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Turning Red

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Turning Red
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"Sun Yee, give me strength." - Wu
Genre: Animated
Coming-of-age
Fantasy
Comedy
Directed By: Domee Shi
Produced By: Lindsey Collins
Written By: Julia Cho
Domee Shi
Starring: Rosalie Chiang
Sandra Oh
Orion Lee
Wai Ching Ho
Ava Morse
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Hyein Park
Tristan Allerick
Addie Chandler
Cinematography: Mahyar Abousaeedi
Jonathan Pytko
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: February 21, 2022 (Everyman Borough Yards)
March 11, 2022 (United States)
Runtime: 99 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $175 million
Box Office: $3.8 million
Prequel: Luca (by release date)
Sequel: Lightyear (by release date)


"I found this movie to be very entertaining; I found it extremely funny, very well directed, especially for a first-time feature director. … I thought this movie was fuckin' awesome. I would say if you like anime you're going to like [this] a lot more than most because of the style, but also if you’ve ever gone through intense change in your life in any respect… I think there's things you can relate to in [this], but it was also fun and entertaining and I had a good time with it."
Chris Stuckmann

Turning Red is a 2022 American computer-animated coming-of-age fantasy comedy film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is written and directed by Domee Shi in her directorial debut, produced by Lindsey Collins and starring the voices of newcomer Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho and James Hong as Pixar's 25th feature film. Turning Red premiered in London at Everyman Borough Yards on February 21, 2022, and was released on March 11, 2022 in the United States.

Plot

In Toronto, Canada, 2002, a 13 year old teenager girl called Mei Lee is horrified to discover that whenever she gets too excited or stressed, she turns into a giant red panda at one morning; however, she can turn back if she becomes calm. Mei later learns that her ancestors have a shared history with the species as a family curse, though the curse can be contained by performing a special ritual on one specific night, which happens to coincide with a concert by her favorite boy band, 4*Town.

Why It's Gonna Turn Red (In A Good Way)

