Turning Red offers more rewards than just the awesome Toronto animation

Universal themes of awkward adolescent transition at heart of Pixar’s latest winner

Turning Red
Where: Disney+
What: Movie, 100 mins.
When: Now
Genre: Animation
Why you should watch: A fun affirmation of adolescent awkwardness and the clumsiness of transitioning from little kid to teen all against a backdrop of cultural clashes. And, despite what a foolish critic said, it’s a story everyone can relate to — even white dudes. Featuring glorious animation that’s a tribute to filmmaker’s Toronto hometown.

Pixar’s latest animated offering is a beautiful tribute to the filmmaker, Domee Shi’s Toronto hometown. The highly entertaining look at the messy, awkward transition from little kid to teen includes the added challenges of culture clash thanks to the lead character’s Chinese background.

And, despite a very foolish critic’s recent comments, it’s a story that everyone can relate to — even white dudes.

Torontonians will be engulfed in an orgy of civic pride as Toronto images and references explode out of the film from the very first seconds. At last, a movie that doesn’t pretend to be from somewhere else — and it’s a cartoon, man!

A “photo montage” right off the top includes a “Toronto Small Business Convention” sign and the CN Tower makes its first appearance by just over the one-minute mark. There’s a red rocket streetcar 30 seconds after that and a Toronto Transit Commission sign by the time we’re two minutes in. Phew.

A beautifully drawn Toronto Chinatown forms the backdrop for a story that draws on Oscar-winning filmmaker’s childhood in the city. Born in China before moving to Canada at age two, Shi won an Animated Short Film Oscar in 2019 for her film Bao and has been nominated four other times. She is the first woman to direct a Pixar film.

The movie revolves around Mei Lee, whose attempts to control her frustration at over-parenting (Mei’s domineering mother is voiced by fellow Canadian Sandra Oh), as well as other challenges in her life, force her to turn into a giant red panda thanks to an ancient curse on her family.

Much mayhem ensues, and Mei’s adolescent army of pals attempts to help tame this pop-up beast.

Funny, fun and not afraid to explore big issues honestly, Turning Red is a rewarding break from a sometimes grueling world. And, damn, all those cool shots of Toronto are fun. You’ll be bursting with animation-powered pride when Mei dances around in her big, bold, red maple leaf tee.

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