Pixar's Turning Red - Tween girls, boy bands, Pandas and Mothers

I checked out the latest Pixar movie. I was surprised to see there was no thread for it yet, since it’s been out for a while on Disney+.

Pixar is usually pretty good about bringing someone’s personal story and making it universally appealing, like with Luca. But in this case, I mostly felt like an outsider looking in. Obviously I’m not a tween girl, I’m not into boy bands, don’t know much about menstruations, and on and on and on, there’s just almost nothing for me to connect to with this character. I did appreciate that the main character was trying to please her friends while also trying to have a true friendship with her mother and live up to her expectations, but I feel like that aspect of the story was very underserved.

So, overall, I was very underwhelmed. One of the brilliant things about when Justin Timberlake was either the host or a guest on SNL is that even though I’m not into boy bands, him and Andy Sandberg would come up with songs using humor that really made me connect with the boy band type songs. That doesn’t happen in this movie. The boy band songs are a huge part of the movie, and it’s just played up straight, and I just, ugh, I’m having trouble articulating just how little I connected with any of this music.

So my verdict: It’s still Pixar, it has it’s moments. It’s not as bad as Cars 2. It’s still worth watching. But man, I wish they had gotten Timberlake and Sandberg or someone similar to help with the boy band music.

I mean, I kind of agree with Rock8man, except for the final verdict, so I also recognise the sentiment in BrianRubin’s post and certainly don’t think my opinion of the film has any bearing on its “objective” quality. I think it’s a great film, but it’s not one that speaks directly to me, so I don’t like it as much as several other Pixar movies that resonated more*. I did like it more than Luca, FWIW.

Billie Eilish not enough for you?

  • Part of this is that early Pixars could resonate more with me “simply” by having groundbreaking animation, whereas they pretty much all have the same “boring” level of extreme competency now, so I generally prefer early Pixar to recent ones regardless of their narrative qualities. Moana would be the big exception, except it’s not Pixar.

It’s just so blah, generic boiler plate boy band music though. It’s the baseline for the whole movie. I think the movie could have been 10 times as entertaining with everything else the same, but with improved music. The rest of the movie doesn’t have to be for me, that’s fine, not every topic will speak to everyone, but the music was the one part of the movie that should have more universal appeal, IMO.

Watched this with my wife and two teenage daughters. All three of them clearly were the target audience, albeit in different ways, and all three of them seemed to like it. I clearly wasn’t the target audience, but still managed to enjoy bits of it. Not going to watch this again though, that’s for sure, whereas I wouldn’t mind seeing Encanto again, for example.

This is an extremely well done story about the tween girl experience, specifically one rooted in 2002 era cultural experiences. It manages to capture elements of tween girl, Canadian, Chinese immigrant experiences and a very specific family dynamic. Also it unabashedly covers the topic of puberty in an open and kid friendly way, which honestly is a good thing. Too often the first period is treated as an element of comedy or trauma in movies, but this just goes into it and makes something normal, well, normal.

This is clearly a deeply personal film, and one rooted in personal experience, for the director.

To me it’s my favourite Pixar movie since Inside Out. I enjoyed Luca, Soul and Coco, FWIW, but I particularly appreciated that they that they finally went a bit out of their usual stylistic comfort zone after mostly playing it safe for a long time. (I partially credit Into the Spider-Verse for studios being a it more willing to get somewhat experimental.)

I don’t have any experience in being a teenage girl with a demanding tiger mom, but I had a good time and really liked all of the characters, especially the friends and her aunts.

I think that’s kinda the point? Boy bands are generic by nature.

I have to admit I loved the movie. Loved. It wasn’t my experience, but I was fascinated to watch an experience that wasn’t mine. Give me more of that please.

A close friend recently shared her own lived experience here; she, her brothers, her dad, and a chunk of the extended family were out on a whale watching trip in New England when it came, and there was a moderate scuffle to try to find anyone onboard who had any kind of feminine hygiene products on them to help out, which meant eventually informing basically everyone there of what was going on while she just sat there in abject terror.

When they got back to land, her dad started telling folks they’d lost their little girl at sea, presumably as a “clever” joke on her being a “real woman” now.

It may not surprise you to learn that as an adult, she and her dad are no longer on speaking terms.

Anyway, power to Pixar for treating that issue alone with a modicum of humanity and grace, if nothing else.

I watched it with my wife a few weeks ago upon release. She’s normally very excited for anything Pixar/Disney upon release. I would say we both enjoyed it, but being as we have no children, we’re not exactly target market. Afterward, my wife commented she can’t believe that they focused on the period a bit at the beginning and that was a strange move by Pixar. I commented maybe the target audience is for that age range, but of all people it was my wife who said, “but why focus on that and cut down a wider audience,” while seemingly oblivious to what the actual story was about, a tween coming of age.

