MEILIN LEE, the 13-year-old hero of Pixar’s Turning Red, has a lot on her shoulders. She’s maintaining perfect grades alongside responsibilities helping her mom, Ming (Sandra Oh), run Toronto’s oldest Chinese temple. She’s torn between her identities as a dutiful daughter and a socially active teenager. Oh, and she transforms into a giant red panda in times of strong emotion.
That last issue, it turns out, is genetic. Because of a deal made by an ancestor, the women of Meilin’s family all poof into red pandas when they’re angry, sad, or excited, a trait that emerges during puberty. The panda spirit can be contained through a ritual. Ming is desperate to keep her daughter’s red panda spirit under control. Meilin, however, isn’t sure she wants it subdued.
Directed and co-written by Chinese Canadian animator Domee Shi, Turning Red’s fuzzy transfiguration is a metaphor for real-life stressors.