Netizens discuss Chinese elements in Pixar's 'Turning Red'
Published: Mar 17, 2022 12:40 AM
Photo: Screenshot from webiste

Photo: Screenshot from webiste

Though Pixar's latest feature Turning Red has not been released in the Chinese mainland, the Chinese elements depicted in the film have been widely discussed on Chinese social media as they might resonate with some moviegoers. 

Turning Red debuts on March 11 on Disney Plus. The film tells the story of Meilin "Mei" Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old girl who finds herself turning into a giant red panda anytime she is overcome with emotion. Most of her anger comes from her mother's over-parenting.

There are many traditional Chinese details in the film, including Mei's home which is decorated with stone lions and red lanterns in front of the gate. The elderly people do tai chi and play chess in quadrangle dwellings and some koi fish swim in the pond. Mei's mother wears a traditional Chinese qipao and likes watching TV dramas featuring ancient Chinese costumes.

The film marks the feature directing debut of Chinese-Canadian Domee Shi, the first Chinese person to direct for Pixar. Shi was born in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and she won an Academy Award in 2019 for her short film, Bao.

Chinese delicacies such as steamed buns, porridge or fish might also make overseas Chinese viewers feel homesick. The director has said that food is very important in traditional Chinese culture. In Western families, family members may say "I love you," but Chinese families might express emotion through food.

The film also includes family traditions such as filial piety.

Shi said the film drew inspiration from her own childhood experiences. For example, as a child she liked pop music and drawing, but she became rebellious and argued with her mother when she was a teenager.

The film might resonate with any moviegoer who has a bossy parent or who forces their children to be a perfectionist.

Turning Red looks at Chinese family relationships and the mother's overprotection of Mei. Mei's grades are always the most important thing and the only criterion for judging her worth; the mother has also planned Mei's future without asking what she wants.

The director is trying to describe the life of a teenager from a traditional Asian immigrant family, but it is also a somewhat stereotypical image of a Chinese family in many countries. After all, not all Chinese families have obedient children like Mei.