The latest from Pixar had me seeing red … in a wonderful way.
“Turning Red” is about Meilin Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old girl who wakes up one morning to discover her body has betrayed her: She has transformed into a giant Red Panda and the rest is, well, panda-monium.
Of course, this is a metaphor for the changes everyone – especially girls – goes through at puberty. It gets right down to facts a few times with its mention of the changes girls experience, and it’s the first animated Disney show to do so.
It is honest, brave, and groundbreaking. Oh, and it’s quite often hilarious, because Meilin doesn’t want to be a Red Panda. She just wants to be a girl who draws pictures of cute boys and dreams of going to a concert by her favorite boy band.
Meilin’s protective mother (Sandra Oh) explains to her daughter the transformation is part of what has happened to women in her family for generations: When their emotions run high, the panda comes out. She tells Meilin about a magic ritual that will trap the panda’s spirit in an amulet.
But once a few other people know about Meilin’s inner beast, she becomes incredibly popular: Everyone wants to take a selfie next to the adorable giant creature.
Meanwhile, Meilin wants to focus on the upcoming concert (the engaging songs for the band were written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.) She doesn’t listen when she’s warned about making the panda transformation too many times.
Some of this may look familiar to longtime Pixar fans (like me.) That’s because director and co-writer Domee Shi made the Oscar-winning short film “Bao.” She and her co-writer Julia Cho applied memories from their own childhoods to create the characters and situations in the film’s Toronto setting.
The animation is beautiful. The story is clever (stick around for a comical, endearing end-credits scene) and there’s plenty of action.
“Turning Red” is one of Pixar’s finest.
Running time: One hour and 40 minutes.
Rated: PG for mature themes.
Streaming on Disney+.