Turning Red, Pixar’s newest animated movie is one of the highly-anticipated movies of the year and for good reason. It’s breaking a lot of ground, as being the animation studio’s first film to have a predominantly Asian cast, the first to be solely directed by a woman, Domee Shi, and the first to have an all-woman leadership team.
The coming-of-age story follows Meilin “Mei” Lee, a Chinese Canadian on the verge of adolescence. Mei struggles with her duties as a daughter, her growing love for a boy band, her changing emotions and all the other chaos (and fun) that comes with becoming a teenager. On top of that, she suddenly starts transforming into a giant red panda whenever she gets too emotional.
Ahead of the movie’s release on March 11, Tatler caught up with the film's award-winning director to talk about her vision for the movie, the challenges of doing her first full-length movie and what messages she’d give to her younger self.
Boy bands are a huge part of Turning Red and Mei’s character. What did you take into account when you decided to put a boy band in the movie and what do they represent to Mei and her story?
This movie is about an adolescent girl going through puberty so it felt like we had to include boy bands because they're a staple in almost every woman’s teenage life. For me, I feel like, [the boy band] 4Town represents this new world for Mei (voiced by Rosalie Chang). It’s something that’s pulling her away from her mum (voiced by Sandra Oh) and her home. But it’s also opening her up to the rest of the world, to new friendships, ideas and emotions. And I think that’s the case for a lot of people when they get their first musical obsessions.
For me, that musical obsession is how she met her friends and I’d imagine that they all became friends in the first place because of 4Town. It was just important for us to depict this—boy bands and this musical phenomenon with respect. We’re honouring it and committing to it because it can be the most important thing in a girl’s life, so we really wanted the audience to feel that way when they see the movie.
As you keep watching it, you’ll see that Mei’s goal is to get tickets for 4Town’s concert. We treated that goal very seriously, like it’s life or death for her. I think that boy bands and loving something so deeply is such a real feeling for girls and kids that age. The smallest thing can feel like the entire world to someone and for Mei, it’s for 4Town.