A moment for Toronto to call its own! The Cast of Disney and Pixar‘s upcoming feature TURNING RED came to the City that inspired it all! The Toronto-set coming of age story centers on Meilin, a 13-year-old girl about to go through puberty, navigating life, boy bands and her mother in the early 2000s. Above, this she finds herself turning into a Red Panda every time she gets triggered! Packed with Toronto-isms, catchy Pop, brilliant animation and performances, TURNING RED is a must-see and it will stream exclusively on Disney+.
The Red Carpet was rolled-out tonight at TIFF Bell Lightbox, coinciding with International Women’s Day, welcoming the Film’s stars, Director and Producer as we see in-person events pop-up again in the City.
Appearing tonight and wrapping-up a busy two-day Press Tour, were:
Marci Ien – Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Canada
Cameron Bailey – TIFF, CEO
Domee Shi (Director)
Lindsey Collins (Producer)
Sandra Oh (“Ming Lee”)
Rosalie Chiang (“Meilin Lee”)
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (“Priya”)
We had the pleasure of chatting with stars Rosalie Chiang and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan:
This Press Tour is Chiang‘s first time ever in Toronto and we ask her what she loves most about the City.
Chiang: “There’s nothing I didn’t like about Toronto. The City is gorgeous. This is my first time in Canada, so seeing the full ambience and energy, it’s very refreshing!”.
We ask Chiang to take us through the emotions of the casting process and finding out she landed the starring role of Meilin.
Chiang: “At first I went through shock… when they told me that I was officially Meilin, I froze. I teared-up a little, but it wasn’t till a week later that I processed it. My mom was like ‘What’s wrong?’ and I was like, ‘I can’t believed I booked it!!'”.
The Film touches upon themes of female friendship. We ask what Chiang pulled from her own life experiences in exploring Meilin‘s world.
Chiang: “Often time, female friendships are portrayed as catty and backstabbing. I never actually went through that. I don’t know anyone who has. In my life, I’ve had friends come and go for sure, however the friends I’m with now, I’ve known them my entire life. There was one point that I moved away. When I came back, they welcomed me back with open arms.”.
Today was a big day for Ramakrishnan who stars in Netflix hit series NEVER HAVE I EVER, which just got renewed for a fourth and final season. In addition to this, the Mississauga native is to receive the Radius Award at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards in April.
We ask her what makes her ‘turn red’?
Ramakrishnan: “You mean like as in ‘Panda-Out’? I think a lot of things. I’m an Actor, we all are emotional little worms. That’s what Actors are. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. Basically I ‘Panda-Out’ all the time. I’m more of a Panda than I am a human.”.
Ramakrishnan knows all the good spots in Toronto to eat. We ask her for her ultimate Hidden Gem in the City.
Ramakrishnan: “Being the Mississauga Girl that I am, I’m gonna keep it in Mississauga. Actually, maybe I don’t want others to know… oh my God…I’ve gone to deep. You saw that realization! We really have to support the businesses. There’s this really awesome Korean Fried Chicken place called K-Pocha– they make the best Corn Cheese. It’s open late night. And I’m a late night owl and I go out at 2 in the morning, you know?”.
Some Snaps from the night:
Video Highlights (pardon the mic issues):
Disney and Pixar‘s TURNING RED arrives March 11, 2022 on Disney+.
We had the pleasure of sitting-in on a junket with the Cast and Creators as well recently. More here.
TURNING RED is about to become a major cultural moment for Toronto. The Toronto-set Disney Pixar Animated Feature is about to see a release on Disney+. We witness the world as a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl named Mei (Rosalie Chiang) and what it means to find her own voice when carrying the weight of expectations that her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) places upon her. Mei turns into a Red Panda when triggered and must learn to navigate this new identity. The high-energy coming-of-age story celebrating friendship, infuses elements of fantasy and fandemonium, making us recall a time in our life that would play a pivotal role in us becoming who we are. The City’s very own Domee Shi who won an Oscar for her Animated Short BAO, makes her feature directorial debut here and once again we get more of her “chunk-cute” aesthetic.
