Disney’s newest film “Turning Red” was nothing short of fantastic. Pixar once again flexed its astounding, innovative animation skills with this movie, and I loved every bit of it. The animation was originally supposed to premiere in theaters, however, the decision was eventually made to make the movie a Disney+ exclusive. The lack of showing in theaters did not stop viewers from tuning in, with reports showing that over 2.5 million United States households viewed the film in the first weekend.
Those of you who have not seen the film may be wondering what the appeal is, and the list of beautiful, funny and heartwarming features of this movie is pretty lengthy. Although this movie is set in 2002 Toronto, I saw so many parts of my younger self within the preteen main character Meilin “Mei Mei” Lee, and her group of friends. We are introduced to Mei Mei as a funny, smart, caring seventh-grader, who loves three things in life, her parents, her friends, and 4*town. 4*town is a boyband in the film, that Mei Mei and her three best friends are beyond obsessed with. This aspect of the movie is really equivalent to how big One Direction was when I was in middle school, or even how big K-pop group BTS is today. The obsessions over crushes, boy bands and the unapologetic nature of the characters, were just so real to how preteen girls really are.
While Mei Mei is juggling being there for her friends and living up to her mother’s rules and expectations, she goes through a major change with her body. Now, periods are scary, but not as scary as what Mei Mei saw in the mirror. She looks in the mirror and is startled to discover that she has transformed into a giant red panda overnight. Mei Mei tries hard to hide this change from her friends and family, until her mother embarrasses her so badly at school that it causes her to turn red, well, turn into a red panda. While this movie does mention traditional puberty and periods, it uses the fact that Mei Mei turned into a red panda, to portray puberty in a more hyperbolic and mystical way. The idea that you can wake up one day when you are a certain age, and see yourself as almost unrecognizable can be shocking and nerve-racking, but if this movie has shown us anything, it’s that your true friends will always help you through that.
As the movie progresses we see Mei Mei struggle with regular preteen things and the fact that she is part animal now. I love how the movie highlighted her relationship with her parents as a young female child of color. In ethnic families in general, but specifically Mei’s Chinese family, respect and honor for your parents is a big deal. Sometimes we find it hard to be our own person and navigate this modern society when having our parents’ expectations weigh upon us so heavily. The writers did a beautiful job with the way they crafted Mei Mei, her friends, and even her family because it was so relatable to what kids experience in real life. I think this film is very special, and I hope that kids now really get a lot out of it.