by JEN MCGUIRE
The Canadian city of Toronto has starred in many movies over the years, but it rarely stars as itself. It’s been disguised as Chicago, New York, Boston, and more in the past, but never given the Hollywood treatment as its own city. Until now. Pixar’s Turning Red is set in Toronto and offers all of these amazing little Canadian Easter eggs throughout the film. But even if you’ve never visited, the actual story of Turning Red is enough of a draw. Who doesn’t want to watch a movie about a teenage girl dealing with all of the stress and change and difficult family dynamics of growing up by turning into a giant red panda? Like the Hulk but cuter and more relatable.
Turning Red Features A Teen Girl & Her Protective Mom
Turning Red is the story of Mei Lee, a Chinese-Canadian teenage girl struggling with an overprotective mom. “Young actress Rosalie Chiang lends her voice to Mei Lee, a 13-year-old who suddenly ‘poofs’ into a giant red panda when she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS),” the official synopsis of the movie reads. “Sandra Oh voices Mei Lee’s protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, who is never far from her daughter — an unfortunate reality for the teenager.”
The Trailer Is Adorable & Relatable
In the Pixar trailer for Turning Red, Mei Lee is seen sitting in a classroom, preparing to do some complicated math equation, when a classmate passes her a note to let her know her mom is standing outside. Hiding behind a tree, in fact, and trying to avoid being seen. She is discovered by someone who appears to be school security, fights with him, and the entire class watches. Poor Mei sits at her table wearing a toque, or a beanie as those in the U.S. would call it, and despite her best efforts to stay calm, explodes in a huge poof into an enormous red panda. She runs along the rooftops to her home, where she tries to calm herself with a little face massage.
While most of us don’t have to worry about turning into a red panda when we get emotional, the message is relatable for kids and parents alike. Parents know how tough it is to let go of their kids and give them their freedom. Kids know how it feels to want to break away and live their own lives even as they’re nervous about what the future might bring. Just like Mei and Ming Lee.
The Movies Has Lots Of Canadian Connections
Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi wanted to make a movie actually set in the city of Toronto with Turning Red. Shi, who also directed the Oscar-winning 2018 Pixar short Bao, told Yahoo! News in 2019, «I don’t see Toronto really depicted a lot in movies and if I do, it’s always disguised as another city, and I just wanted to pay homage to my hometown.” The Canadian elements are everywhere, from the CN Tower in the background as Mei jumps from roof to roof, to her maple leaf t-shirt, to Sandra Oh, who voices Mei’s mom Ming, hailing from Ottawa, Canada.
Turning Red will hit theaters on March 11, 2022. So while it might be a while before we watch Pixar’s newest flick, it looks like Mei’s story is worth the wait. In the meantime, fans can watch Pixar’s latest release, Luca on Disney+.