Turning Red – Movie Review

TL;DR – A true delight of a film on an animation and narrative level.    

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit scene

Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ subscription that viewed this movie.

Turning Red. Image Credit: Disney+.

Turning Red Review

When it comes to depicting stories outside of its cultural expertise, the Disney Corporation has had a mixed track record. Even when trying to do something in good faith, they stumble. But they took their time making sure Moana worked, and then Bao showed they could nail a complicated narrative if they supported creatives with their vision. When I heard the writer/director of Bao is making a feature film, well, I had to check that out.

So to set the scene, Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang) is a 13-year-old girl living in 2002 Toronto, Canada. She has become an adult, at least that is what she thinks, and has started making her mark in the world. Mei has three friends Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park), and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), and together they make a core group trying to survive high school and live with joy with their mutual love of 4*Town. Mei works with her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) at their family’s temple that venerates their ancestors, including Sun Yee, who was famously friends with animals, including red pandas, which is quite a coincidence when Mei wakes up one morning to find herself turned into a giant red panda.   

Turning Red. Image Credit: Disney+.
The animation is a delight throughout this film. Image Credit: Disney+.

One of the strengths of Turning Red is its animation style that brings you completely into the world of a young girl in 2000s Canada. We see an evolution of the Pixar animation style that feels familiar and fitting for this specific film. As well as this, they are not afraid to embellish the animation with stylised moments. Sometimes this comes the way they show off a character’s skill like Mr Lee’s (Orion Lee) cooking skill which might give Ghibli a run for the money in the animated food realm. Then they are those moments when the girls explore their love for 4*Town, which enters the world of hyper-realism. This combination of stylised reality and fantasy supports the story that the film is trying to tell.

Of course, the big animation moment in the film is when Mei turns into her Red Panda version. One of the children says that it is ‘so fluffy’, which is very much the case. You can see the evolution of fur from those early moments in Monsters Inc to here. There is a fine line between having a creature that is both warm and cuddly but also clearly could mess things up in a heartbeat, but they get it right. It also helps that you get the whole personality of Mei no matter which forms she is in.

Turning Red. Image Credit: Disney+.
Turning Red did a great job of capturing this time and place. Image Credit: Disney+.

From a narrative perspective, this is a film that is hyper-specific with its story and explores themes that expand more broadly. Mei and her friends are growing up in that turn of the millennium period, which you can see with peak-Tamagotchi and seeps into every moment of the film. It ripped me back in time, even though I’m not Canadian. Then there are those moments when your parents don’t understand you or the high school setting, making things worse. Sitting there and watching the disaster unfold like a train wreck was a horrifyingly familiar feeling. Then they move into areas that I have not experienced, yet you can still feel the impact.          

There are the effects of our own childhoods that we revisit as adults, how we find ourselves in the worlds of your family and where you live, and what you go through as a teenage girl. I am not sure, but I think this is the first Disney film that I have seen that has open menstruation conversations. Also, Mei going straight into fan fiction felt like one of the most honest moments in animation. All of this comes together to create a fascinating tapestry to explore. If there was one thing, I don’t think the ending quite worked as well as they wanted, but this is a small thing.

Turning Red. Image Credit: Disney+.
The Red Panda worked on every level. Image Credit: Disney+.

In the end, do we recommend Turning Red? Absolutely. Turning Red was a delight from the opening moments till the very end. If you liked Turning Red, I would also recommend to you Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or The Mitchells vs. The Machines.  

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you watched Turning Red?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us
Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day. 

Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Turning Red
Directed by
– Domee Shi
Story by – Domee Shi, Julia Cho & Sarah Streicher
Screenplay by – Julia Cho & Domee Shi
Music by – Ludwig Göransson
Cinematography by – Mahyar Abousaeedi & Jonathan Pytko
Edited by – Nicholas C. Smith & Steve Bloom
Production/Distribution Companies – Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios
Starring – Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong, Addie Chandler, Sasha Roiz, Lily Sanfelippo, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Sherry Cola, Mia Tagano, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo & Grayson Villanueva
Rating – Australia: PG;


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