Film: Turning Red
Plot: A 13-year-old girl named Meilin turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.
Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Orion Lee
Director: Domee Shi
Release Date: March 11, 2022
Studio: Pixar & Walt Disney Pictures
HCA Overall Grade: B+

Daniel Howat says, “Turning Red is one of the best films about puberty ever. Bold animation takes Pixar in a new stylized direction, and it’s a perfect match for this story. I worried the style would be too much of a departure, but the energy and blend of traditional Pixar worlds with anime elements worked brilliantly. It’s fast-paced and a bit edgy, but funny and ultimately moving. Turning Red may not pack as much of an emotional punch as many Pixar films, but few tackle adolescence head-on like this one. A lively coming-of-age film about the challenge of embracing our big emotions.” 

Grade: B

Rosa Parra says, “A fun, relatable and engaging portrayal of a coming of age story. I admired its boldness in exploring puberty and all the stages most teenage girls experience. Generational trauma and living to someone else’s expectations are universal themes this film brilliantly depicts. Side note…I watched it with my 8-year-old daughter and I can assure you that younger audiences won’t necessarily notice the topics being debated.”

Grade: B+

Aaron Neuwirth says “Turning Red is fast-paced, frequently quite funny, and clever in the ways it approximates a teenager’s life in 2002.”

Grade: B

Rachel Wagner says, “I admire what director Domee Shi was going for with Turning Red but the script lets down that ambitious premise making for more of a mess than a masterpiece.”

Grade: C

Clarence Moye says, “Turning Red is a film that I’m thrilled exists. It serves an audience that rarely sees not only themselves on screen but representations going through real-world problems. Yes, I’m talking about a Disney/Pixar film tackling teen girl menstruation both literally and metaphorically. It’s something I never thought I’d see, and I’m happy to share it with my 14-year-old daughter. I also applaud the film for refusing to see Mei’s gift as abnormal. The film’s greatest accomplishment is giving us a message of love and acceptance. And that’s the most important — most universal — message of all.”

Grade: A-

Don Shanahan says, “The good storytellers at Pixar take all the possible cringeworthy “red” jokes and mask them through creatively conceived metaphors that soften the obligatory embarrassment with heart, humor, and courage. After all, to the Chinese culture on display, the potentially frightening shade of crimson counts as a lucky color of vitality, success, and happiness. Leave it to the ever-reliable Pixar to swim freely within that intrinsic good fortune as they so often do.”

Grade: B

Peggy Marie says, “This coming of age story reaches across cultural boundaries not usually seen and that being a young girl that is different is A-Okay!” 

Grade: B-

Michael Lee says, “Pixar’s Turning Red is a timeless and resonating story that explores the chaos of adolescence and the complexities of mother and daughter relationships through the lens of a Chinese Canadian 13-year-old. Domee Shi’s directorial debut is joyful, colorful, emotionally nuanced, and a love letter to anime, the hometown of Toronto, Canada, and discovering your identity.”

Grade: A+

Jana N Nagase says, “I loved Turning Red! It’s so cool! The story is unique, full of heart & different from everything Pixar did before. The characters are just adorable. The boy band teen girl inside of me was really happy!”

Grade: A

Joel D. Amos says, “Rosalie Chiang voices Mei and does so with such panache. It’s easy to think the Bay Area native was destined to be in this Pixar movie at this particular point in time when a nation is struggling as it redefines what it means to be American. Turning Red also works brilliantly simply as a coming-of-age tale. Everyone went through puberty. Every single soul on the planet experienced the joy of those six years of teenagerhood. Adolescence didn’t worry about where your family originated, or where you live currently. Leave it to Pixar-Disney to craft a touching, tender, frequently hilarious film that is universal—even if it is about a Chinese family who lives in Canada. The Turning Red experience is one that can be simply described as being swept away by the magic of the art of cinema.”

Grade: A

Nguyen Le says, “Mei won’t realize it right away, nor does her mother, who thinks it’s just a menarche event, but the first day of this shocking metamorphosis is also the start of an endearing and thoughtful journey.”

