‘Turning Red’ Cast Speaks Out After “Racist” and “Privileged” Review

Turning Red
Credit: Disney/Pixar

On March 11, the newest movie from Disney and Pixar will hit Disney+. The movie is called Turning Red and focuses on the life of a young teen girl — Mei Lee — as she goes through puberty. Unfortunately for Mei Lee, when her emotions get the best of her, she transforms into a giant red panda. Now, anyone who has gone through puberty can tell you, your emotions almost always have the best of you. Not great if you don’t want to turn into a panda.

Turning Red

Credit: Disney

Turning Red will really be a historic film for Pixar, as it deals with ALL things that a young girl goes through when her body reaches a certain age. Many films tend to shy away from those issues. Turning Red will address them head-on. Some film critics and publications were given the chance to watch Turning Red before it premieres, including the popular site, CinemaBlend. Unfortunately for the publication, its Managing Director — Sean O’Connell — wrote a review that many deemed racist and privileged.

Turning Red

Credit: Disney

As a part of his review, O’Connell called the review “exhausting”. He also claimed that the movie was made for only a very specific audience.

“‘Turning Red’ is the horniest movie in Pixar history, which parents no doubt will find surprising. I recognized the humor in the film, but connected with none of it. By rooting ‘Turning Red’ very specifically in the Asian community of Toronto, the film legitimately feels like it was made for Domee Shi’s friends and immediate family members. Which is fine… but also, a tad limiting in its scope. Some Pixar films are made for a universal audience. #TurningRed is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific, and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.

turning red pixar film

Credit: PIXAR Animation Studios

O’Connell’s review quickly went viral, and people were less than kind when they responded. He apologized for the original tweet, but the damage had already been done. Some noted that other Pixar films had main characters of fish, monsters, and robots. None of which O’Connell should be able to identify with.

Others felt that the review was racist and that O’Connell couldn’t identify with it because it wasn’t about a white man.

You explained your point of view very clearly, it was exhausting for you to not be centered as a white man. I hope this is the beginning of a journey for you to de-center whiteness and you work toward doing better on a daily basis.

just… relate to the characters as people? I’ve had to relate to plenty of white characters growing up. why does a character being Asian suddenly make it “non-universal”? some blatant “perpetual foreigner” mindset here.

Things got so bad that CinemaBlend pulled the article and said that new editing procedures were being put into place. Many people called them out on that as well, considering the review was written by a Managing Director who shouldn’t need to be edited to make sure his reviews aren’t racist. The review has gotten so much attention that the cast of Turning Red is speaking out in defense of the film.

Turning Red

Credit: Disney/Pixar

Rosalie Chiang, who plays Mei Lee, was asked by CBC if she thought the film was created for too narrow of an audience. She responded:

“Of course not…This is a coming of age film, everyone goes through this change … I think different people of different cultures are going to go through it differently, but at the end of the day, the core messiness and change is something everyone can relate to.”

The film’s director, Domee Shi, believes that Turning Red, “is a love letter to that time of our lives. It’s a love letter to puberty. It’s a love letter to Toronto.”

Turning Red will be available to all Disney+ subscribers on March 11. Premier Access will not be required to watch the film. In addition to Rosalie Chiang, the film also stars Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Hyein Park.

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!