Disney made the questionable decision to release the newest Pixar film, Turning Red, on their streaming service, Disney +, instead of giving it a widespread theatrical release. Why they made that decision is up in the air, but it gave me the opportunity to watch it at home early this morning and I loved it.
Turning Red was a story about 13-year old Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a rebellious, confident girl who still wanted to please her overbearing and obsessive mother Ming (Sandra Oh). Meilin discovered one morning that she has a family curse: when she gets too excited, she turned into a giant red panda.
However, it does not seem like a curse to Meilin, who after an initial period of adjustment, learned how to control the transformations and embraced the furry side to her personality.
She does this through the power of friendship, picturing the great love she has for her besties, Miriam (Ava Morse), Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and the total scene-stealing Abby (Hyein Park), when she needed to calm down.
The four girls were totally obsessed with the hottest boy band, 4*Town and they were desperate to attend a concert at the Skydome in Toronto, but when their parents all rejected the idea, this triggered shenanigans from the quartet.
Turning Red is a beautifully animated, tightly scripted, funny film. It may not be the highest level of Pixar films, but how many films can actually reach that level? This was so entertaining and I felt quite emotional as the story of the mother-daughter relationship dominated the story. Yes, there are story beats that sound like Teen Wolf, but this goes deeper into the characters than that film did.
This coming of age story is a clear metaphor for puberty and the development of young girls’ bodies, and it does an incredible job of using the topic of changing into a red panda to represent a young girl having her period. In fact, the film does an admirable job of broaching that subject with humor and the prerequisite amount of uncomfortableness for the characters while showing the audience that it is a normal moment in all girls lives.
The second half of this movie really picked up and spent time with a group of girls just being a group of girls, where one of them has a major event. I loved the group of girls and found them to be remarkably engaging and refreshing in the picturing of a deep friendship.
This feels like an intelligently written and executed film for the whole family. It makes me wonder why there are so many films that talk down to children when films like Turning Red show that you can entertain while also lifting up the youth. There is a ton of diversity and the film does a great job of showing the culture of people with different backgrounds than what we are used to and that is a great thing.
While I was happy to watch this at home, it feels as if it deserved a theatrical release so it could be seen on a big screen. My guess is that Meilin would be even more impressive, as would the excellent finale, with a bigger screen. Still, please go out of your way to see Turning Red. It is a beautiful story of friendship and parent-child relationships.