Growing up is a beast.
Turning Red is the story of a 13-year-old girl who suddenly transforms into a towering giant red panda when she gets too excited – which is pretty much always. Rosalie Chiang lends her voice to Mei Lee, the young lady in question. Sandra Oh (who played Virana in Raya and the Last Dragon) plays her overprotective, overbearing mother Ming, never far from her daughter, and a constant source of stress for the teenager.
A new Pixar film is always cause for celebration. Pixar films uniformly speak to our hearts, and they have a way of telling stories that matter to us in some very fundamental ways. Pixar films frequently take us to wondrous lands as well, but Turning Red relies instead on the wonder within us. Here, it is Mei Lee herself who is the exotic element in the story.
This will be Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi‘s most high-profile project since her short film Bao, which played before Incredibles 2 in 2018 and went on to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
Directed by Shi and produced by Lindsey Collins, Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” releases March 11, 2022.
Red pandas crop up in Asian popular culture from time to time, usually as supporting characters in anime or manga. A very popular red panda is Retsuko (pronounced “Rets’ko”) in the anime series Aggretsuko, also known by its original Japanese title Aggressive Retsuko (Japanese: ????????, Hepburn: Aguresshibu Retsuko).
There are actually two separate species of red pandas, Chinese, and Himalayan. Neither are giants as the one depicted in Turning Red, typically maxxing out at about 16 pounds – the size of an unusually large house cat. They are solitary except for mating season, and eat mainly bamboo, as giant pandas do, but have been observed to eat small birds, fish, insects, mushrooms, roots and grasses. They are one of the few creatures outside of humans that can taste artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Red pandas are an endangered species and do little more than eat and sleep due to their low-calorie diets.