REVIEW: New Disney/Pixar animated movie ‘Turning Red’ explores the challenges of puberty and mother-daughter relationships

Mar 11, 2022, 9:08 AM | Updated: 1:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The teenage years are pretty awkward for most everyone.  You’re self-conscious beyond belief, your body is changing, your emotions are, let’s just say, a lot more unpredictable.  But what if, in addition to all that, you also turned into a giant, red panda?

Disney and Pixar have decided to tackle teenage female puberty and mother-daughter relationships in their latest movie, Turning Red. It’s directed by , who previously made the Pixar short “Bao” (that’s the one where the mother treats a dumpling that comes to life as if it’s her son). Shi said when she made “Bao” that she’d need a full movie to explore a mother-daughter relationship, and now she has one.


Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang) is a kind-of dorky, but also confident, 13-year old Chinese Canadian girl living in Toronto back in the early 2000s. She’s torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos and changes that adolescence brings. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for her (or any teenager).

After one particular episode where her mother embarrasses her in front of an older boy, Mei goes to bed angry and when she wakes up she has turned into a giant red panda. She’s confused and shocked but figures out that if she calms down, she can change back.  However, anytime she gets too excited or anxious, she “poofs” back into the panda.

When she finds out that this transformative ability is actually a family trait that was passed on to her, and that the other females in her family have chosen to separate themselves from it, she must decide if she’ll do the same. But Mei just might want to try to forge her own path and see if she can use the panda to her advantage.


Turning Red is a cute movie and the Pixar animators are still on top of their game, creating a colorful and accurate cartoon representation of the early 2000s. Mei, when she’s human, captures that enthusiasm and optimism many young people have as they head into their teen years.

My knowledge of and experience with Chinese culture is very limited so I can’t speak as to how accurately it portrays the nuances of the mother-daughter relationship in that culture, though it did hint at some deep layers there. But friction between parents and teenage children is pretty universal and I definitely felt a connection to both sides of that now that I have teenagers of my own.

I also liked all the little nods to early 2000s’ pop culture and the lack of constant phone use and video recording everything by teenagers.  That alone would drastically change how this story likely would have played out.


Turning Red is rated PG for thematic material, suggestive content and language. Nothing parents need to fear, though your younger kids may ask some questions about what are these pads they mention and show a couple of times.

The run time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.


I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise when I say that I was NOT the target audience for this movie, never having been a teenage girl.  The imagery linking puberty to this panda transformation is not very subtle. I can honestly say I never expected to see feminine hygiene products animated in a Disney movie!

Nevertheless, it is Pixar who’s behind this, so they do their usual good job of incorporating universally understood and relatable themes. Turning Red manages to effectively capture the awkwardness and frustration of those formative years, both for the teenager as well as the parent of a teenager.

Final Rating: TWO & A HALF out of FOUR stars


Turning Red is streaming exclusively to subscribers on Disney Plus.  There is no theatrical release on this one.

Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on

KSL 5 TV Live

Movie Reviews

The cast and crew of “Freaky Tales” is remembering working with late actor Angus Cloud in one o...

Marianne Garvey, CNN

Angus Cloud remembered at Sundance by cast and crew of one of his final films

The cast and crew of “Freaky Tales” is remembering working with late actor Angus Cloud in one of his final roles.

4 months ago

Timothée Chalamet appears as Willy Wonka and Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa in "Wonka." (Jaap Buitt...

Eva Rothenberg, CNN

‘Wonka’ hits the sweet spot, tops box office on opening weekend

“Wonka,” the whimsical origin story of the fictional chocolatier, secured the top spot in domestic theaters this weekend with an estimated $39 million in sales.

5 months ago

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ryan Gosling, left, and Margot Robbie in a scene...

Associated Press

The ‘Barbie’ bonanza continues at the box office, ‘Oppenheimer’ holds the No. 2 spot

“Barbie” leads the box office over “Oppenheimer" by over 40 million dollars.

10 months ago

Roger Gonzalez and Gaby Camacho, interview Sophia Lillis (C), at the Mexico City premiere of Paramo...

Jake Coyle

‘Dungeons & Dragons’ opens with $38.5M, takes down John Wick

Riding terrific reviews and a strong word-of-mouth, the role playing game adaptation "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" opened with $38.5 million in U.S. and Canadian movie theaters over the weekend.

1 year ago

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Cocaine Bear," directed by Elizabeth ...

Associated Press

‘Cocaine Bear’ gets high with $23.1M, ‘Ant-Man’ sinks fast

The gonzo R-rated horror comedy “Cocaine Bear" sniffed up $23.1 million in its opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, while Marvel's “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was quickly dwarfed in its second weekend.

1 year ago

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh poses for an official portrait at the...

Lindsey Bahr

Sundance doc looks into Brett Kavanaugh investigation

A new documentary looks into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

1 year ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

REVIEW: New Disney/Pixar animated movie ‘Turning Red’ explores the challenges of puberty and mother-daughter relationships