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The Turning Red Theory That Has Pixar's Soul Fans Scratching Their Heads

"Turning Red," which debuted on Disney+ on March 11, is Pixar's latest heartwarming animated movie that is so much more than a not-so-subtle metaphor for puberty. It's definitely that, but it's also a deeply emotional exploration of what it means to honor your family, lean on friends in hard times, and what happens when you start trying to figure out your place in the world. "Turning Red" is also steeped in fun fantasy. We'd be remiss to gloss over the fact that the main character, Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), occasionally transforms into a large, fluffy, ridiculously adorable red panda every time she is overwhelmed with emotion.

"Soul," another recent Pixar feature, was released on Disney+ back in December 2020. The movie features a star-studded cast, including Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Questlove, and Angela Bassett. The main character of "Soul" is Joe Gardner (Foxx), a middle school music teacher who suffers a tragic accident the night before a potentially life-changing gig, and the accident puts him in a coma. His soul leaves his body, and he goes on a spiritual journey to help another lost soul named 22 (Fey) find the "spark" she needs to escape the Great Before and live a full life on Earth. 

On the surface, the only thing that the two movies seem to have in common is their Disney-Pixar roots. But one recent fan theory is making some wild connections between the two, and in a world where theories about the connections between different Pixar films abound (via /Film), that's saying something

One fan theory suggests 22 is the soul that inhabits Meilin's body

The Gate of Theories YouTube channel recently published a video explaining why they believe that 22 is the soul that eventually becomes Meilin in "Turning Red." The theory revolves around basic numerology (the "Turning Red" 2022 release date, "Soul" having a character named 22, and the 2002 setting), and the fact that 22 and Meilin are both searching for purpose. Perhaps most damning of all: It appears as though 22 lands somewhere in mainland China at the end of "Soul," which is where Meilin's ancestors lived. Plus, Disney has, more than once, confirmed fan theories that all of the Disney-Pixar storylines do, in fact, exist in the same fictional universe (per NBC News).

Despite all of Gate of Theories' compelling arguments that 22 and Meilin are the same person, fans on the internet are skeptical. The theory was mostly dismissed in this Reddit thread due to timeline discrepancies. Redditor u/Julieandrea97 argued that the presence of "smartphones" in "Soul" means that, in the Pixar timeline, the only way 22 and Meilin could be the same entity "is if Mei dies after the events of 'Turning Red'" and becomes 22 — not the other way around. Judging by the YouTube and Reddit comments, it seems as though there's a split between people who think the theory is bunk and those who embrace it, respectively. With any luck, the powers that be at Pixar may come forward in the near future to confirm or deny the theory and squash the bickering.