Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Pixar's Danielle Feinberg Discusses Bringing Red Pandas To Life In Turning Red - Exclusive

Visual effects supervisor Danielle Feinberg has worked on some of the most beloved Pixar movies, from "Toy Story 2" to "Inside Out," and "Monsters Inc." to "Finding Nemo." Now, Feinberg is back as part of the team behind Disney and Pixar's "Turning Red," which will exclusively be available to stream on Disney+ starting on March 11, 2022.

The story of "Turning Red" follows Mei Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian immigrant with an unhealthy obsession with the boyband 4*Town. When Mei gets overexcited or has strong emotions, she starts turning into a giant red panda, which causes some hilarious problems for her and her friends. Set in Toronto in the early 2000s, "Turning Red" is a gorgeous examination of what it means to be a teenager. It also features "Grey's Anatomy" and "Killing Eve" star Sandra Oh as the voice of Mei's overbearing mom.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Feinberg reveals how she and the team brought red pandas to life in "Turning Red."

Pixar 'always start with real life,' says Feinberg

In order to create the unique shape-shifting lead character Mei in "Turning Red," the team at Pixar decided to closely study red panda behavior. As visual effects supervisor Danielle Feinberg told Looper, "I think it was really important ... We always start with real life as the base and then decide where we want to push and pull things. ... In animation, you can get the expressiveness you need, or the acting that you need, but [it's] always based on real life, because then it's more believable," she said, adding, "The fun example that [animation supervisors] Patty [Kihm] and Aaron [Hartline] talked about is, when red pandas are scared, they put their arms up, and [we] then folded that into the [animated] panda the whole way." 

Obviously, creating an animated red panda is a challenge all on its own. As Feinberg explained, "A real life red panda is not eight-feet tall. It's not 'chunky cute' in the same way. It's not making a cat-shaped mouth or a bean-shaped mouth, so we have all kinds of artistic license. But seeing how they move, they're this very tube-like shape and they're very agile." However, those sessions with real animals undoubtedly influenced "Turning Red," she affirmed. "Panda Mei is scrambling up this building and running across rooftops and stuff, and so all of those pieces together [is] where it's all of our worlds. There's some elements based on real life." Feinberg concluded, "There's a believability for the audience, but then all of our artistic license on top of that."

"Turning Red" premieres exclusively on Disney+ on March 11, 2022.