#REVIEW: DISNEY AND PIXAR’S “TURNING RED”
Review by Mr. Will Wong
Academy Award winner Domee Shi (Bao) makes her Feature directorial debut in Disney and Pixar‘s TURNING RED. The Toronto-set coming-of-age story takes place in the early 2000s and follows Mei (Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old girl who faces the scrutiny of her overbearing mother Ming (Sandra Oh). Her family owns a local temple and have a mystical connection to Red Pandas. Mei‘s world changes drastically one day when she realizes she has the ability to transform into a Red Panda, which usually is triggered by excitement and stress. She then learns that she can actually profit from her identity as a Red Panda with her classmates and begins to embrace it. As she navigates adolescence, Mei ultimately must choose between what she truly wants being a boy band-obsessed teen, and the honour of her family. She is faced with the crucial decision: does she see her favourite band 4*Town who are about the come to town with her friends, or does she participate in an important family ritual.
The themes of mythology and family honour in Asian culture have been explored before in the expansive Disney universe in films like Mulan, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Raya and the Last Dragon. In recent years we’ve been hearing more from the unique voices of those who are children of immigrants and what it’s like to balance the ideals and values their parents raise them with, against life growing-up with North American standards. Shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Disney+‘s upcoming series American Born Chinese, plus also Golden Globe-winning The Farewell explore this. Shi offers her own take and a fresh lens through the eyes of Mei, while paying tribute to her own Chinese-Canadian experience having grown-up in Toronto. It is refreshing and exciting seeing very local things like the TTC, SkyDome (remember, this is set in the early 2000s!) and Daisy Mart featured so prominently in a production that will be seen on an international stage.
Though the Film at times gets a little lost in the mythology and is a bit hectic, things come together nicely late in a meaningful way with a relatable message, especially for those of us who like Mei grew-up with the weight of expectations Chinese culture brings. TURNING RED is about finding one’s voice and parents learning to understand their own cycle of behaviours in parenting. Visually, the animation is spectacular and we must say that Mei‘s Red Panda is very adorable. The Soundtrack is fun and representative of the era, with some fine vocal work from 4*Town, voiced by the likes of Jordan Fisher and Finneas.
Newcomer Chiang delivers an engaging performance in the lead role, and Canadian treasure Sandra Oh is commanding as Mei‘s mom. We only wish her Ming got a little more dimension as her backstory is only revealed late as she comes off irrational for much of the Film.
We’ve been waiting a while for this and are thrilled for you to discover Disney and Pixar‘s TURNING RED as it arrives March 11, 2022 on Disney+.