The Nostalgic ‘90s Anime Series Turning Red Was Influenced By

Pixar’s latest film, Turning Red, is set to premiere on Disney+ next month. Before we venture off to Toronto to follow one teen's journey into becoming a giant red panda, CinemaBlend spoke to the filmmakers about the making of the film, and for the ‘90s kids specifically, there’s a lot to get excited about. 

Lately Pixar has found more influences in anime than ever before. In last year’s Luca, much of the animation style was inspired by Studio Ghibli movies. When we talked with Turning Red’s production designer Rona Liu about the upcoming movie’s vision board (in a sense), here’s what she said: 

Sailor Moon was a huge influence because I remember coming out of school every day at 3:30 and just rushing home every day so I could catch Sailor Moon and tape it and study it and I just love the pastel colors and the dreamyiness of the backgrounds. For us, it was really cherry-picking what we love [from anime] because it’s so huge.

As Rona Liu shared, there are many elements of anime in general, so the idea of Pixar delving into anime influences with their recent projects opens a lot of possibilities for the studio. For Turning Red specifically, the production turned to their own childhoods loving Sailor Moon to tell this coming-of-age story set in the ‘90s. One look at the color scheme, and it’s easy to see how the beloved manga series inspired Turning Red

Sailor Moon tv series image

(Image credit: TV Asahi)

Rona Liu got her start in Pixar for the Oscar-winning animated short Bao, which she made alongside writer/director Domee Shi prior to the pair coming together again for Turning Red. The movie is personal for both of them growing up in the ‘90s themselves. Having grown up in Toronto, Shi decided to depict the diverse city in the Pixar film and tell a unique story about a Chinese-Canadian mother/daughter relationship. 

For the production (which is Pixar’s first female-led team), the animators really focused on having representation all across the film, even in the background of scenes, through a new technology. Rona Liu continued to share Turning Red's specific anime influences with these words: 

For Sailor Moon, we really liked the color palette and the environments, so that is what we grabbed from. For acting, we really wanted something that was very expressive, so we looked at Tokyo Godfathers because those were very believable and realistic type of acting that were very expressive. So the whole spectrum of anime, we were picking what we like and putting it all in the pot.

While Sailor Moon represents the hyper-femininity of bright pinks and purples of anime and Turning Red’s influences, the production also looked at Tokyo Godfathers, which is a 2003 adventure anime movie about an unlikely trio of homeless people who find a baby and decide to try to track down its parents. As Liu shared, Tokyo Godfathers was an influence in a sense of the more realistic acting the movie has. 

As we get ready to check out Turning Red, which will be available to stream with a Disney+ subscription, it’s interesting to see some of the intentions behind the movie so you can look out for them when you watch on March 11

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.