Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ Promises Teenage Angst and Red Panda Transformations

Disney•Pixar has released the latest trailer for their forthcoming animated feature Turning Red. From the mind of Academy Award-winner Domee Shi, the coming-of-age film follows the teenage Mei (voice of Rosalie Chiang) who goes through a unique kind of growing pain that’s different from any other teenager. Anytime Mei exhibits a strong emotion, she turns into a giant red panda. So, think of a cuter and cuddlier version of how Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk.

The trailer gives us a glimpse into Mei’s life as a typical teenager who loves spending time with her friends, beatboxing, concentrating on school work, and transforming into a giant red panda. Of course, that last one might not be so typical. But it does provide a very entertainingly engaging narrative viewed through an East Asian lens. The trailer also provides a more ancestral explanation as to why Mei’s transformation occurs, and more of the cultural nuances that weren’t as prominent in the last trailer – notice the congee, use of red and green colors, and similarities to Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbors the Yamadas. According to Mei’s mother (voice of Sandra Oh), the family has been mystically tied to the red pandas, and the change is a sort of rite of passage. But that’s not easy to accept, especially when every teenager, with an overprotective mother, is obsessed with appearances and things that their parents disapprove of.

But as the trailer reveals, Mei slowly embraces this newfound transformation as she challenges her friends to force the change to occur and uses her red panda form to her advantage as she takes on bullies.

MOTHER’S NATURE – In Disney and Pixar’s all-new original feature film “Turning Red,” confident-but-dorky teenager Mei Lee is torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. And Mei Lee’s mother has very strong feelings about it all. Featuring Rosalie Chiang as the voice of Mei Lee, and Sandra Oh as the voice of Mei Lee’s mother, Ming, “Turning Red” opens in theaters on March 11, 2022. © 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“We needed our character Mei to be obsessed with something that her mom would not approve of,” said Shi. “Boy bands were the first step into the world of boys for a lot of girls that age. The guys were all super pretty, polished, soft and loving, and they had of way of bringing girls and their besties together. Plus, I thought it’d be really cool to create an animated boy band.”

Sure this trailer, and the first one, appropriately featured Backstreet Boys and N’Snyc in their trailers as it was the boy bands of the late 90s and early 2000s. But Pixar decided to go with something new and more contemporary. So they brought in GRAMMY®-winning singer-songwriters Billie Eilish and FINNEAS to write new songs for their fictional band 4*Town.

Joining previously announced Rosalie Chiang and Sandra Oh, who lend their voices to Mei and her mother Ming, are Orion Lee as the voice of Mei’s dad, Jin, and Wai Ching Ho as the voice of Grandma. Mei’s tightknit group of friends are voiced by Ava Morse as Miriam, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Hyein Park as Abby. Tristan Allerick Chen voices classmate Tyler, and Addie Chandler lends his voice to Mei’s secret crush Devon. Providing the harmonious voices of the members of 4*Town are Jordan Fisher, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo and Finneas O’Connell. Rounding out the voice cast are James Hong, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Sasha Roiz and Lily Sanfelippo.

Here’s the official plot synopsis:

Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” introduces Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda!

Turning Red opens in theaters on March 11, 2021.