It was such a delight to sit-in on a Virtual Panel with the Cast and Creators of TURNING RED, including:
Sandra Oh… Ming
Rosalie Chiang… Mei
Ava Morse… Miriam
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan… Priya
Hyein Park… Abby
Domee Shi… Director/Co-Writer
Lindsey Collins… Producer
Julia Cho… Co-Writer
Director Domee Shi talks about the inspiration behind the Filmwhich in many ways, is autobiographical.
Shi: “The inspiration behind TURNING RED came from my own life growing-up early on Chinese-Canadian. Dorky, sassy, nerdy. Girl who thought she had everything under control. Mom’s good little girl. But then boom! Puberty hit. And I was bigger, I was hairier, I was hungry all the time. I was a hormonal mess and fighting with my mom every other day. Making this Film was a chance to go back to that time.”.
Screen Veteran Sandra Oh is a national treasure and she stars in this very distinctively Canadian film. She talks about the great energy she feels with this Cast and experience with her character, Ming.
Oh: “I think launching the Film is extremely really exciting, to meet all these young women and finally feel the bodies that belong to the voices. I think we’re all excited to be here, excited to launch it. We’re all buzzing.”.
Rosalie Chiang is a star in the making and talks about her deep connecting to our central character, Mei.
Chiang: “My favourite animals are actually Red Pandas. Before the whole project even started. The main thing is that my mom called me “Mei Mei” even before the project. Because “Mei Mei” means “little sister” in Chinese. And so when it came to a point everyone called me “Mei Mei” – even those younger than me, which you’re not supposed to do – and my character was called ‘Perfect little Mei Mei‘. I thought, ‘Hey! I went through that too!'”.
Friendship is such a central theme in TURNING RED. Ava Morse who plays Mei‘s friend Miriam, talks about what this meant to her.
Morse: “I’m still in high school and obviously it can be very stressful and dark at times, because everyone is going through a lot and changing together. Not everyone knows how to handle that. At the same time, they’re living life the best they can. And all my friends means so much to me and they’re all very supportive no matter what. I was inspired by my own friends, putting some of my own friends into Miriam as she’s such a wonderful, supportive friend to Mei and the other girls. My friends are so supportive and always there for me no matter what so it was really cool to give back.”.
The Music plays a very central theme in TURNING RED and here we meet Pixar‘s first ever Boy Band, 4*Town, voiced by among others, Finneas and Jordan Fisher.Mississauga’s Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who voices Mei‘s friend Priya, talks about her own first concert experience.
Ramakrishnan: “I remember when – and this is gonna be very Canadian of me – I remember going into grade nine and going into high school, I went to my first concert to see Mariana’s Trench. And I lost my mind! I was always like ‘Why do people cry at concerts? Shouldn’t you be happy? Shouldn’t you be excited to be there?’. But then as soon as they came out.. bawling! I understand. I understand why I’m crying. I was so emotional and I didn’t know why. Music is important growing-up. It totally shapes who you are. But also enjoying that with your friends – shout-out to specifically to female friendship – which is so key. I love that we show the importance of four young girls being supportive of each other.”.
Often we see story lines with feuding female tropes, but TURNING RED steers from that. Hyein Park who plays another one of Mei‘s friends Abby, talks to this.
Park: “Because I’m a Story Artist at Pixar too, it is very important. So when we finally got to create this female friendship, it was very important that it was authentic. So Domee talked a lot about her own experience with friendship and she would hate to add onto those tropes and just make it real. We actually shared a lot of different stories and moments we love in terms of female friendship. She actually asked a lot of different people in the Studio to get a lot of authentic insight into what girlfriends are really like and how they are there for each other.”.
Producer Lindsey Collins tells us how Grammy-winning brother/sister duo Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell came to be involved with the project.
