Meilin Lee (Mei) is a confident yet somewhat nerdy teen who has a great group of friends and doting parents, even if her mother, Ming, is a bit over-the-top at times.
"I would not say that she's overprotective. I would characterize her as hyper-vigilant, and loving, and doing her best," said Sandra Oh, who voices Ming. "So for me to play Ming and finding the nuances and representing parents and mothers doing their best, and the difficulty of actually letting go and separating from their children when they are going through their adolescence, it's a very, very hard time for parents as well, and to bring kind of my own sense of humor to add to her humanity I really enjoyed doing that."
Mei wants to be the perfect daughter but is also exploring what it means to grow up and become her own person.
"At that age, emotions are so confusing and they are just running high and low and that's really similar to what I experienced when I was 13, which is literally one of the years I was recording for Mei," said Rosalie Chiang, who stars as Mei.
She has to navigate first crushes on boys, challenging her parents' authority, changes to her body (yes, there's period talk), all while turning into a giant red panda.
Producer Lindsey Collins said that having a female director and a largely female staff on this film helped bring a lot of the genuine moments into fruition.
"It was just really great, A, to have a great source of stories and embarrassing moments in the room at all times, people were like let me tell you about the first time this happened to me, or about the first time I got my period or this one time my mom did this to me, so we had a wealth of great stories there," she said. "But also, it just gave us permission to be a little bolder, to kind of when we might have second-guessed ourselves internally, 'I don't know, is that too much, or are we leaning too far into that,' and it's like no, you just had a bunch of women saying, 'No, lean further, go further! It's funny!' and I think that was it actually kind of ended up giving us the confidence to put a lot of the stuff that's in the movie on the screen."
Apparently, turning into a giant red panda runs in Mei's family. She learns she can control it if she can also control her emotions, which isn't always easy for a young teenage girl to do. It's a concept Director Domee Shi said she saw explored while working on a previous Pixar movie "Inside Out."
"It definitely sparked some interest in me revisiting that era in my life again, so yeah, I think the flame was lit at that point and then seeing how audiences and the studio have really embraced that story and more stories to talk about girls and what they are going through, it gave me the confidence to pitch a coming of age story revolving around a teen girl," Shi said.
"Turning Red" premieres exclusively on Disney+ on March 11.
WATCH THE TRAILER: