Why Turning Red Looks So Different From Other Pixar Movies

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for Turning Red.

While watching Pixar's latest, Turning Red, audiences may notice that it looks quite different from other Pixar animated movies. Directed by Domee Shi from a screenplay by her and Julia Cho, Turning Red has a unique look and feel that is unlike previous Pixar films, including Luca and Soul. While each of Pixar’s films are distinct from one another, Turning Red draws inspiration from a very specific animation style and era, while also mixing it with a very familiar aesthetic that is well-known to fans of the animation studio.

Turning Red follows the growing pains of Mei (Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian teen who begins transforming into a giant, fluffy red panda following a heightened (and embarrassing) emotional incident. Mei is already an overly excited person, but the age of adolescence means she’s also experiencing a lot of other different emotions. Her transformation causes a lot of chaos, but the changes are most stressful for Mei because she’s afraid of disappointing her overprotective, overbearing mother Ming (Sandra Oh), whose approval she seeks most of all.

Related: Turning Red Ending Explained (In Detail)

Turning Red may be a Pixar film, but its animation style is unique to its story. The film is bright, full of pastel colors, and the characters have so much energy, reacting in extremes with detailed and extremely expressive faces. Their eyes shine bright when they’re bursting with joy and, in the case of Mei’s mother Ming, can transform her rage into an oversized red panda on the prowl. All of these things work within the film itself, with the animation style and tone of Turning Red taking inspiration from anime like Pok√©mon and other well-known anime of the 90s and early 2000s, many of which director Domee Shi grew up watching. To bring Turning Red to life, Shi and her creative team combined the hallmarks of Japanese anime with the details of Western animation, which is noticeable in some of the characters’ exaggerated expressions and the three-dimensional digital animated style that is Pixar’s bread and butter.

In the scene where Mei gets so excited about going to see 4*Town, the boy band she and her friends are obsessed with, in concert, the film’s animation sees her atop a hill, standing triumphant with the members of the band below. This is an example of how the film draws from anime, creating a world all its own while paying homage to the anime style as an art form. A big part of that also stems from the fact that it’s Mei’s world and the audience is living in it. And because Mei’s story — of growing up and changing and having friction with her mother — is also peppered in with what Shi loved as a teen, it’s no surprise that anime and magical transformations are a big part of what makes the film stand apart.

Shi also cited other specific anime that influenced the animation and style of Turning Red, including Sailor Moon, which is colorful and filled with magical warrior women characters. The popular anime series also has a dreamlike quality Shi wanted to infuse into Turning Red, the anime series Fruits Basket, and Ranma ½. These anime influenced Turning Red not only because they have vibrant colors and exaggerated expressions, but because the latter two specifically involve teenagers transforming into animals. Ranma ½, in particular, inspired how Mei’s transformation into her red panda form would look onscreen. Turning Red’s animation influences, and the vibrancy of its color palette and story make it one of Pixar’s most unique films to date.

Next: All 10 Disney Animated Movies Releasing After Turning Red



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