Collins: “4*Town was in the first draft of the Script. It was a very early fake scene written between Ming and Mei that helped illustrate what their dynamic was, and part of that was this joke that has Ming saying, ‘I don’t understand your obsession with this Boy Band and if they’re called 4*Town, why are there five of them?’. It all started as a way to colour Mei‘s character. By the third draft of the Script, we came to this moment. What are the stakes of the Film? What feels right? And certainly all of us remember our 13-year-old selves and what going to our first concert was like. Your first concert felt like the most important thing in the world. It became this great way to ground this fantastical movie with real world 13-year-old stakes. There also was a selfish desire. An animated Pixar Boy Band? Yes, please. Then the question, who was gonna write the music. I have three teens at home and they are listening to music constantly. And Billie and Finneas‘ music was being played all the time in my house. They clearly are people who spoke to this generation in a way that those songs they’re writing, were written for them. And I think, ‘Let’s ask!’. It was such a weird ask. They’re super-popular people and I don’t’ think they’re gonna take anything… but because it was such weird ask, they were kinda intrigued. We pitched in-person and before the meeting, they were like ‘We’re in!’. It’s huge!”.
“The minute you start talking about the music that speaks to that age group and also what it feels to be that age – that is the message of the Film and again, if it was something that felt less in-line with the approach they take in their own music, their answer would’ve been different.”.
How amazing is this? TURNING RED directed by Toronto’s Domee Shi is a love letter to Canada, starring Sandra Oh, and it is an upcoming Feature from Disney and Pixar! Here’s your first look.
According to “Turning Red” director and proud Toronto native Domee Shi, if you set a 13-year-old girl’s coming-of-age story in the early 2000s, it’s pretty much mandatory to include a boy band. “We needed our character Mei to be obsessed with something that her mom would not approve of,” said Shi. “Boy bands were the first step into the world of boys for a lot of girls that age. The guys were all super pretty, polished, soft and loving, and they had of way of bringing girls and their besties together. Plus, I thought it’d be really cool to create an animated boy band.”
Enter Pixar’s first-ever boy band, 4*Town. Filmmakers called on GRAMMY®-winning singer-songwriters Billie Eilish and FINNEAS to write the fictional band’s songs—three in total, including the song “Nobody Like U” featured in the new trailer. “When we first started talking about Billie Eilish and FINNEAS—back before they’d won a billion GRAMMYS—we could see then how they had their finger on the pulse,” said producer Lindsey Collins. “We were big fans. We met with them and pitched this crazy idea of a boy band, asking if they’d be interested in writing and producing the songs. They were!”
Eilish, whose sophomore album, “Happier Than Ever,” debuted at No. 1 in the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and in 19 countries worldwide, made history as the youngest artist to win in all the major categories at the 62nd GRAMMY® Awards, receiving an award for best new artist, album of the year, record of the year, song of the year, and best pop vocal album.
FINNEAS, the youngest ever to win the GRAMMY® for producer of the year (non-classical), built a sterling discography penning and producing smashes for a cadre of superstars—not only for his sister, Billie Eilish, but also Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, Tove Lo, Kid Cudi and Ben Platt, among others. His debut solo album “Optimist” is out now.
GRAMMY®-, Oscar®- and Emmy®-winning Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson (“Black Panther,” “The Mandalorian”) is composing the score for “Turning Red.” “I’ve been a fan of his for a while,” said Shi. “We were drawn to his versatility—he’s a composer, but he also produces pop music. We knew he would help us create a very unique sound.”
Joining previously announced Rosalie Chiang and Canadian Sandra Oh, who lend their voices to Mei and her mother Ming, are Orion Lee as the voice of Mei’s dad, Jin, and Wai Ching Ho as the voice of Grandma. Mei’s tightknit group of friends are voiced by Ava Morse as Miriam, Toronto native Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Hyein Park as Abby. Tristan Allerick Chen voices classmate Tyler, and Addie Chandler lends his voice to Mei’s secret crush Devon. Providing the harmonious voices of the members of 4*Town are Jordan Fisher, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo and Finneas O’Connell. Rounding out the voice cast are James Hong, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Sasha Roiz and Lily Sanfelippo.