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Turning Red Ending: Sandra Oh And Director Domee Shi Share Personal Meaning Of Mei’s Decision

Big, red SPOILERS are ahead for Turning Red.

Historically, Pixar knows how to nail a great and teary-eyed ending and its latest release Turning Red is no exception. Domee Shi’s directorial debut tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who is dealing with growing pains, on top of an unexpected transformation into a giant red panda thanks to a secret generational gift turned curse. After attempts for Mei (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) to calm the panda side of her and ultimately confine that side of her into a remnant on her neck, the preteen decides to accept it as a part of herself. Shi shared what the ending means to her. 

Turning Red is a personal story to Domee Shi, who grew up in the early ‘00s in Toronto, Canada just like Mei. When she spoke to CinemaBlend, the writer/director shared what the ending of the Pixar movie means to her with these words: 

What we want to say with that moment is that Mei is the first in her family to keep the Panda and embrace this messy side of herself. Hopefully with the movie, we’re also not passing judgement on the generations that came before her that decide to get rid of it because they grew up in a different time. They grew up in an environment that wasn’t safe to keep your panda in order to move through society, in order to survive her mom and her grandma and aunties all had to get rid of that side of themselves.

In the third act, Mei’s grandmother and aunties come over to conduct the ceremony that will allow her to give up her red panda side forever as all the recent women in her family before her have done. However, during the ceremony Mei holds on to her panda identity and proceeds to go to the concert for 4*Town with her friends that she spent much of the movie raising money to go to. 

Turning Red ending, Mei and Ming

(Image credit: Pixar)

During her hurried exit from the ceremony, her mother Ming (played by Sandra Oh) sees her own red panda get unleashed and it’s way more massive and frightening than Mei’s panda ever was. It all comes to a head at the 4*Town concert where Mei must come together with her grandmother and aunties to complete the ceremony and separate Ming’s panda from her human self. However, Mei decides not to complete the ceremony and remain a panda for good. Domee Shi continued to speak to the ending:

Mei has what they didn’t have, which is the support and love of her friends and this new environment and world that accepts different races and celebrates that messy side of her. So she can break that cycle and be the first in her family to embrace the panda that represents how through generations it changes. How each generation deals with trauma is different and hopefully with each new generation, it just gets a little bit easier.

In Pixar's latest, Mei’s panda side is quite literally a gift that has been passed down through generations of women throughout her family since ancient times. But the panda could symbolize many things, depending on who is watching it. During my Turning Red interviews, Sandra Oh shared how the ending sequence had a personal meaning to her own coming-of-age. As she shared with CinemaBlend: 

There’s specifically an image in the film where Panda Mei is trying to leave the temple and all her aunties and her mom are trying to get her to stay. For me in my life, during this time that Mei is going through, I was becoming an actor, I was becoming an artist and I had to break away from my family’s own expectations and traditions. So regarding that, it was a beautiful opportunity to draw on my own personal history.

Turning Red tells a story about a Chinese-Canadian family and how Mei struggles between the traditions she has grown into embracing and the culture she is experiencing at school with her friends. There’s a tough balance Mei has to walk and throughout Turning Red she is leading a double life between her family and social life. By the end of the movie, Mei chooses to be herself through being a red panda, a boyband obsessed preteen and Chinese-Canadian girl who is proud of her family’s history and values. It's a relatable journey many modern children of immigrants have to make and now storyline beautifully explored in a Pixar film. 

If you haven't already, be sure to check out Turning Red using a Disney+ subscription

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