  1. It brings up an interesting and unique question; what if humans turned into animals by becoming overcome with emotion and then reverted back to human by being calm?
  2. Much like fellow Pixar films Ratatouille, Brave, Coco, Soul, and Luca, the setting's pretty solid since its set in 2002 Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where Domee Shi was raised.
  3. Amazing, smooth, and beautiful animation, as expected from other Pixar movies standards as it captures the unique art-style once again, and, much like Luca, it could be considered a love letter to the style of Studio Ghibli's outputs.
  4. Like Bao, it stays true to the Chinese-Canadian culture.
  5. Cute and beautiful character designs, especially the very fluffy red panda forms of the Lees, who is very detailed and fluffy to connect the unique artstyle. Some viewers have even said it almost seemed like they could actually reach out and touch it.
  6. The way that a transformed Mei is hiding in a school restroom when a girl walks out of a bathroom stall is pretty funny.
  7. Similarly to Encanto, it avoids many clichés, like the infamous "twist villain". For instance, when Mei decided to go to the concert in order to see 4*Town, Ming turns into a giant red panda (which is fluffier), disrupts the concert and arguing about Mei rejecting to the ritual, which makes her seem like she is the main antagonist, but it turns out it was reversed when Ming reformed herself and turned back to normal. Its also worth mentioning that the scene is very dramatic and exciting to watch.
  8. The cityscape of Toronto is beautiful as well, and the bright pastel color palette is very pleasing. Domee Shi has referred to the palette as an "Asian Tween Fever Dream".
  9. The musical score by Black Panther and Tenet composer Ludwig Göransson is awesome.
    • In particular, the original songs by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell for the fictional boy band 4*Town, "Nobody Like U", "True Love", and "U Know What's Up", are also pretty catchy and energetic jams.
      • The main song, "Nobody Like U" is heard most often and showcases Jordan Fisher's powerful vocals. The Triumphant Reprise in the film's climax mashes the track with the chant of the red panda, making for an epic and climactic mashup.
        • The short a cappella version done by Mei's friends earlier on in the film is also fun and heartwarming in the context of Mei's friends singing it as a way to cheer her up.
        • The Japanese version of "Nobody Like U" sung by Japanese boy band Da-iCE is equally as awesome.
      • "U Know What’s Up" is a nice bop with lyrics that perfectly reflect Mei's determination and desire to achieve her goals. The Panda Hustle version adds an bit of orchestrated Chinese flair to the song.
      • In contrast to the other two hi-NRG songs, "1 True Love" is a slow and beautiful love ballad.
    • The main opening theme, "Turning Red" by Ludwig Goransson, is a wonderful throwback to 80s-90s-early 2000s music that seamlessly blends traditional Chinese instruments, new jack swing, and hip-hop into an incredibly catchy and upbeat track that greatly complements Mei's introductory scene and establishes both her character, as well as the film's lighthearted tone and early 2000s urban setting.
    • "Jin's Family Dinner", the orchestrated piece that plays when Jin is seen cooking, is just as beautiful as the food he is cooking.
    • "Panda-monium", which plays in the scene where Ming is chasing Mei in her red panda form, which is incredibly tense and frantic, fitting Mei's sheer panic and her desperate attempt to get back home and hide.
    • "Red Moon Ritual" starts off with haunting Chinese chanting, which only increases as an intense mix of Chinese instruments and a traditional Western orchestra is added to the song, eventually overshadowing the chanting as Mei begins to enter the spiritual realm. Once she gets there, the track becomes far more calm and tranquil, while having a sense of mystery and mysticism that is fitting for such a magical place.
    • "Making Things Right", which plays when Mei is making her way over to the SkyDome to see 4*Town and apologize to her friends for throwing them under the bus for her mother's approval, perfectly exemplifies the freedom Mei feels as she gains full control over her panda form and uses it to Double Jump from rooftop to rooftop.
    • It is also nice to see the standard Disney logo's fanfare make a comeback after nearly five years off.
  10. Mei Lee is a very likable and charming protagonist. She is also the first Pixar character to be Asian too.
    • Mei's friends, Miriam, Priya, and Abby, are also likable characters as well with their own individual personalities so they don't blend together.
    • Jin (Mei's father), Wu (Mei's grandmother), Mei's aunties, and even Ming (Mei's mother; despite her massive misunderstandings that caused issues for Mei) are very likable and lovable.
  11. Throughout the movie, much like Onward and to an extent, Soul, it doesn't have any real villains. At first, Tyler seemed to be a villain, but he had a side arc of his own where he had to accept his weird quirks. Then, it seems as if the villain would’ve been Ming, but even then, her actions or intentions aren't villainous, she was just wanting their relationship to stay the same for Mei.
  12. The rivalry between Wu and her daughter Ming is interesting and amazing chemistry.
  13. Similarly to other Pixar films like Onward and Luca, the movie can be viewed as autobiographical to director Domee Shi's real life, as it is inspired by the director's real personal experience and her relationship with her mother.
  14. Like Soul, Turning Red manages to be mature and address serious topics as it shows significant things like puberty, parent/child issues, and even mensturation, which really helps the narrative and shows that Pixar is not afraid of show it.
  15. The voice acting is fantastic, with newcomer Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, and Orion Lee being the best highlights.
    • Jordan Fisher, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, Finneas O'Connell, and Grayson Villanueva also do entertaining voice performances as the members of the 4*Town boy band - despite getting only one or two lines each outside of singing.
  16. It does stay away with the Pixar cliché of "Two characters forced to hang together and need to get back somewhere in a limited time while dealing with their differences".
  17. A lot of the cast members, such as Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya), Hyein Park (Abby), and even Sandra Oh (Ming) are Canadian while Sasha Roiz (Mr. Kieslowski) was raised there.
  18. Unique plot twists that were well-executed, such as the reveal of Mei's family (except for Jin) being able to transform into red pandas in the climax for the disastrous concert at the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) stadium for 4*Town.
  19. The humor is well-timed and clever, like the party dancing scene, and it doesn't overuse gross-out jokes, outside of the ending where Mei distracts Ming by twerking.
  20. Awesome and very well directing from Domee Shi, who directed the Oscar winning short film Bao, since she chose this city (Toronto) as the backdrop of her film because it was her hometown.
  21. The characters are very expressive thanks to the character designs, leading to a lot of fun expressions.
  22. The Pixar logo comes with a new twist. As soon as Luxo squishes the I in the Pixar logo, a little Chinese jingle would play briefly which is a good nod to Mei being Chinese-Canadian and Domee Shi herself.
  23. Tons of memorable quotes like:
    • "AWOOGA!"
    • "Sun Yee, give me strength."
    • "This happened already!?"

