Spoiler alert: plot reveal ahead!
So far, I have watched the Disney/Pixar film Turning Red three times.
It was announced by Disney on the 17th of March 2022 that Turning Red was the #1 most-watched film to premiere on Disney Plus to date, only one week after the film was released.
Turning Red is a cartoon that follows a young, teenage girl in a coming of age story, faced with a family curse/blessing that she must come to terms with throughout the film.
After immersing myself in the film multiple times, I have reflected on the themes and worked out how I feel about Turning Red.
First time watching
At first, I wasn’t so thrilled about the film, having only managed to get through to the first half of the movie where the main character, Mei-lin, enters school after finding out she has the soul of a Red Panda.
As someone who has grown up loving Disney/Pixar films and still enjoys watching them in my 20s, it was disappointing that the film wasn’t interesting enough for me to want to continue watching.
Initially, I believed the film didn’t relate to me, so therefore I could not build a connection to it as opposed to other Disney/Pixar films such as Inside Out or Brave, which have familiar concepts like handling one’s emotions or the love for a family.
Or perhaps it was because I myself couldn’t handle the cringy, over-the-top teenager reactions being presented throughout the film.
After a few weeks, I found myself scrolling through Facebook and Tiktok, only to see continuous posts and many articles about the controversies surrounding the film.
Once again, I was curious about ‘Turning Red’ and thought to myself, I can’t judge a film after only watching the introduction!
I sat down to watch it for a second time and this time around I managed to complete the full movie.
Second time watching
As I suspected, the over-dramatic teenage moments did still make me cringe, except this time I actually got invested.
The family played in the film reminded me of my own. The over-protective, loving mother and the laid-back, chill dad.
Plus the main characters’ friends, who are always there for her even when they have disagreements or fights. It was a nice thing to see.
There were a couple moments in the film however, that reminded me of the things I had previously seen online about the film.
The bathroom scene
When Mei-lin discovers she has turned into a red panda, she rushes and hides behind the shower-curtain. So, of course the over-bearing, worried mother rushes in to try and find out what’s wrong.
Something me and many other viewers probably haven’t seen before in a Disney/Pixar film is the topic of periods.
When the mother asks her daughter, “Did the red-peony bloom?” it was so unexpected I actually laughed out loud. Especially after the daughter replied saying, “Maybe?”
What was more surprising was when the mother consoles her daughter by informing her she has pain relief medication, a hot water bottle, and an abundance of pads.
Now, I can see that a subject like this could be controversial, as the film’s target audience is for younger audiences. However, it is made clear in the beginning of the film that it focuses on teenage girls.
This is a subject all teenage girls must be made aware of at some point or another. So, I believe that this scene was important as it shows young girls that periods are indeed normal and universal.
I also enjoyed the multicultural aspect of this film thoroughly.
The main character, who is Chinese-Canadian, has friends who all come from different backgrounds such as Korean, Indian, and Canadian.
It was great to see a group of friends with such diversity be so accepting and close.
Not to mention, the display of culture within Mei’s family, who represented their cultural traditions throughout the entirety of the film.
One of my favourite scenes of the film had to be when everyone came together to help the main character’s mother who’s panda soul had escaped. And perform the circle ritual singing in both English and Cantonese.
After having better luck the second time round watching Turning Red, I began to recommend the film to others. I really wanted to see what other people thought and if they picked up things during the film that I may have missed myself.
Third time watching
After watching the film for a third time, I was finally able to produce a true reflection on what I thought about this film. And to sum it up, I believe the best way to put it is, Turning Red is just your average modern heartfelt Disney/Pixar film.
It does indeed have relatable content. If you are looking for a film that represents family values, friendship, action, adventure, culture and most of all a teenage experience. Then this is a film for you.
While yes, there are still moments in this film that make would make you ‘cringe’ as an adult watching it. I think at the end of the day, we get embarrassed because we know exactly what it is like to be pre-adolescent teenager.
Third time, really was the charm for me.
Photos by Cara Ginnan