How blushing reinvented the Pixar formula | movies

talking toy. anthropomorphized emotions. floating houses. If Pixar Animation Studios is known for anything, it’s limitless imagination and creativity. Straight from toy story and early shorts, it wasn’t just the innovative 3D animation techniques that set the studio apart – it was the sophistication and subtle intelligence of its storytelling that showed through in everything, from the high concepts of its films (Seven samurai, with bugs!) to the crackling wit of their screenplays. But for all the show’s ingenuity, the studio has also settled into a familiar formula — a house visual style and traditional character dynamics — that’s felt in even its wildest films. Until now. Input To reddenthe directorial debut of Domee Shi, who previously helmed the Oscar-winning short film bao. With her first Pixar feature film, Shi has created something that looks, sounds and feels unlike any other film from the studio – one that tears up the rule book and rebuilds Pixar in its own unique style. Welcome to Pixar 2.0.

The immediate change now is this all-new visual approach that’s instantly recognizable To redden‘s opening role. Set in 2002 Toronto (now shockingly considered the historical setting), the film centers on Chinese-Canadian teenager Mei (Rosalie Chiang) who, at the age of 13, encounters what Shi calls a “magical puberty.” : She begins to transform into an oversized red panda, a physical expression of her physical and emotional transition from a dutiful daughter to an autonomous teenage girl. From the very first scene, this is Mei’s film – in a rare Pixar maneuver, she begins by breaking the fourth wall and inviting the viewer right into her world: her confident attitude, her flute flute skills, her beloved Tamagotchi and her own talent for math. With the crash-zoom quick-cut montages of an Edgar Wright film, distinctive round character models, and Chiang’s enthusiastic voice acting, there’s a whole new energy at play here – soft and playful, but also punchy and kinetic.

It’s a feeling that only gets stronger as the film progresses. Featuring a predominantly pastel pink color palette, face filter emoji reaction images, and the glowing aura that bestows Mei’s beloved boy band favorites 4CITY, Turning Red* is fearless in reclaiming and celebrating the aesthetic of teenage girls. “The term we used a lot in the production was ‘Asian Tween Fever Dream,'” Shi tells Empire. “Right from the start we wanted this film to look and feel different – to feel like it was shot from the perspective of a 13-year-old Asian, batty, vivacious girl.”

The story’s coming-of-age themes don’t give way to a quest narrative – from start to finish, this is a film that never deviates from Mei’s journey to owning this new part of herself.

To achieve this look, Shi looked back to her own youth (she was also a tween in Toronto in the early 2000s) and the diversity of pop culture influences she grew up with. Mei’s inner and outer worlds are “just my own personal aesthetic, too,” Shi explains. “I grew up with one foot in both Eastern and Western arts and culture – influenced by Disney and Warner Bros cartoons as much as anime and Hayao Miyazaki films. And if you watch the movie, it’s a mix of East and West because I am a mix of East and West.” While the dominant visual style is still that of mainstream American animation, To redden also bears distinct anime influences – from over-the-top character reaction shots to moments of speedline-heavy action. “I especially love the anime from the ’90s and early 2000s,” says Shi. “Sailor Moon was a big inspiration for us in terms of the color palette but also the expression and that teenage feel. Ranma ½ [was an inspiration] for the combat sequences and the fun of characters turning into animals and back into humans. ”

To redden

These early ’00s visual reference points are also retained To redden‘s bubbly soundtrack. The uber-catchy 4*TOWN songs – a homage to NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys – are penned by Gen-Z icon Billie Eilish and her producing and co-writing brother Finneas (artists who are themselves known to people in Meis dude making it big today), while the score is pure Ludwig Göransson – combining his talent for cinematic orchestration with his background as a hip-hop producer. The result is a musical accompaniment that flutters with traditional Chinese arrangements, backed by head-shaking bass beats, all with an added early ’00s boy band sheen. Or, as Shi describes it, “Sweet new Jack Swing, with idiotic jazz flutes!” It was all part of the job of getting into Mei’s mind, explains producer Lindsey Collins. “[We gave Ludwig] same kind of vision to give him permission to think about how [Mei] would have scored her own introduction,” she says. “When she looks into the camera and introduces herself, it’s like she’s really leaning in, ‘Okay, if that was Mei giving me notes about what you want her subject to be, what would that be?’ He was great – he totally got it.”

All of the audiovisual reinvention results in a film that looks and sounds significantly different than anything else in the Pixar canon – but it all comes from a place where it serves Mei’s character journey. “She’s feeling very strong emotions, and we exaggerate and exaggerate her facial features, the colors, really exaggerate and abstract the background and abstract it,” says Shi, “and make it really clear that we, as viewers, are doing what she’s feeling. They’re feeling it too.” with all the colors and the compositions.” Because if there is a remarkable way To redden Breaking Pixar’s narrative form, it’s that the story’s coming-of-age themes don’t give way to a quest narrative – from start to finish, this is a film that never deviates from Mei’s journey to owning this new part of herself .

Pixar has produced some of the greatest animated films of all time – but Turning Red proves that there are still so many kinds of stories to tell.

Also Pixar’s now borderline work – the opening half hour of Wall-Ethe world-encompassing magical realism of Highthe literal emotional intelligence of from the inside to the outside – finally gives way to a kind of adventure story. This Wall-E’s mission to preserve the last bit of viable plant life on Earth, or older Carl’s dogfight against adventurer Charles Muntz, or Joy and Sadness’s journey through Riley’s subconscious to get back to the control room. To redden is not only a rare Pixar film that isn’t a buddy movie—there’s no Sully for Meis Mike, no Dory for her Marlin, no Linguine for her Remy—but it also doesn’t send her around Toronto neighborhoods, or invent a MacGuffin to collect.

In fact, the story of the arrival of Mei’s new panda form isn’t even about keeping that identity a secret or controlling it – it’s about how she chooses to embrace it. “I tried from the start not to go the more predictable route where Mei tries to hide her secret panda identity for most of Act 2 and then explodes it,” Shi confirms. “This was about a girl who owns her red panda thing, and it was more about her conflict and her relationship with her mother as opposed to her relationship with the outside world and whatever she Thought of the panda.” If there’s a monster fight in the last role, it’s still firmly rooted in Mei’s alternating relationships with her mother Ming (Sandra Oh), her closest friends, and herself.

For decades, Pixar has been at the forefront of some of the greatest animated films ever made — but To redden proves that there are still so many kinds of stories they can tell. “I love coming-of-age stories, I’m a fan of them, and I see so many versions of them [them]“I really wanted this to feel unique and different,” says Shi. To redden Not only successful on that front – it could be the start of a whole new era for the studio.

Turning Red is now streaming on Disney+.

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