Bad Qualities

  1. Though the animation is amazing, it can sometimes look a bit uncanny and weird due to the facial expressions of the characters, especially with Abby and Ming.
  2. Mei's nightmare scene can be very dark for a PG rated movie and feels more like something from a psychological horror game than a Pixar film.
  3. In some ways, it feels predictable since it shares some plot elements and themes with the 1985 film Teen Wolf.
  4. Some parts are inappropriate, uncomfortable and out of place for a Pixar movie:
    • For example, when Mei twerks in the intro, and at Tyler’s party where a close-up of her red panda’s rear is shown, complete with the song "Bootylicious" of all songs playing. She also does this in the climax to distract her mom (also in their panda form). It’s also very strange and somewhat creepy for Mei to do this since she’s only 13.
    • Another example would be a scene where Miriam did a close-up with her teeth while chewing gum.
      • Not only that, words like "perv", "drugs", "sexy things", "stripper", etc. are not only inappropriate for a kids movie in general, but a Pixar movie that's rated PG.
      • It even shoehorns in a few period pad jokes, which not only caused controversy but could make some audiences uncomfortable.
  5. Some product placements, like Tim Hortons (even if its done as one of many references to Canada) and Tamagotchi, which feels out of place for a Pixar film (except for the Toy Story films and Soul).
  6. The line, "Are you a triangle? Cause you acute!", is honestly an awful pun and it's also cringeworthy.

Reception

Every since the announcement of Turning Red in December 2020 and release of the first teaser trailer in July 2021, vocal pre-release internet critics thought the film's computer-animated animesque art direction, and coming-of-age story through the lens of a young millennial Chinese-Canadian girl was too niche and out of tone with Pixar's other films. Much like Pixar's last two films, it would see a straight to Disney+ release, rather than a traditional box-office theatrical run, although the film had limited runs in the United States in select areas, likewise in other international territories.

The early reviews of Turning Red got positive by critics alike, who saw this movie for screened in advanced.

Turning Red received critical acclaim, upon released in March 2022, with praise given to its story, use of culture, concept, characters, humor, animation, voice cast, and Shi's direction. Besides Chinese Canadian representation, the film has also been applauded for its Korean, South Asian, and first representation of characters with diabetes. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 94% of 138 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.10/10. The audience approval rating is at 72%, with an average rating of 3.7/5 from over 2,500 ratings. The website's critical consensus reads, "Heartwarming, humorous, beautifully animated, and culturally expansive, Turning Red extends Pixar's long list of family-friendly triumphs.", while audiences consensus reads, "The movie's message might make some parents uncomfortable, but Turning Red has all the emotion and visual appeal that Pixar fans expect.". Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 83 out of 100 based on 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". On the other hand, it got 6.3 user score for Metacritic, making it higher score than Cars 2, but still lower score than The Good Dinosaur. By IMDb and Letterboxd, it got 7/10 rating and 3.8/5 score.

While several liked the film for story and characters, most people spoke up online about how they thought the film was "inappropriate" as it included feminine products (which had never been done in a Pixar film before). They also talked about how the film's message is telling kids that disobeying your parents is a good idea. Crew and cast members of the movie eventually spoke up on the case. Lead voice actor Rosalie Chiang said the film was meant to appeal to all: "This is a coming of age film, everyone goes through this change".