I thought she was joking, so I joked back, “yeah, I mean thank god Pixar is letting little girls know they better learn to control themselves on their period or they will forever be monsters throughout their life.”

Let’s just say my wife got really quiet and scowled at me and at this point hasn’t brought the movie up again. I did apologize for that comment but … I kinda got that creepy feeling about the movie while watching it, ala, “girls, learn to control your Red Panda or it’ll consume your life.” And though I put my feelings about it to the side and enjoyed the rest of the movie, I still can’t quite put that to rest. I know Red Panda = puberty, it’s just that the focus of the movie was on the little girl so … it seemed like a misfire around other things.

I think you missed something about the themes. It wasn’t that the period makes her a monster, notice it is her friends and peers fully accept her Panda, except when the temper comes out. Instead it was her embracing an identity and personality that deviated from what was expected in her family. They repressed that side of themselves, fitting into a different stereotype. Demanding, perfecting, emotionally reserved, and very much definitionally Tiger Mom. Definitely not full Karen.

So the whole ritual is one about culture and control, fitting a mold that is expected of you. And how Mei ultimately rejects that. It wasn’t puberty per se, that’s just the trigger. It is instead a part of her identity and deciding to be her own person.

Think about the climax in terms of that symbolism too. Mei embraces her changing identity and personality, and goes to the concert. Her mother, always in control, cracks and lets slip a part of her. that she had repressed for years and goes full mega Karen on her daughter. Mei embraces the panda and refuses to back down.The Aunties, originally brought in to help bring Mei in line, also let out their repressed emotions and ultimately back Mei and confront the mother. Ultimately the mother sees what the things the daughter likes means to her, the band, friends, and attitude, and ultimately decides to accept this.

I think that thematically works, and is quintessentially coming of age story beats, one we’ve seen so many other films and shows. Because it rings true in so many ways.

The period was ultimately a red herring, because that wasn’t the issue. It just triggered other changes as Mei transitioned from child into teenager.

Strategically/business-wise I thought it was an interesting release. We can chastise ourselves but that doesn’t change that this movie has more narrow appeal than, e.g., Encanto. But since it’s going on D+, doesn’t that make it more like a Netfilx-style release that is targeting a smaller market and making them feel like the service really understands them? It’s new for Pixar to occasionally meet that need for Disney instead of only doing grand slam wide theater releases, but I think it makes sense since the quality wasn’t in any way compromised. The world is different now. I think we’ll see Pixar do something like this again when they have the right writer/director and opening in their schedule.

Like Communism!

I liked your take on the movie and I’ll accept a bit more of that. I also will accept your sly pun, you old dog you.

To be honest, the wife and I caught this a few weeks ago and both of us were kind of bored during it. I don’t think it’s that we weren’t the “target audience” (we almost universally love CGI family movies like this) so much as there wasn’t a lot of conflict (outside of a girl and her over-bearing Mom) and I didn’t think it did anything with the “Red Panda” gimmick that I hadn’t already seen and enjoyed a lot more when it was called Teen Wolf.

Did you watch Teen Wolf as a Teen Boy?

Turning Red definitely focuses on a specific experience and interest set fixed firmly in 2002 13 year old girl. It makes sense you would like Teen Wolf more, the gimmicks were targeted specifically at you!

And to be clear I liked Encanto or Luca more personally, but recognize that this is because of the focus. I will say that Encanto is broadly the best of the 3, but actually think Turning Red is better than Luca, though I enjoyed it less. That’s because. it was very clearly a passion project for the director, a very personal story for her. This is a very auteur style production, and I respect that deeply. I think it was exactly the movie that they wanted it to be, and it succeeded brilliantly at telling the story it wanted.

But the further removed you are from Chinese-Canadian teenage girl in 2002 Toronto obviously the further from the target you are.

For me the main appeal is how well executed it was, and how normal it treats female puberty, which as a father of a young daughter I appreciate that. More positive stories about tween girls are needed. That’s a rough time and too often shows that focus on that do so in ways that mine it for jokes or trauma instead of empathy.

I actually really loved how both Encanto and Turning Red focus on stories without a villain or external pressure. Its all internal family dynamics that drive the conflict and story.

So here is the thing - I like that about Encanto also. But Encanto managed to still be an exciting movie with some really fun moments, excitement, and cool stuff to fill the run time.

Turning Red really didn’t - I guess I don’t know how else to explain it - I thought it was slow and not interesting. You are for sure correct it didn’t help I couldn’t have cared less about the boy band or her big crush on a boy, but I’ve enjoyed many other tales that featured such things just fine (in point of fact, while I watched this I was half way through binging two seasons of Never Have I Ever, a wonderful show that does Turning Red a whole lot better, albeit with a slightly older central character) so I think it was just not very interestingly done. I just didn’t find anything in this story to be particularly interesting, especially given the concept they had to work with - it could have been really cool, but I feel like they squandered the central conceit.

God thank you.

This was better than Raya.