Pixar is known for pushing the boundaries of what can be done with animation, elevating the art form both technically and conceptually – from Sully’s fur to elegant handling of complex psychology in Inside Out. The boundary that Turning Red pushes is to discuss periods in a mainstream film for kids. The fact that it’s a boundary at all is completely ludicrous, but it’s still impressive that a major studio has done it. Although I hope that’s not why they premiered it on Disney+ rather than in cinemas.
Turning Red talks about periods and the other aspects of puberty outright, but the main thrust of the story is an extended metaphor whereby the 13 year old central character starts turning into a giant, very very fluffy red panda (the technology for Sully’s fur continues to evolve). Various adventures and emotional turmoil ensue as she, her friends and her family deal with the situation in different ways.
Unfortunately I admired the film more than I liked it. The characters are all larger than life (especially the panda) and I found them universally irritating. The awkwardness of being a teenager is well presented, but it’s not really something I enjoy being reminded of or enjoy watching. The bigger problem I had though was that the storytelling was clunky, characters did not behave consistently or with any particular degree of logic, which is almost ok for the teenagers, but in the adults just screams lazy writing.
It’s worth watching, and maybe it will connect with a younger audience (I hope it does). At the very least it’s broken a taboo that will hopefully be the start of something.