Turning Red

USA 2022, 100 mins
Director: Domee Shi

Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red introduces Meilin Lee, a confident, slightly dorky 13-year-old with a solid group of friends, an admirable record in school and a better-than-average relationship with her family for the most part. Meilin – Mei to her friends – has every reason to expect smooth sailing throughout the rest of her middle school career. But according to director Domee Shi, that’s not how life goes for most 13-year-olds. ‘I really wanted to explore the conflicts of a young teen girl – how she’s torn between being a good daughter and embracing her true messy self.’

The mother-daughter relationship takes centre stage in Turning Red, and it’s a theme that’s very close to the director’s heart. Shi, who helmed Pixar’s 2018 Oscar®-winning short Bao, says that when she was asked why the little dumpling in the short was male, her response was – it turns out – prophetic. ‘I said it would take a whole feature to unpack the mother-daughter relationship,’ says Shi. ‘It was actually a big motivating factor in my pitch for Turning Red. It’s never black and white. At the beginning of the movie, Mei genuinely loves her relationship with her mom, but she’s being pulled in new directions – as everyone her age is. It’s a time of big changes.’

In Turning Red, this phase of growing up is marked in an unexpected, can’t hide-from-it, larger-than-life way: when Mei’s emotions get the better of her, she ‘poofs’ into a giant red panda. ‘One minute, everything’s perfect,’ says Shi. ‘And then, just like with all of us, all of a sudden there’s terror everywhere. She’s way taller, hungrier, more emotional. She’s, in fact, turned into a giant red panda, and the only way to turn back into a human girl is to take deep breaths, calm herself down and control her emotions. It’s kind of like The Incredible Hulk, but cuter.’

According to producer Lindsey Collins, Turning Red is set in Toronto, Canada, in the early 2000s. ‘It takes place in a familiar time and place that kind of roots us all in reality,’ says Collins. ‘It’s not a magical world. That’s important because the story itself is pretty fantastical with a girl that hits a magical kind of puberty and turns into a big red panda – yet we can all still relate.’

‘It’s a coming-of-age story about change and those transitional moments,’ continues Collins. ‘It’s about that time in our lives when we’re trying to figure out who we are. We have a girl who is torn between her family and her friends, learning that she’s not at all who she thought she was. And we have the mother whose daughter is suddenly interested in strange music and boys – a mother who struggles with letting go so her child can become who she needs to be. It’s a universal theme that rings true whether you’re the parent, the child, or maybe both.’

But, says Collins, it’s not just that profound relatability that sets Turning Red apart from other coming-of-age stories – it’s Shi’s approach to filmmaking. ‘Domee has an energy to her that I find really engaging – she’s an engine,’ says Collins. ‘She moves fast; she’s super decisive. She brings an unexpected and unapologetic quirkiness to her storytelling, the stylisation, and to the entire film.’

Director Domee Shi kicked off efforts behind Turning Red with an important mission topping her to-do list: getting to know her characters. ‘I think finding the characters as early as possible is the most important thing to making a good story,’ she says. ‘The first goal of a filmmaker is having the audience fall in love with your characters – being interested enough in them in those first five to ten minutes to want to sit down and follow their journey for the next hour and a half.’

Shi and her team went on to develop the kind of characters that would capture viewers’ hearts and hold on till the credits rolled. Leading the pack, of course, is 13-year-old Meilin Lee, and Shi surrounded her protagonist with a crew of friends and family – each with a distinct personality that both complements and contrasts with Mei as she navigates adolescence. ‘This is a very personal story for Domee,’ says producer Lindsey Collins. ‘It’s a mother-daughter story set in the early 2000s, which is super cool. And it has a voice that feels very different – the reaction here at Pixar to the first scene [we shared internally] mirrored the way that I feel about this film: I’ve never seen this before.’

The look of the characters, adds Collins, is similarly distinct. ‘Everyone had to tap their inner 13-year-olds to capture the style Domee wanted,’ says Collins. ‘It’s a world seen through the eyes of Mei. Everything is vibrant and colourful. The design is textured and tactile and chunky, and the animation style and, every now and then, facial expressions are pushed. The characters are caricatured, and the way they move and pose is fresh. Domee’s stylisation is extended through art, animation, camera and lighting, and her passion for anime shines through.’

Says Shi, ‘I grew up watching anime. I love how fast and loose they play with emotion – how the expressions can change in an instant. It just felt perfect for a film about an adolescent girl who’s on an emotional roller coaster with all of the mood swings.’

