With Turning Red, Pixar continues its recent trend of allowing diverse voices within the studio to tell new (and clearly very personal) stories. Directed by Domee Shi, who also made the delightful short Bao, the studio’s 25th feature is inspired by her adolescence in early 2000s Toronto – with the caveat that, unlike protagonist Meilin Lee, Shi never turned into a giant red panda.

As metaphors for puberty go, it’s as hard to miss as – well, a giant red panda. But Shi’s screenplay (co-written by Julia Cho) does not shy away from the realities of the situation either. Thanks to a winning vocal performance from Rosalie Chiang, Mei feels like a real teenager struggling with changes to her body and trying to come to terms with her identity. And how refreshing it is to see characters in an animated film talk frankly about periods and sanitary products. 

In fact, “refreshing” really is the word to describe Turning Red. The visual style feels wholly unlike anything we’ve seen from a Pixar film before now. Sure, there are shots of mouthwatering food that make the dishes in Ratatouille look like ready meals, but there are also gorgeous scenes rendered like Chinese watercolours, and frenetic touches reminiscent of The Mitchells Vs The Machines.

Yet despite the hyperactive art style, Turning Red still tugs at the heartstrings as any good Pixar film should. The film’s beating heart is the believably tender and strained relationship between Mei and her mother (voiced by Sandra Oh) – watching it might help to bridge the divide between countless parents and teenagers who struggle to see eye-to-eye.

Turning Red is an utterly charming film and an impressive debut feature for Domee Shi. Let’s hope the film finds an audience despite the baffling decision to dump it straight onto Disney+.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, James Hong

DIRECTOR: Domee Shi

WRITERS: Domee Shi & Julia Cho (screenplay), Sarah Streicher (story)

SYNOPSIS: A 13-year-old girl named Meilin turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.

About The Author

Phil W. Bayles

Phil is a copywriter from Sheffield with an unhealthy addiction to Lotus Biscoff cookies and Henderson's Relish (though not at the same time, that would be weird). When he's not writing, he spends his time fruitlessly trying to convince people that The World's End is the best movie in Edgar Wright's 'Cornetto Trilogy'.