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There is still this odd idea out there that, in the last decade, Pixar have been decidedly mixed bag, which when you consider this timescale saw them release the likes of Inside Out, Coco, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4 and Soul, among others, is a rather curious conclusion to come to. True, a couple of outings, like Brave, The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3 have divided opinion but when it comes to this studio, they are often bolstered by their historically high standard. So, with this in mind, how does their latest (and third straight) Disney+ released feature fare?
Turning Red, from director Domee Shi, is a movie that – much like her academy award winning Pixar short Bao – is a personal yet universal story of generational parental pressures being passed on and the trials and tribulations of growing up. Based on Shi’s own experiences growing up in Toronto and set in 2002, Turning Red sees 13-year-old Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) circumnavigating the school life, as well as coming to terms with a protective home life and the aspects of young adolescence. But, one totally embarrassing moment sees this young woman face a very unexpected challenge in the shape of a hereditary family “gift”, that sees women of a certain age have the emotion-triggered ability to transform into a big Red Panda!!
Turning Red is another family film winner from Pixar. It admittedly speaks more directly to modern youth, than treading the deft balance of all-age barriers that some of their greatest work does so well, but the heart is warm, the coming of age story is honest and the “be yourself” formula still works a treat. I hold my hands up and admit that the start of the film did give me the initial impression I might be in for a rough ride here, with its “OMG Totes Amazeballs” character/humour intro but it all fitted into the story being told. And all became clear very quick.
In fact, this is a surprisingly mature film at points, while also being explosively fantastical and fun at others. Even tackling some select aspects of life once considered taboo, especially in an animated family environment but Pixar has always relished the chance to embrace real life. Pixar really are masters of their craft and Turning Red is an enjoyable beautifully animated tale about identity and adolescence, that a specific audience (namely young teenage girls) will probably feel a very strong connection to. Plus Red Pandas are just awesome for any age aren’t they?
The pop culture generation is also shown in more of a cute light rather than a worrying one, which makes a nice change in this day and age. We probably need reminding that our love for something does not have to turn into deranged obsession/toxic debate (well, unless your deep into Film Twitter anyway!). And while the latter half especially gets a bit overly wrapped up in the concept and the glittery sparkle of youthful crazes, the film does always thrive best in the moments of soulful serenity for its cared for characters.
In that regard Turning Red does some of the stuff Ralph Breaks The Internet attempted to do (a backbone of independence and finding yourself, and our anxieties being our own enemies sometimes) only far far better. In other words it does it largely with a warmth and honesty, which that more corporate and untidy example sorely lacked. You certainly won’t leave this one feeling cold or disappointed in any characters, who wear their flaws as proudly as their positives.
It may not achieve the giddy heights of other Pixar pictures but Turning Red is still a gorgeously animated reflection on growing up.