Grade: B+

Maggie Ma says, “I love how relatable the characters are and the discussion of parenting. It’s great that Domee Shi used food to show the love of an Asian family. And the red panda is just so adorable. I am glad Pixar has a team of female filmmakers behind the film, show what a 13-year-old girl’s life is from a female perspective.”

Grade: A

Tessa Smith says, “Turning Red is a wonderful coming of age story that’s jam-packed with extremely cringey yet relatable moments for everyone who has been through that awkward stage of life. Hilarious, heartwarming, and visually stunning, this is unlike any Pixar film before it.”

Grade: A-

Scott Mendelson says, “Turning Red damn well deserved a global theatrical release, and its mere existence at this point in time in Disney’s existence feels like a Trojan horse, but the film is yet more evidence that the so-called Pixar Slump was never anything other than a media-concocted myth.”

Grade: A-

Josie Meléndez says, “Turning Red is Pixar at its most chaotic. It thrives off of the unconventional narrative and the unapologetic way it tells its story, but it also knows when to be serious. When it gives into those moments, Turning Red delivers emotionally profound magic that will stay with you for a long time.”

Grade: B+

Shannon McGrew says, “Turning Red is nothing short of exceptional. My *NSYNC-loving self was bopping to the soundtrack. I screamed in joy when a character yelled “THANK CTHULHU.” But what blew me away was how it openly discussed puberty, periods, and the complexities of mother/daughter relationships.”

Grade: A-

Debbie Elias says, “Pixar is in top form with Turning Red! Terrific fun for young and old alike. Animation is entertaining and enlivened, characters are relatable as is the wonderful voice casting. But it’s the “messaging” about bullying, finding and liking yourself, respecting your elders and your culture, and more that hits home on so many levels. A wonderful feature debut by director Domee Shi!”

Grade: A

Rick Bentley says, “Domee Shi and co-writer Julia Cho have created a story that is both specific and universal. It is a major plus that Turning Red introduces more diversity to the animation world. But, while the story unfolds in a distinct community, the elements of the pressures of dealing with growing up, what it mends to be a good parent, and the power of friendship cut across every demographic. The bonus is the stunning visual work done by the filmmakers. Each Pixar film gets technologically better and Turning Red is the most creatively stunning work to date.”

Grade: A-

Wendy Lee says, “Turning Red is a wonderful coming-of-age movie with tons of heart. Domee Shi knocks it out of the park with the story. Emotional, intelligent, relatable. A must-see!” 

Grade: A

Rasha Goel says “Turning Red creatively addresses female puberty with a new feminine spirit and one that is rebellious. The film also addresses generational trauma and self-identity all packaged in some furry fun. It may receive some mixed reactions, but we can all relate to those awkward moments during our teen years!”

Grade: A-

Zoe Rose Bryant says “Turning Red finds Pixar surveying some of its most mature subject matter yet while retaining the studio’s signature heart and humor, rooting its story in cultural specificity but tapping into *universal* emotions relating to the chaos and confusion that accompany our transition from childhood to adolescence, finding the commonality in our experiences all in one playful and aesthetically pleasing package.”

Grade: B+

Demetri Panos says “Turning Red is yet another BEAUTIFUL example of how Pixar can take difficult, delicate topics and make them easy & universally understandable. This is about change above and beyond just a menstrual cycle. It’s a shame this is what many have focused on ironically making the topic even more taboo! The Red Panda is an all inclusive metaphor for those “terrible teen” yrs & trying to tame that change instead of trying to recognize & embrace it. In other words mature. It’s also a bummer that Disney decided to forego an exclusive theatrical release! Turning Red is everything you expect from Pixar; fantastical, bold, warmth, charm, laughs, emotion, heart. Not being able to ahare that experience in a theatre is truly missed.” 

Grade: A

Scott Menzel says “Turning Red is the boldest and strangest Disney & Pixar collaboration to date. Kudos to Domee Shi & Julia Cho for creating a fresh, edgy and unique take on womanhood through animation. Some of the jokes go places that I would have never expected to see in a Pixar film. While I think some parents will not be comfortable with some of the conversations they will be having with their children after watching Turning Red, I applaud Pixar for their continuing to push the boundaries to new limits their stories. 

Grade: B

Turning Red  is now streaming exclusively on Disney Plus

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