‘Turning Red’ director Domee Shi hopes film inspires everyone to embrace “weird, messy parts of themselves”


The new Pixar film Turning Red premiered Friday on Disney+ and it’s causing a lot of conversation.

The animated film focuses on a tween girl who notices her body and emotions are changing, and when she gets to a place where she can’t control her emotions, she turns into a giant red panda. The whole thing is a metaphor for puberty — so which came first, the panda or the puberty?

“Initially, the very first kind of spark of the idea was like, Oh, like, wouldn’t it be so funny and cute if this teen girl uncontrollably poofed into a giant red panda?” writer and director Domee Shi tells ABC Audio, adding that making it “a metaphor for the big changes that we go through in life” came later as a way to justify to it her bosses. 

The topic of puberty is one that some feel is “too adult” for a Pixar film, but Shi says “its so not.”

“Every girl goes through getting their period and it’s not an adult topic,” she explains, adding that Turning Red is no different than other topics tackled by the animation studio “like death, like betrayal, like murder, revenge and jealousy. And I think all of these things are important to kind of teach kids about.”

Despite the critics, Shi wishes she had a film like this when she was younger and hopes that it inspires everyone to “embrace their own inner pandas.”

“Embrace all of the awkward, weird, messy parts of themselves that they’re kind of taught to put away or to hide,” she explains. “I think for girls especially…I hope they’re inspired to get big and take up space and be… loud and hairy and be weird. It’s OK. And it should be celebrated.”  


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