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:
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.
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:
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:
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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