Disney and Pixar announce all-new original feature film “Turning Red”

Disney and Pixar’s all-new original feature film “Turning Red” introduces Meilin Lee, a confident, slightly dorky 13-year-old with a solid group of friends, an admirable record in school and a better-than-average relationship with her family for the most part. Meilin— Mei to her friends—has every reason to expect smooth sailing throughout the rest of her middle school career. But according to director Domee Shi, that’s not how life goes for most 13-year-olds. “I really wanted to explore the conflicts of a young teen girl—how she’s torn between being a good daughter and embracing her true messy self.” The mother-daughter relationship takes center stage in “Turning Red,” and it’s a theme that’s very close to the director’s heart.

In “Turning Red,” this phase of growing up is marked in an unexpected, can’t hide-from it, larger-than-life way: when Mei’s emotions get the better of her, she “poofs” into a giant red panda. “One minute, everything’s perfect,” says Shi. “And then, just like with all of us, all of a sudden there’s terror everywhere. She’s way taller, hungrier, more emotional. She’s, in fact, turned into a giant red panda, and the only way to turn back into a human girl is to take deep breaths, calm herself down and control her emotions. It’s kind of like ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ but cuter.”

According to producer Lindsey Collins, “Turning Red” is set in Toronto, Canada, in the early 2000s. “It takes place in a familiar time and place that kind of roots us all in reality,” says Collins. “It’s not a magical world. That’s important because the story itself is pretty fantastical with a girl that hits a magical kind of puberty and turns into a big red panda—yet we can all still relate.

“It’s a coming-of-age story about change and those transitional moments,” continues Collins. “It’s about that time in our lives when we’re trying to figure out who we are. We have a girl who is torn between her family and her friends, learning that she’s not at all who she thought she was. And we have the mother whose daughter is suddenly interested in strange music and boys—a mother who struggles with letting go so her child can become who she needs to be. It’s a universal theme that rings true whether you’re the parent, the child, or maybe both.”

But, says Collins, it’s not just that profound relatability that sets “Turning Red” apart from other coming-of-age stories—it’s Shi’s approach to filmmaking. “Domee has an energy to her that I find really engaging—she’s an engine,” says Collins. “She moves fast; she’s super decisive. She brings an unexpected and unapologetic quirkiness to her storytelling, the stylization, and to the entire film.”

Filmmakers called on newcomer Rosalie Chiang as the voice of Meilin; Sandra Oh (“The Chair,” “Killing Eve”) lends her voice to Mei’s protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming. Mei’s tightknit group of friends are voiced by Ava Morse (“Ron’s Gone Wrong”) as Miriam, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (“Never Have I Ever”) as Priya, and Hyein Park as Abby. The voice cast also includes Orion Lee (“First Cow”) as Mei’s dad, Jin, Wai Ching Ho (“Daredevil,” “Iron Fist”) as Grandma, Tristan Allerick Chen (“The Barbarian and the Troll”) as classmate Tyler, and Addison Chandler (“American Horror Story”) as Mei’s sudden secret crush Devon. Rounding out the voice cast are James Hong (“Big Trouble in Little China,” “Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny”), Lori Tan Chinn (“Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens”), Lillian Lim (“Motherland: Fort Salem,” “Meditation Park”), Mia Tagano (“Tantalus: Behind the Mask,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), Sherry Cola (“Good Trouble”), Sasha Roiz (“Grimm”) and Lily Sanfelippo (“Spidey and His Amazing Friends,” “Firebuds”).

“Turning Red” introduces Pixar’s first-ever boy band, 4*Town. Providing the harmonious voices of the members of 4*Town are Jordan Fisher, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo and Finneas O’Connell.

Directed by Academy Award® winner Domee Shi (Pixar short “Bao”) and produced by Lindsey Collins, “Turning Red” launches exclusively on Disney+ on March 11, 2022.

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