Turning Red Director Breaks Down That Surprising Ending

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Turning Red finally made its way onto Disney+ this weekend, ushering in the latest hit film from the Pixar catalogue. The animated blockbuster tackles the trials and tribulations of growing up through the lens of Mei (Rosalie Chiang), a Chinese-Canadian girl in the early 2000s who discovers she can “poof” into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited. The film has already become buzzed-about amongst critics and fans alike, especially for the unique way its central conflicts come to a head. In a recent interview with The Wrap, Turning Red director and co-writer Domee Shi breaks them down. Spoilers for Turning Red lurk below! Only look if you want to know!

Turning Red juxtaposes Mei’s new red panda transformation (which is passed down to all women in her family) with a lot of elements in her everyday life. This includes her relationship with her reserved and traditional mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), who hopes to help Mei through a ritual to repress her panda form and hold it into an artifact. This is further complicated with Mei and her friends hoping to see their favorite boy band, 4*Town, in concert, with them orchestrating a plan to use Panda Mei to raise the money for concert tickets. As some of Mei’s extended family comes into town to help with the ritual, which is the same exact date as the concert, everything comes to a head, with Mei and Ming fighting in their red panda forms, and the rest of the aunties returning to their panda forms for the first time in years to help as well.

Eventually, Mei and Ming reconcile in the spirit realm, and the family is able to perform a ritual that puts Ming’s panda form into Mei’s Tamagotchi. Mei, meanwhile, decides to keep her panda form active, and the family uses it to boost the popularity of their family temple.

“We always knew that we wanted a large-scale mother/teen daughter fight for the ages. We wanted that to be our act three,” Shi explained in the interview. “We wanted the whole movie to culminate into these two characters finally having at it in a big, spectacular Kaiju battle-esque way. We just didn’t know where it would be, or how we would get there. Then eventually, it landed at the 4Town concert and the idea was, oh, how do we one-up Mei’s embarrassment from convenience store. How do we beat that? Oh, what if her mom humiliates her in front of her idols?”

“She gets so angry at that, she gets Kaiju level and huge as well,” Shi added. “And then it’s like these two giant Michelin man, pandas having this fight. But then it just begged the question of why?”

One surprising visual element of the conflict is how much bigger Ming’s panda form is than Mei’s — something that apparently was decided upon in an unexpected way.

“That was hard because of the audiences, when we showed it or executives were like, ‘You need to explain why she’s so much bigger.’ We were like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to go into some weird rule of magic,'” producer Lindsey Collins said. “We just decided the best way to do it is just to have one little line from Jin going, ‘She was very destructive and big'” We just had him say that there. And then the next time she says it, she’s like, ‘That big?’ He’s like, “I told you she was big.” And that was it. We just left it in.”

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Turning Red is now available to stream exclusively on Disney+. If you haven’t signed up for Disney+ yet, you can try it out here.

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