The character line-up includes Mei, her inner circle of friends and family and members of a boy band known as 4*Town. Filmmakers called on a rich roster of voice talent to help bring the characters to life. ‘The Toronto setting of this story called for a diverse cast,’ says associate executive producer Adrian Molina. ‘Hopefully more and more people are seeing experiences like their own on the big screen. Turning Red offers a unique perspective of a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian that – at its heart – shows how we’re all connected.’
Production notes

Director: Domee Shi
USA 2018
8 mins

Directed by: Domee Shi
©: Disney Enterprises, Inc., Pixar
a Pixar Animation Studios film
Presented by: Disney
Executive Producers: Dan Scanlon, Pete Docter
Produced by: Lindsey Collins
Associate Producer: Sabine Koch O’Sullivan
Production Manager: Lisa Fotheringham
Casting by: Natalie Lyon, Kevin Reher
Screenplay by: Julia Cho, Domee Shi
Story by: Domee Shi, Julia Cho, Sarah Streicher
Story Supervisors: Rosana Sullivan, Bill Presing
Visual Effects Supervisor: Danielle Feinberg
Animation Supervisors: Aaron Hartline, Patty Kihm
Character Supervisor: Christian Hoffman
Sets Supervisor: Steve Karski
Crowds Animation Supervisor: Jane Snow Cassidy
Crowds Technical Supervisor: Paul Kanyuk
Simulation Supervisor: Jacob Brooks
Effects Supervisor: Dave Hale
Global Technology Supervisor: Gordon Cameron
Directors of Photography: Mahyar Abousaeedi, Jonathan Pytko
Edited by: Nicholas C. Smith
Co-Editor: Steve Bloom
Production Designer: Rona Liu
Original Score by: Ludwig Göransson
Original Songs by: Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell

Voice Cast
Rosalie Chang (Meilin/Panda Meilin)
Sandra Oh (Ming/Panda Ming/young Ming)
Ava Morse (Miriam)
Hyein Park (Abby)
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya)
Orion Lee (Jin)
Wai Ching Ho (Grandma/Grandma Panda)
Tristan Allerick Chen (Tyler)
Loritan Chinn (Auntie Chen)
Mia Tagano (Lily)
Sherry Cola (Helen)
Lillian Kim (Auntie Ping)
James Hong (Mr Gao)

USA 2022©
100 mins

Wed 2 Aug 14:20; Mon 14 Aug 20:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:15
Turning Red
Wed 2 Aug 20:20; Tue 8 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 15:30
The Jungle Book
Thu 3 Aug 14:20; Sun 6 Aug 13:00; Wed 16 Aug 20:45; Wed 30 Aug 14:20
Thu 3 Aug 18:00; Sat 19 Aug 17:30
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Fri 4 Aug 18:00; Sun 13 Aug 18:10; Tue 22 Aug 14:20; Wed 23 Aug 20:20
101 Dalmatians
Sat 5 Aug 13:20; Thu 10 Aug 14:20; Sat 19 Aug 15:30; Tue 29 Aug 14:20
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Sat 5 Aug 15:40; Thu 17 Aug 14:20; Sun 27 Aug 18:20
Sister Act
Sat 5 Aug 20:40; Fri 18 Aug 18:20
Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)
Sun 6 Aug 13:10; Fri 25 Aug 18:00
Silent Cinema: Disney’s Silent Shorts + intro
Sun 6 Aug 15:30
Freaky Friday
Sun 6 Aug 18:20; Fri 18 Aug 20:30; Thu 24 Aug 20:50
The Parent Trap
Mon 7 Aug 18:00; Sun 20 Aug 15:10
Wed 9 Aug 14:20; Sat 12 Aug 11:30 (+ extended intro); Mon 14 Aug 14:20; Sun 20 Aug 19:00
Mary Poppins
Wed 9 Aug 17:50; Mon 21 Aug 14:20; Mon 28 Aug 13:00
Wed 9 Aug 20:30; Mon 28 Aug 12:30
The Love Bug
Fri 11 Aug 20:30; Sat 12 Aug 11:50; Sun 20 Aug 13:30
A Disney Day for Young Audiences
Sat 12 Aug 11:30-16:30
Sat 12 Aug 18:00; Sat 26 Aug 12:00
Sat 12 Aug 20:30; Sat 19 Aug 13:00; Thu 24 Aug 14:20
The Lion King
Sun 13 Aug 13:00 (+ Funday Sing-along); Sat 26 Aug 20:30; Thu 31 Aug 14:20
The Fiendishly Difficult Disney Quiz
Sun 13 Aug 15:30 Blue Room
Sun 13 Aug 15:50; Wed 16 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 12:20; Mon 28 Aug 16:20
Finding Nemo
Sun 13 Aug 18:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:30
The Rescuers
Mon 14 Aug 18:30; Sat 19 Aug 15:50
Sat 19 Aug 12:00; Tue 29 Aug 20:30
Dick Tracy
Fri 25 Aug 20:40; Tue 29 Aug 18:10 (+ intro by Ben Roberts, BFI CEO)
The Little Mermaid
Sun 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 28 Aug 16:40

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

Never miss an issue with Sight and Sound, the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine. Subscribe from just £25*
*Price based on a 6-month print subscription (UK only). More info:

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email