Exclusive: Turning Red director Domee Shi explains how she pitched the film to Pixar and what ultimately drew the company to the project.
turn red Director Domee Shi explains the creative way she pitched the film to Pixar. Telling the story of a young girl named Mei Lee who turns into a red panda whenever she gets excited, turn red is the latest animated release from the studio. The film marks Shi’s feature film debut after working on Upside down, The good dinosaur, Incredibles 2and toy story 4 as a storyboard artist, and has already received rave reviews from critics.
Apart from his work as a screenwriter, Shi also directed the 2018 short film, Bao. Bao tells the heartfelt and humorous story of a woman who gets a second chance at becoming a mother after one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. In addition to marking the first Pixar short film directed by a woman, Bao also won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2019, putting Shi on the map as a talented director. After working with only a small number of voice actors for Bao, turn red features vocal performances by Sandra Oh, Rosalie Chiang, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Orion Lee.
in a new Screen Rant exclusive interview with Shi and producer Lindsey Collins, Shi recalled how she first got Pixar interested in the idea of turn red. Ultimately, Shi explains, turn red was simultaneously the most personal, bizarre, and universal of the three ideas she pitched, prompting Pixar to pursue it as a feature film. Collins adds that Pixar executives were also drawn to the two lead characters Shi had created. Check out Shi and Collins’ full comments below:
Dome Shi: “So it was 2017, I think we were starting or finishing promoting Bao, or Bao was done and coming out, and then Pixar approached me and asked if I wanted to pitch three feature film ideas. I I said yes, of course [laughs]. But my three ideas were coming-of-age stories around teenage girls, and Turning Red was the most personal and, I think, weirdest. I think I introduced it as a girl going through magical puberty at the studio and hoping they would bite, and they did! And I think that’s because it was so personal, but also touched on such a universal theme. Everyone has been there. Everyone turns 13 and feels like they’ve become a wild, hairy, hormonal beast, and I think that’s why Pixar was drawn to it.”
Lindsey Collins: “As Domee said, that was probably the most specific. I was working with her on development, and then I was in the room as she pitched the three ideas. Then when she left the room – we take them out, it’s very awkward — and then we sit down and talk about the ideas and get people’s impressions I think, frankly, what was there was that it was so clear that Domee had such an idea of who those two main characters were, that Mae and Ming were really clear and special and unique, more than any of the other ideas. Those two characters were like, “Oh, she knows who those two characters are.” And they’re so funny, even in the shortest, quickest tone you knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride, watching how they were going to have to evolve their relationship. So I think what got me attracted is that having seen Bao, knowing how surprising she is as a filmmaker e, how bold she is in her storytelling, and then knowing that she had this really personal experience with these two characters that were sort of versions of her own life. It’s like the magic equation, right there. I think everyone immediately said, “Yeah, let’s jump on that one.”
Almost every movie Pixar releases deals with powerful, universal themes that audiences of all ages can relate to. The idea of navigating the journey of adolescence and the complex feelings and experiences that come with it seems to have struck a chord with Pixar executives, as Shi’s exploration of experiences such as puberty in turn red are reinvented in a unique and entertaining way. Additionally, Pixar films are revered for their relatable, memorable, and nuanced lead characters, and Collins’ comments suggest that, at least from Shi’s perspective, the turn red the characters of Mei and Ming were the most fleshed out and easiest to see come to life on screen.
When it comes to entertainment for the whole family, Pixar is one of the first names that come to mind for many people. Having produced a handful of the best and most memorable animated films of all time (like the iconic toy story movies), the company is obviously careful about the ideas it pursues and the filmmakers it works with. Although Shi worked as a screenwriter for years, executing other directors’ visions, Bao clearly demonstrated that the director is more than capable of developing her own powerful stories with themes and characters that all audiences can relate to, and Jlight up red is another excellent example of this talent.
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- Going Red (2022)Release date: March 11, 2022
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