Personal meaning

Turning Red End: Sandra Oh and director Domee Shi share the personal significance of Mei’s decision

Big red SPOILERS are ahead for Become red.

Historically, Pixar knows how to nail an awesome teary ending and its latest version turn red is no exception. Domee Shi’s directorial debut tells the story of a 13-year-old girl struggling with growing pains, in addition to an unexpected transformation into a giant red panda thanks to a secret generational gift turned curse. After attempts for Mei (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) to calm the panda side of her and ultimately confine that side of her to a rest on her neck, the preteen decides to accept it as a part of herself. Shi shared what the ending means to her.

turn red is a personal story Dome Shiwho grew up in the early 2000s in Toronto, Canada, just like Mei. When she spoke to CinemaBlendthe writer/director shared what the Pixar movie ending means for her with these words:

What we mean by this time is that Mei is the first in her family to keep the Panda and embrace that messy side of herself. Hopefully, with the movie, we also don’t pass judgment on the generations that came before her who decide to get rid of her because they grew up in a different time. They grew up in an environment that wasn’t safe to keep your panda in order to move around in society, in order to survive his mother and grandmother and aunts all had to get rid of that side of themselves .

In the third act, Mei’s grandmother and aunts come to lead the ceremony which will allow her to abandon her red panda side forever, as all the recent women in her family before her have done. However, during the ceremony, Mei retains her panda identity and goes to the 4*Town concert with her friends, where she spent much of the film raising money to go.

Turning Red ends, Mei and Ming

(Image credit: Pixar)

As she rushes out of the ceremony, her mother Ming (played by Sandra Oh) sees her own red panda run amok and he’s way bigger and scarier than Mei’s panda ever was. Everything comes to a head at the 4*Town concert where Mei must reunite with her grandmother and aunts to complete the ceremony and separate Ming’s panda from her human self. However, Mei decides not to complete the ceremony and stay a panda for good. Domee Shi continued talking until the end:

Mei has what they didn’t have, which is the support and love of her friends and this new environment and world that accepts different races and celebrates that messy side of her. So she can break this cycle and be the first in her family to embrace the panda that represents how it changes through generations. The way each generation deals with trauma is different and hopefully with each new generation it gets a little easier.

In the latest Pixar, Mei’s panda side is literally a gift that has been passed down from generation to generation to the women of her family since ancient times. But the panda could symbolize many things, depending on who is looking at it. During my turn red interviews, Sandra Oh shared how the ending sequence held personal significance for his own coming of age. As she shared with CinemaBlend:

There is specifically a frame in the movie where Panda Mei tries to leave the temple and all her aunts and mother try to get her to stay. For me in my life, during this period that Mei is going through, I was becoming an actor, I was becoming an artist, and I had to break away from my own family expectations and traditions. So in that regard, it was a great opportunity to tap into my personal story.

turn red tells the story of a Chinese-Canadian family and how Mei struggles between the traditions she has learned to embrace and the culture she experiences at school with her friends. There’s a difficult balance that Mei has to walk and throughout turn red she leads a double life between her family and social life. At the end of the film, Mei chooses to be herself by being a red panda, boyband obsessed preteen and a Chinese-Canadian proud of her family’s history and values. It’s a relatable journey that many modern immigrant children have to take and now a beautifully explored story in a Pixar film.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check it out turn red using a Disney+ subscription.