Disney and Pixar give us a behind-the-scenes look at the latest Pixar film in the documentary, “Embrace the Panda: The Making of Turning Red.” We meet many of the people involved in the filmmaking process including the director, producer, and many others who helped bring this film to screen. Along the way, we learn how the director’s upbringing in Toronto influenced her stylistic choices and what message the Pixar team hopes the film will convey to audiences.
This film was made by the first all-female management team in Pixar history. A lot of the early part of the documentary focuses on how many of these women started when they were the only female voice in the room and how refreshing it is for them to be on a team where all the voices are women. Clearly, as a man, I don’t understand what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. But I do understand the importance of having voices that are similar. I’m happy these women get to experience a situation where they don’t have to fight to have their voices heard.
The documentary also tackles the obvious metaphor at the heart of “Turning Red.” It’s something I’ve never experienced as a grown man who doesn’t have a daughter. The women on the leadership team explain why it’s important for little girls and how they hope this is still a “coming of age” film that helps explain things to little boys, as well. I can’t speak for the film’s message to little boys as a whole because each little boy is different and will react differently to the messaging. Some will have questions they were too shy to ask answered. Some will start having questions. That’s not inherently bad, just something each parent will need to tackle in their own way.
Another major focus of this documentary is how the director’s upbringing influenced stylistic choices. Domee Shi grew up in Toronto and is of Asian descent. The film is very specifically set in Toronto in 2002 right when Shi would’ve been 13 and experiencing many of the same emotions Mei experiences in the film. Many of the choices she makes are clearly drawn from her own experiences growing up. She also discusses her love for anime in this documentary and how she wanted to incorporate that style into her film for all those people who grew up loving anime. It’s something I think “Turning Red” does well and I understand how and why she wanted to use the anime style thanks to this documentary.
This documentary gave me a greater appreciation for the work that went into “Turning Red.” It helped me understand stylistic choices better and helped me understand how they wanted to convey the message of the film better. I think this is a talented team that will provide us with some great Pixar content going forward. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5
What did you think of “Embrace the Panda: The Making of Turning Red?”