Currently streaming on Disney+ from director Domee Shi and Pixar Animated Studios comes the story of growing up with tradition in TURNING RED.
Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) is a thirteen-year-old girl living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with father Jin Lee (Orion Lee) and Mother Ming Lee (Sandra Oh). She excels at school, is a bit bossy but loved by her friends Miriam (Ava Morse), Abby (Hyein Park) and Priya (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). She has two worries in life, pleasing a very overprotective mother and Tyler (Tristan Chen), the school pain in the behind!
What she is not prepared for is to add to those worries but some things just come when they are ready. After a powerful storm in the night, Mei wakes us and looking in the mirror staring back at her is a big red panda. Freaking out, her mother immediately goes into panic mode as well believing her little girl has started having a period. Learning that it is her panic that keeps her covered in fur, Mei calms down and returns to normal.
In class, she sees mom out the window and it sends her back into red panda mode. Trying to get away as fast as she can there is no escaping Mom. Once home, Meilin learns that generations ago, a woman named Sun Yee could transform into a red panda to fight battles and since then every woman in the family could do it as well.
The only way to stop it is a ritual that sends the red panda spirit back on the night of the Red Moon. The problem is that is also the same night that Meilin and her friends are supposed to see their favorite band 4* Town in concert and, the girls have all been raising money to pay for the concert tickets. Meilin even uses her red panda persona to make the final bit of money they need.
Agreeing to appear at Tyler’s birthday, everything goes horribly wrong when Mom shows up and learns that Meilin has been doing things she cannot believe! Now, Grandma (Wai Ching Ho) and the Aunts have shown up to help put the red panda back in the box as it were. There is only one place Meilin wants to be and that is with her gal-gang at the SkyDome to see 4* Town.
What happens next is a red panda revolution between Mom, Meilin and all the women in the family who know what needs to be done – and they better do it quickly!
Chiang as Meilin offers up her vocals giving us a thirteen-year-old girl who wants to just be as wild (as wild as a thirteen-year-old can be) and enjoy friends and life. There is a delightfulness that she brings to a character going through so many changes. Oh as mom Ming is a bit scary with her overprotective and a bit overbearing ways. She pushes her daughter into a corner and a red panda emerges to push back wanting to change their future together.
Ramakrishnan, Morse and Park are as energetic as Meilin’s friends as Mei herself. Even when their friend turns her back on them when they need her the most, forgiveness and friendship always win out.
Chen as Tyler is a young man who, believe it or not, is trying to find a way to have friends. It is his approach to it that needs some help. He is going through his own growing up issues and, like Meilin, has no one to reach out to about it.
Other cast includes Lori Chinn as Auntie Chen, Mia Tagano as Lily, Sherry Cola as Helen, Lillian Lim as Auntie Ping, Jordan Fisher as Robaire and Finneas O’Connell as Jesse and Topher Ngo as Aaron T and Grayson Villanueva as Tae Young and Josh Levi as Aaron Z of 4* Town, and James Hong as Mr. Gao.
Disney+ is the subscription home streaming entertainment with Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more. There are exclusive originals with new feature films, shows, short form content, documentaries, and actions series such as THE MANDALORIAN. For more information, please visit www.disneyplus.com.
TURNING RED has so many different issues that are wonderfully wrapped in a red panda. First, this is a generational film in that history repeats itself from mother to daughter but, Meilin is about to make some serious changes. As each confrontation with Mom happens, the young girl has to find it within herself to be herself.
The film also addresses the expectations for Meilin but she lives a double life. Once away from Mom, she has friends, interests and is getting to that age where boy watching is a friend gathering sport. I have to admit, watching her with the gal-gang reminded me so much of how it was, and my granddaughter wanted to know if its going to be that fun when she gets that age (talk to me again in seven years!).
There is also the traditional story of a woman warrior that is reminiscent of the film MULAN. Another young lady who lives with the struggle of wanting to be what her parents see as a daughter yet wants to break away. The film also carries the same wonderful stories of ancestors and their importance to the Asian culture.
TURNING RED is just delightful, funny, charming and chocked full of life lessons and the importance of knowing a family past yet embracing the potential of the future.
In the end – growing up is a beast!