Turning Red | Director Domee Shi’s Story About ‘The Universal Struggle Of Growing Up’

MIDDLE SCHOOL MAYHEM – In Disney and Pixar’s all-new original feature film “Turning Red,” 13-year-old Mei Lee, a confident-but-dorky teenager, is surviving the mayhem of middle school with a little help from her tightknit group of friends. Featuring the voices of (from left to right) Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, Rosalie Chiang as Mei, Ava Morse as Miriam, and Hyein Park as Abby, “Turning Red” will debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on March 11, 2022. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

We are getting closer and closer to the release of Disney/Pixar’s next offering Turning Red. In this all-new original feature film, we are going to meet Meilin Lee. A thirteen-year-old girl that seems to have it all together. A bit of confidence, a friends group, good grades, and a good relationship with her parents. But as kids quickly become young adults, everything can quickly turn to chaos as they start to develop their own personalities and likes that often differ from their parents. Turning Red explores these rising conflicts of a growing young teen girl.

The relationship between mother-daughter takes the spotlight in Turning Red. Something that is very personal to the director of this animated feature, Domee Shi. Along with her role as a filmmaker, she is also the Vice President of Creative at Pixar. Working on such films as Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Toy Story 4, and Incredibles 2. She also wrote and directed the Pixar short film Bao that won the Academy Award for “Best Animated Short Film”. Turning Red is her feature film directorial debut.

Domee Shi
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

In a recent press event for the film, Shi shared with us the beginnings of Turning Red. She was born in Chongqing, China then emigrated to Toronto, Canada at the age of two. She shares with us how her experience growing up, influenced this story. “Like Mei Lee in the movie, I’m an only child and I was always super close to my parents, especially my mom since my dad had to go away for work often. It was just the two of us. We did everything together. We commuted together to work and to school in downtown Toronto, we went on mother/daughter bus trips and vacations together.” Said Shi.

Rosalie Chiang and Turning Red Director Domee Shi look at character design art for the character she is voicing, Mei Lee, in the art room on October 1, 2021 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

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But at one point like all of us, Shi found herself going down a different path. Discovering new hobbies and friends along the way caused a rift between her and her mom as they were both dealing with the growing pains. “I started changing, I started getting into anime, comics, hang out with my friends more and more and less and less with my mom.” Shi continued. “She didn’t understand why I was obsessed with these fictional characters with huge eyes and colorful spiky hair. She definitely didn’t understand whatever this was. Basically, I was being pulled in one direction but my duty and loyalty to my parents and my mom was pulling me in another direction.”

Turning Red
2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As often is with many writers and directors, films can have a symbiotic relationship with their personal lives. This is definitely the case with Turning Red. With Shi explaining her experience, she then went on to talk about the inspiration of the film. “Turning Red is just inspired by this universal struggle of growing up and trying to figure out how to honor your parents but also stay true to yourself. For Mei Lee in the movie, the red panda is that magical spark that sets off this internal conflict within herself. Up until that point, Mei thinks she has it all
figured out, like we all did before we woke up one day and realized all of a sudden, we’re covered in body hair, we smell funky, and our emotions are all over the place, and we’re hungry like all the time.” Shi explained.

2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Disney/Pixar films usually are great at hitting those emotional strings in all of us. Whether it’s through toys, cars, bugs, or in this case Red Pandas. In this next feature, its the turn of young, changing, and growing girls. Who need a film like this to be able to see that they are not alone in what they are going through. Shi, with her experience, is the perfect person to be able to tell this story. We will soon be able to see that in its full feature glory on March 11th, 2021 exclusively on Disney+ with Turning Red.

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