Turning Red Pixar

The making of Pixar’s Turning Red

Domee Shi’s debut feature is a joyous celebration of Chinese culture. Here, illustrator Stanley Chow chats with her about growing up as a child of immigrants and the importance of telling diverse stories on-screen

While big animation studios used to be guilty of pumping out a conveyer belt of Disney princess type protagonists in their films, there has been a concerted effort to do better in recent years. In 2020, more than half of the scripted shows on Disney, Nickelodeon and their respective junior channels featured people of colour or members of the LGBTQ+ community as main characters, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Part of the sea change has undoubtedly come from the hard work of people from more diverse backgrounds working behind the scenes, Domee Shi among them. The Chinese-Canadian animator, storyboard artist and director has worked for Pixar since 2011, contributing to films including Inside Out and and Toy Story 4. Her first venture into directing came in the form 2018’s Bao, which earned her the accolade of the first woman of colour to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Turning Red is Shi’s first feature, and the first Pixar film solo directed by a woman. A fresh take on the universal coming of age tale, it tells the story of 13-year-old Mei Lee, who metamorphoses into a giant red panda whenever her teenage emotions get the better of her. To mark the film’s release, CR got the director together over Zoom with illustrator Stanley Chow, who was born and rasied in Manchester by parents who emigrated from Hong Kong. Here, they discuss the partly biographical nature of Turning Red, the influence of anime and manga on Shi’s aesthetic, and how she expresses her Chinese culture on-screen through elements such as food.