Puberty Makes Sense Once You’re ‘Turning Red’

Pixar examines growing up with anime and pandas.

Alexander Razin
3 min readMar 13, 2022
Image by Disney and Pixar.

There’s a point in every child’s life when they notice abnormalities in their body. They have hair in strange places, and they feel emotions they didn’t know were present. However, no one reaching their teen years has turned into a mythical creature.

Pixar has again delivered little kids and big kids like me to another masterpiece. This time, a classic tackling the P-word. Yes, puberty. What do you think I was suggesting?

Pixar handles these changes in Turning Red: a story about a Chinese Canadian girl, Meilin Lee, played by Rosalie Chiang, who hit the big one three. She reached pre-adulthood, and her feelings and secret family traditions will come full circle.

Image by Disney and Pixar.

Pixar sets the film in the magical period of 2002 when children watch TV through a television screen and listen to music on CDs. I was six in 2002, and my life revolved around my Nintendo GameCube, cartoons, greasy foods, and boy bands. So, I share in Meilin’s discourse.

Those tidbits of 2002 appear when Meilin listens to a burned CD from her friend’s favorite band, 4Town: a boy band that combines *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys.

Besides Turning Red being rich in 2002 culture, every scene in the film is dramatic. No one shot is without the characters exclaiming or verbalizing. Turning Red borrows many tropes from anime (Asian animation), making the movie fast-paced. It makes the film exciting, but Pixar got carried away with the dramatizing by showing a character make food. Either way, the slow-motion cooking shots made my mouth water.

I pride Pixar’s efforts in enriching us in Chinese culture. My knowledge of Chinese heritage is trivial, but Pixar did an outstanding job with its source material. It’s something I’d noticed in Pixar’s latest cultural pieces; I hope they keep it up!

I don’t get the culture, but I understand Meilin’s struggles with an overbearing parent. Merlin’s mother, Ming Lee, played by Sandra Oh, overprotects her daughter. As soon as Meilin turns into that cute red panda, you’ll recognize Ming Lee’s true intentions. Pixar did well, highlighting the mother/daughter dynamic and Meilin’s difference to her mom.

Image by Disney and Pixar.

Overall, Turning Red is an enjoyable film, which caught me surprised. The film explains puberty in a fun way. It’s the perfect replacement for parents who don’t want to give the talk. The anime dynamics keep the narrative engaging, and Pixar continues to understand its characters’ cultures.

I can see it now. Many ten top anime films containing Turning Red and invigorating fan art by furries. Oh, Pixar, you stepped into uncharted waters.

But, it’s okay. It’s okay.

I read the backlash behind Turning Red. It’s just a movie. Enjoy.

Thank you for reading my nonsense. If you give me a clap, I might read your self-help article.

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Alexander Razin

Aficionado and connoisseur of obscure and experimental music, movies, and TV. Fictional and nonfictional pieces have their place here, too