Skip to main content

Turning Red's Sandra Oh And Filmmakers Talk Pushing Boundaries By Including Feminine Products And Puberty In Pixar Film

It’s no secret that every single month, most women deal with menstruation from the average age of around twelve to fifty. However, the topic itself seems to remain an awkward topic of conversation around social circles, starting from middle school to movies about them. Many coming-of-age movies ignore the normal process of female periods all together, but Pixar’s Turning Red isn’t shying away from the topic. 

It wasn’t until I saw Turning Red that I realized that it mattered for me to see a Disney character dealing with this very normal, but touchy topic in her adolescence. Sure, Pixar definitely keeps it PG, turning the focus on the clever mystical story of Mei’s unexpected transformation into a giant red panda. That said, having a moment that turns the discussion over to periods, even showcasing a giant box of various feminine products in the movie’s beautiful animation style, means that a mainstream family movie finally went there

On behalf of CinemaBlend, I spoke to Turning Red’s Sandra Oh about the rare movie moment. Here’s how the actress, who voices the role of Mei’s mom Ming, thought of Pixar pushing boundaries and opening up the theoretical bathroom door a crack: 

I really think [the realistic and mystical elements find a] great balance to the film. Not only the absolute straight talk of when you’re thirteen, you’re most likely going to get your period and we don’t need to be shy or shameful about menstruation because all women go through that. I love the way that Ming is a little nervous that it’s happening to her daughter and she’s completely ready and prepared for everything and then also the mystical, fantastical elements about the panda.

Many women share an uncomfortable experience of being separated from the boys one day at school before being shown a weird introductory video about periods before being given a pack of feminine products. That, and having your parents take you aside and discuss with you that “your body is changing.” Pixar’s Turning Red is a step in the right direction. Perhaps families who see this critically-acclaimed film can start the conversation from a more comfortable place. Director Domee Shi shared with us her experience including these elements in the film:  

That scene [with feminine products] was in the movie from the very beginning. It was the first sequence that we approved and that went into production. It just felt like if we were going to tell an authentic story about a girl going through puberty, we had to talk about getting her period. We had to show these products and these objects that are so common in every household with women and girls and normalize this phenomenon.

Along with periods being a topic within Turning Red’s storyline, the movie allows its preteen protagonist to be as “lusty” about boys as many women remember being at that age. Turning Red’s plot line revolves around Mei and her friends hoping to see their favorite boy band live in concert, alongside some crush doodling. The boyband is called 4*Town, and the songs in the movie were written by Billie Eilish and Finneas. Producer Lindsey Collins shared more about the process of including these elements to Turning Red behind the scenes: 

We always had [those moments] in there. I think we showed it really early to Pixar audiences and they loved it. The reaction of that scene was so gratifying. I don’t think there was any question about having that in there. You know, we put a lot in and a few things, little tiny jokes or something came out, but we kind of won every battle we fought. And we didn’t even fight that hard. They we’re kind of like ‘Alright.’ And we certainly had plenty of women on the show that were ready to go ‘Oh no, that’s really what happens. That is true to that time in girls’ lives.’

Turning Red is also Pixar’s first women-led production team in the studio’s history. The movie takes place in the early ‘00s in Toronto, Canada, and is a personal story to director/co-writer Domee Shi, who grew up in the city as the child of Chinese immigrants. Turning Red is available to stream exclusively to those with a Disney+ subscription on March 11. Stay tuned for more from my exclusive interviews with the filmmakers.  

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