Pixar’s new feature film premieres this Friday, March 11, exclusively on Disney+. On the scene, a 13-year-old girl and the anguish and excitement of puberty. We spoke with the director.
When puberty knocks, everything changes suddenly. It is the physical changes, which frighten and excite in equal measure; the constant back-and-forth of feelings, always on edge; and the adults who, after all, are no longer good enough to hold us or understand anything we say. Young Mei Lee is no exception – apart from transforming into a giant red panda, of course.
Premiering worldwide on Disney+ this Friday, March 11, Pixar’s new feature film (the first to be entirely directed by a woman and with an all-female creative team) portrays and embraces the awkwardness of adolescence – the pangs of childhood. growth, the difficulty of translating feelings into words, the famous teen angst, and even the youthful excitement, which takes us away the first few times – from the first crush to the first time we see our favorite boy band on stage.
“I’ve always been interested in captivating stories about this rite of passage that is puberty, especially from a female perspective, because I feel like there’s not enough representation in the media. Working [as an animator] on Inside Out, for example, was extraordinary precisely because she reminded me of being a teenager and feeling emotionally out of control. There was so much drama, so much humor, so much embarrassment and shame at this stage of my life. I was really excited about the opportunity to explore all this in my first feature film”, confesses Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi, responsible for the novelty along with co-writer Julia Cho and producer Lindsey Collins. Oscar-winner for Bao, the first Pixar short film directed by a woman, Shi makes history once again: she is also the first woman to direct a feature film by the animation studio on her own.
Disney+. Premieres March 11th.
Set in 2002, Turning Red – Strangely Redrevolves around Meilin “Mei” Lee, a girl of Chinese descent living in Toronto, Canada, where Domee Shi herself moved to when she was two years old from Chongqing, China. Between being an excellent student, full of extra-curricular activities, and the perfect daughter, who helps in the family business, MeiMei – as she is affectionately called – barely has time to savor her 13 years, which in this case includes an incredible group of friends, all very different, fun and opinionated, and a natural obsession with the band of the moment, the fictional 4*Town, whose long-awaited concert is an essential part of the plot and promises to make us dance to the sound of eared songs written by two very real phenomena, the O’Connell brothers, Billie Eilish and Finneas. Until to the dismay of his overprotective and perhaps a little authoritarian mother,
“I also grew up feeling torn between two worlds, two cultures, the western and the eastern, and behaving one way at home with my parents and another way at school with my friends. Most Asian children – and immigrants in general – have this experience. My ambition was, in fact, to portray, on the one hand, the strangeness of entering adolescence and, on the other hand, what it is like for these specific children, trying to honor the family without forgetting to be themselves. But also to say that, despite being confusing, there are no right or wrong answers, everything will be fine, we just have to embrace this limbo”, tells us Domee Shi, who had already addressed the difficulties faced by immigrants parents and their children. in your short Bao, about a mother struggling with empty nest syndrome – a problem Mei’s mother Ming fears she will face when her daughter suddenly demands more independence.
In addition to serving as a kind of guide for pre-teens, this new animation – charmingly stylized and colorful – promises to delight both the youngest, who don’t necessarily need to understand what the hell is happening to laugh at Mei’s misadventures and of their elders, who can hardly resist nostalgia, particularly if, like Domee Shi, they were teenagers between the late 90s and early 2000s. “It was really exciting to have the opportunity to show Mei with her best friends and what teenagers are like when they interact with each other and go out together”, says the director, who admits that she made a point of approaching, as shamelessly as possible, topics such as menstruation and the awakening of sexuality, That’s why there’s a scene with sanitary towels and the protagonist daydreams several times about the 4*Town and their newfound crush.
With no focus on a single love interest (by our count, there are about six, totally platonic), Turning Red celebrates female friendships and the power – sometimes oppressive, sometimes empowering – of family bonds. In between are magazines for teenagers, presumably the ones with posters of artists; Discmans, where classic boy bands from the turn of the millennium were heard; and Tamagotchis, the famous battery-operated mascots, whose longevity depended on the greater or lesser attention paid by each player. In short, it’s a true journey through time without ceasing to be on the most universal roller coaster ever. “I felt from the beginning that we shouldn’t avoid cringe. of the thing, but run towards it as fast as possible. The only way to tell a story that could honestly portray that height and resonate with the greatest number of people was to be brave and start right there.”