Videos

Trivia

  • Upon the announcement that the movie was being moved to Disney+, Pixar's staffers vented their frustration at once again having their next big feature stuffed onto the platform without a theatrical release, especially after it seemed like they were finally in the clear to do so until the Omicron variant struck the US.
  • This was the third and final Pixar film to be released directly on a streaming service, preceeded by Soul and Luca, although it was still played in international theaters in the countries where Disney+ is not available, as Lightyear became the first film from the studio since Onward and after the COVID-19 Pandemic to be released in theaters on June 17, 2022. Also, the recently announced Elemental will follow suit on June 16, 2023, unless the pandemic returns, even though the trailer has not been released yet.
  • This is the first Pixar film to use the normal opening Disney logo music, since Cars 3, and the first since Toy Story 4 to use the standard Pixar sound effects. However, their next movie, Lightyear, instead uses the variant music for both logos.
    • This also marks the first Pixar original film to use the normal opening Disney logo music, since The Good Dinosaur.
  • For some reason, the official trailer was not updated or uploaded for Disney+ release (except the international versions). However, TV spots were updated in time.
  • In April 2022, shortly after the release in March, a YouTube reviewer known as TheMysteriousMrEnter uploaded "Turning Red Is a Mixed Bag" which he said that it never mentions 9/11. This caused a lot of criticism from his channel for its misleading information as it inspired Domee Shi's real life when she was 12 in 2002 and even spawned memes, like the trailer where Mei in the red panda forms jumps and crashes into the two towers in United States, promoting Mr. Enter to turn off the comments and is possibly regarded as one of his worst moments in his YouTube career.
  • One review of the film by CinemaBlend's Sean O'Connell was negative, calling the focus on a Chinese Canadian girl as "limiting" to a broad audience, and that "By rooting Turning Red very specifically in the Asian community of Toronto, the film legitimately feels like it was made for Domee Shi's friends and immediate family members. Which is fine — but also, a tad limiting in its scope". Members of the press and others criticized the review calling it racist and sexist. Meilin's voice actor Rosalie Chiang said the film was meant to appeal to all, "This is a coming of age film, everyone goes through this change … I think different people of different cultures are going to go through it differently, but at the end of the day, the core messiness and change is something everyone can relate to." As a result of the pushback, CinemaBlend's editor-in-chief Mack Rawden pulled O'Connell's review and apologized publicly for it and that they had "failed to properly edit" the review before posting; O'Connell also posted his own apology for the review.
  • When Pixar invited Shi to pitch three ideas for a full-length film, she had recently completed the Pixar short Bao in 2017.
  • This marks the fifth feature film that the directors made the theatrical Pixar short film before feature length film, preceeded by John Lasseter (Luxo Jr., Red's Dream, Tin Toy and Knick Knack, before Toy Story), Mark Andrews (One Man Band, before Brave), Peter Sohn (Partly Cloudy, before The Good Dinosaur) and Enrico Casarosa (La Luna, before Luca).
  • When the trailer first came out, fans were comparing Mei's situation to the Hulk. Especially since how she turns into a Red Panda is similar to how Bruce turns into the Hulk (the difference being she turns into the form through excitement or stress, instead of anger like Bruce though stress can also trigger a Hulk transformation). Even Pete Docter (Pixar's chief creative officer and the film's executive producer) described it as "The Hulk, but cuter" during the D23 Presentation 2021.
  • Sandra Oh's fourth animated film, after Mulan II, Over the Moon, and Raya and the Last Dragon.
    • It is also the third animated Disney film as well.
  • Mei angrily throwing a dodgeball to one of her schoolmates in the official trailer after the latter mocks her for being a "mama's girl" has generated a slew of edits.
  • Just a week after Turning Red's release, Sandra Oh would again play an overbearing, overprotective mother in Umma — only in that case, it's a horror film.
  • In the Japanese dub, Jin Lee is voiced by Hiroki Yasumoto, whose one of his most well-known roles was Guile; One of his victory quotes is "Go home and be a family man!". In this film, he voice a literal, sensible family man.
  • This film is set in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, as some of the articles of clothing Mei wears features the maple leaf of the Canadian flag and a shot of the CN Tower. According to Domee Shi, she chose this city as the backdrop of her film because it was her hometown.
  • It is the first Pixar film to be solely directed by a woman, and the second Pixar film to feature an Asian lead character after Up (2009).
  • This film had the best three-day opening, in terms of viewers, for an original title on Disney+.
  • This was the first Pixar film to feature a Sikh (an Indian Religion) character, who appears in the trailer as a security gaurd wearing a uniform and a navy-colored turban.
  • This is the fourth Pixar film to have a music score composed by a non-recurring composer after Brave (which had its music score composed by Patrick Doyle), Soul (which had its music score composed by Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross, with jazz compositions and arrangements by Jon Batiste), and Luca (which had its music score composed by Dan Romer). Only time will tell who will score Elemental.
    • Thus, it also marks Ludwig Göransson's first music score in an animated feature film, after previously scoring the Walt Disney Animation Studios short film Inner Workings and producing songs for DreamWorks Animation's Trolls World Tour.
    • This also marks the third Pixar film to debut with a Marvel Cinematic Universe composer, Ludwig Göransson.
  • In Luca, there is an Italian record cover in Giulia's bedroom that says "4 (Star) Villaggi," a reference to the boy band 4 (Star) TOWN in the film.
  • Spawned several memes and DeviantArt pictures due to the nature of the movie. Examples include Mei (in red panda form) saying Awooga, Mei drinking cola, Mei drawing, Mei twerking, Mei throwing a dodgeball, Mei in the style of The Loud House (although not actually a meme), and many scenes involving Abby.
  • The art style is inspired by a lot of iconic 90s animes including Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, and Ranma 1/2. Domee Shi also stated that she took some inspiration from Nintendo due to fleshing out colorful worlds including Pokemon and Earthbound.
  • Priya may be LGBTQ+, according to the local news, and the scene where she dance battles a punk rock woman with pink hair.
  • Upon it’s release, Turning Red became very popular with the Hot Topic crowd. Since its release, Hot Topic has sold numerous Turning Red Merchandise.


