Opinion: “Turning Red” is Pixar’s Newest Slice of Life Masterpiece

This is grade eight. Meilin Lee doesn’t have time to mess around.


Paul Flicek, Staff Writer

“Turning Red” is unlike anything Pixar has done before. However, much like every Pixar project, you are left with a greater appreciation of your relationships the moment the credits start rolling. 

Pixar might just have the secret ingredient to turning animated movies into beautiful stories that the audience relates to. I was pleasantly surprised the moment I began watching this movie. We get to see the world from a 13-year-old girl’s point of view, which can make the scariest things seem like they aren’t a big deal. From the creative storytelling to the relatable characters, “Turning Red” is a movie for just about anyone. 

The year is 2002 in Toronto, Canada, and 13-year-old Meilin Lee, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, is struggling to find herself amid the constant expectations set by her mother. Meilin is torn between living up to her mother’s expectations or hanging out with her friends, obsessing over boy bands and going to parties. If an overbearing mother, caring for a Tamagotchi pet and puberty weren’t enough, Meilin also turns into a giant, red panda whenever she feels a strong emotion, which can be quite often for teenagers. Meilin has been juggling the responsibilities of being the perfect daughter for 13 years. The sudden ability to transform into a panda has put these responsibilities on the back-burner, which doesn’t make her mother happy. Meilin must figure out who she truly is behind the personality her mother approves of, which creates a fun coming-of-age film that tackles the awkwardness of becoming a teenager. 

Regardless of how many households watch the movie, “Turning Red” has already made history. Director Domee Shi is the first female filmmaker with a solo directing credit on a Pixar feature film, and it is the first Asian-led film by the studio. However, Shi is not new to the spotlight. She is also credited with being the first female director of a Pixar short film when she directed the Oscar-winning “Bao” in 2018. Shi brings this same beautiful animation and storytelling to “Turning Red.”

There is a lot to love about the writing of the characters. When making a movie, especially an animated one, it is easy to let the main character get all the attention, while the side characters get no love. This is not the case here. Meilin is always surrounded by her best friends, Miriam, Priya and Abby. Each of which has their own set of unique character traits and interests. Instead of taking a broad approach, the movie focuses on the personal stories of each character to better relate to their diverse audience. Miriam is a tomboy skater who would do anything for her friends, Priya is the mellow member who is excited behind her often blank face and Abby is the ball of energy that brings enthusiasm to the group. Despite being vastly different characters, they are determined to stay by each other’s sides. Their loyalty is tested when one of the members can’t go to their favorite band’s concert. After a short discussion, they realize they wouldn’t want to experience this without everyone there, so they decide not to go. This one scene perfectly captures the bond shared between the friend group, which is a highlight of the film.  

Another reason this film stands out is because of the unique animation and vibrant color scheme inspired by ‘90s anime. 

“I grew up watching so much Japanese anime, and reading manga that was written and drawn by women,” Shi said during an interview with ScreenRant. “‘Sailor Moon’ is about middle school girls who saved the world, but they were also best friends, and they went to the mall together. That was so, so cool. We tried to capture that girl-friendship spirit in our movie.” 

The studio did a great job doing just that. Pixar takes its widely popular animation style and introduces it to the vibrant and fast-moving style of anime. This combination creates a visually beautiful film full of color and bubbly characters. 

The film is available on Disney+, and if you haven’t seen it already, you are missing out!