'Turning Red' director Domee Shi on what message she hopes people get from the film

Shi said she wishes she had a movie like this when she was younger.

March 16, 2022, 1:01 PM

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

The animated film focuses on a teenage 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 shared in an interview with 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.

PHOTO: A scene from "Turning Red."
A scene from "Turning Red."
Disney/Pixar

The topic of puberty is one that some feel is "too adult" for a Pixar film, but Shi said, "It's so not."

"Every girl goes through getting their period, and it's not an adult topic," she explained, 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."

Shi said she 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 said. "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."

"Turning Red" is available to stream on Disney+ now.

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