— in regards to crushes and interests shared by teenage girls— can remind the audience about their own adolescence. There is a scene in which Mei and her friends choose their favorite members in the famous boy band “4-Town,” proclaiming the members as their future husbands. But when Mei goes back home, she pretends to lack interest in the group because of her mom’s reaction to the band. Viewers from a variety of generations can relate to this. There have been groups such as the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, One Direction, and BTS with massive fan bases that hold these types of conversations with their friends. Being a fan of these groups is also seen as something to be ashamed of.
The highlight of this film is its animation; the art style is very appealing and sticks out from how young teens have been represented in many Disney movies. The kids look and act their age, but they are not too childish or mature. It does not set an unrealistic standard for the younger demographic watching. Another element that ties into the enjoyment is the dialogue. The film’s dialogue has a naturally awkward nature that accurately mirrors the conversations of the average middle schooler in the early 2000s.
The official soundtrack of this movie features three original tracks written by Academy winning Billie Ellish and FINNEAS. One of these tracks was the song, “Nobody Like You” performed by 4-Town in the second act of the film. The fictional group has gathered widespread support for paying homage to the aesthetic and production of boy-bands in the early 2000s. Many even pointed out that some members resemble certain boy group members. One popular theory is that the ‘4-town’ member Taeyoung is inspired by BTS’ Jimin, while Jesse is inspired by The Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter.
Turning Red has been acknowledged for joining other recent, well loved animated films such as Luca (2021) or Encanto (2021). The film completes the trilogy of celebrated new-age children’s animated movies, a sub-genre that has proven capable of uplifting the declining reputation of animation.
As most Pixar movies have a lesson to be learned, Turning Red is no exception. As Jin said, “People have all kinds of sides to them. And some sides are messy. The point isn’t to push the bad stuff away. It’s to make room for it, live with it.”Jin – Turning Red