Pixar Studios’ latest film Turning Red wants to break a taboo by addressing what a girl goes through during puberty, but with an analogy.
Meilin Lee, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, is an overly confident student excelling in every field. But one night, she goes to bed and wakes up as a giant red panda.
In this form, Meilin experiences many of the things pubescent teenagers go through: appearance of new hair, body dysmorphia, embarrassment about sexual feelings and heightened emotions.
“It’s taboo for whatever reason because people don’t talk about it,” director and co-writer Domee Shi told Reuters.
“It’s like the self-fulfilling prophecy. The fact that this is so shocking to be the first film to really talk about it is probably the very reason that we don’t talk about it,” producer Lindsey Collins added.
Killing Eve actress Sandra Oh voices Meilin’s overprotective mother, Ming. She says it’s important for children to understand what happens during puberty rather than leaving them suffering in silence.
“A friend of mine who saw this film with their 10-year-old son suddenly had to have a conversation about sexuality and what is it that girls go through,” she said.
“Girls go through this and then boys will go through this, so it opens up a conversation.”
Oh says the film wouldn’t have existed without a push in Hollywood to add female voices to productions.
“The fact that it exists and that’s the primary focus is how you can feel that things have changed,” she said.
Last month, Walt Disney Pictures said they were pausing theatrical releases in Russia because of the crisis in Ukraine. They cited Turning Red as the first film they wouldn’t be releasing there.
“We found out when everybody found out and I think there was a question ‘Oh, are you guys OK with that decision?’ and we were like ‘No we’re 100% OK with that decision’,” Collins said.
Turning Red released globally on Disney+ on March 11, with the film also screening in cinemas in some countries.