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Director Domee Shi Explains How Turning Red Is A Metaphor For Becoming A Teenager

Disney and Pixar's "Turning Red" is exclusively coming to Disney+ on March 11, and animation fans are in for a treat. Set against the backdrop of Toronto, the '90s-inspired "Turning Red" follows Mei Lee, a 13-year-old, boy band-obsessed, slightly awkward, Chinese Canadian immigrant teen with an overbearing mom. While dealing with all of the problems that face teenagers, Mei suddenly discovers that when she gets overexcited, she turns into a giant red panda. Obviously, this causes a lot of problems for Mei and her friends.

Looper attended a press conference for "Turning Red," and while discussing the movie's unique take on being a teenager, producer Lindsey Collins revealed, "This whole movie is about them getting to that concert, against the backdrop of obviously this kind of magical puberty metaphor that we had too." She also explained, "And it's like oh my gosh, if I was 13 years old, this would feel like life or death."

Featuring music from Billie Eilish and Finneas, Pixar's latest release perfectly sums up what it's like to be a teenager. Luckily, we didn't all literally turn into giant furry animals when we turned 13, but viewers will find more than one relatable moment in the hilarious new film. During the same press conference ahead of the release of "Turning Red," director Domee Shi revealed why Mei turns into a giant red panda in the film.

Turning Red is an 'adorable metaphor'

Discussing the choice to have Mei Lee turn into a giant furry animal, director Domee Shi revealed at the press conference, "We want to use the red panda in this movie as an adorable metaphor for the scary, unadorable, awkward, and cringey changes we go through during this age." Shi continued, "And more specifically, we want to explore the nuances of Asian parent child relationships and dealing with change and all of the intergenerational conflict and how it shapes who we become. 'Turning Red' is quirky and surreal, but at its core it is a mother [and] daughter finally embracing change [...] even if it means saying goodbye to the relationship they once had."

For "Turning Red," Shi drew on her own experience growing up in Toronto in the 1990s, and the relationship she had with her own mother. Plus, Asian representation was key to Shi's pitch to the start. "When I first pitched the film, I really wanted it to feel different, unlike any Pixar film you've seen before," she revealed. "This is going to be Pixar's first contemporary teen girl protagonist and I really wanted the world to reflect her character: colorful, chunky and cute, bold and in your face just like Mei." Shi continued, "The term I used a lot to the crew was 'Asian tween fever dream.' We really wanted a fun, specific backdrop to tell this coming-of-age story, so we decided to set it in Toronto, Canada in the early 2000s."

"Turning Red" is streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting March 11.