Pixar Animation Studios
Movies:

Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - Monsters, Inc. - Finding Nemo - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - Finding Dory - Cars 3 - Coco - Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - Onward - Soul - Luca - Turning Red - Lightyear - Elemental - Elio - Inside Out 2

Short movies:

Theatrical short films:

The Adventures of André and Wally B. - Luxo Jr. - Red's Dream - Tin Toy - Knick Knack - Geri's Game - For the Birds - Boundin' - One Man Band - Lifted - Presto - Partly Cloudy - Day & Night - La Luna - The Blue Umbrella - Lava - Sanjay's Super Team - Piper - Lou - Bao

SparkShorts series:

Purl - Smash and Grab - Kitbull - Float - Wind - Loop - Out - Burrow - Twenty Something - Nona

Feature-related:

Mike's New Car - Jack-Jack Attack - Mr. Incredible and Pals - Mater and the Ghostlight - Your Friend the Rat - BURN-E - Dug's Special Mission - George and A.J. - The Legend of Mor'du - Party Central - Riley's First Date? - Marine Life Interviews - Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool - Auntie Edna - Lamp Life - 22 vs. Earth - Ciao Alberto

Short series:

Cars Toons:

Mater's Tall Tales:

Rescue Squad Mater - Mater the Greater - El Materdor - Tokyo Mater - Unidentified Flying Mater - Monster Truck Mater - Heavy Metal Mater - Moon Mater - Mater Private Eye - Air Mater - Time Travel Mater

Tales from Radiator Springs:

Hiccups - Bugged - Spinning - The Radiator Springs 500½

Toy Story Toons:

Hawaiian Vacation - Small Fry - Partysaurus Rex

Forky Asks a Question:

What Is Money? - What Is a Friend? - What Is Art? - What Is Time - What Is Love? - What Is a Computer? - What Is a Leader? - What Is a Pet? - What Is Cheese? - What Is Reading?

Pixar Popcorn:

To Fitness and Beyond - Unparalleled Parking - Dory Finding - Soul of the City - Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love - Chore Day the Incredibles Way - A Day in the Life of the Dead - Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads - Dancing with the Cars - Cookie Num Num

Dug Days:

Squirrel! - Puppies - Flowers - Smell - Science

Television series:

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (co-production) - Monsters at Work - Cars On The Road - Win or Lose

External links

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