‘Turning Red’ Animators Talk Overcoming Production Challenges and Delicious Food

Domee Shi’s Bao was praised for its poignancy and beautiful portrayal of the Asian immigrant experience. While the story captured the hearts of many, production designer Rona Liu was responsible for the finished look of the entire short. And we know the end result. Now Liu reunites with Shi for Turning Red. As one could imagine, the responsibilities increase ten-fold now that the two are working on a feature-length film.

But it was also something that was made under the most unusual circumstances. Because of the pandemic, many of the artists involved couldn’t go on the Pixar campus and had to work remotely. As a result, this robbed them of the creative collaboration one would get when in the same place at the same time. And when it comes to a job as demanding as a production design supervisor, it can be quite challenging not to be in the same space, physically.

In Turning Red, Mei Lee (Roseling Cheng) is a confident and dorky 13-year-old teenager who discovers that she turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited or stressed. Between being the dutiful daughter to her mother (Sandra Oh) and navigating the chaos of adolescence, Mei Lee finds out that growing up is a beast.

The Nerds of Color had a chance to talk to Rona Liu turning the Turning Red long lead that took place a few weeks back. We talked about working remotely during our interview, blending 2D anime influences into a 3D world, the coming-age-story from a Chinese-Canadian perspective, and more.

Additionally, we also chat with Patty Kihm about what it was like to go from animating a porcelain doll to a giant furry red panda. We also got to chat about the anime influences that helped craft many of the film’s performances.