Even though Disney’s own animation studios are churning out their own extremely impressive features – it’s hard to dethrone Pixar.
They are still ‘king’ when it comes to animation ingenuity, and they pull another erm, panda out of the hat here – with this infectiously charming adventure.
Rosalie Chiang voices the confidently-flamboyant, but nerdy, top-of-the-class Chinese-Canadian teenager Mei Lee – torn between staying her mother Ming Lee’s (Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh) dutiful daughter (helping out at the family ancestry temple tourist spot) and the imminent chaos of adolescence.
Said chaos comes in the form of three very distinctive best friends – singing tomboy Miriam, the deadpan Priya and energetic (comedy-stealing) Abby – who are all addicted to boyband 4 Town, and will stop at nothing to attend their $200 a ticket concert at Toronto’s SkyDome. Which Mei already knows will be an absolute no-go with her strict mother.
But that becomes the least of her worries when a nightmarishly embarrassing incident with Mei’s school crush via her Mum, turns her into a red panda – an ancient family trait that has burdened Mei sooner than expected.
Fortunately, Mei only transforms into this cuddly seven-foot animal when she is in a state of high emotion – which on the flipside is quite often.
Through various Middle School set-pieces and comedic shenanigans Mei is left split with embracing her alter ego – which could just help her gang get to the pop concert – or banish the beast for good via a primitive ritual on the night of the next Red Moon.
The good news is Turning Red oozes truly stellar and likeable entertainment values throughout as we see how Mei’s – with some breathtaking facial expressions that make her hard not to love – coming-of-age journey transpires. In fact her entire posse – already destined to become fan favourites – jointly hold the movie’s MVP award between them.
And despite a slightly formulaic finale, this is a welcomed change of pace for Pixar – chock full of inventiveness.
It’s just a scandal that the House of Mouse decided to make it a streaming exclusive instead of its deserved home at the cinema – which will surely leave the animators seeing ‘red’.
But for anybody that’s a Disney fan – get ready for gleeful panda-monium.
ESP Rating: 4/5
DISNEY+ EXCLUSIVE, OUT NOW
VOICE CAST: ROSALIE CHIANG, SANDRA OH, AVA MORSE, MAITREYI RAMAKRISHNAN, HYEIN PARK, WAI CHING HO & ORION LEE
RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 40 MINS
DIRECTOR: DOMEE SHI