If there’s social backlash to Turning Red’s clear and direct metaphor for puberty, that’s not Disney’s fault – it’s society’s. Turning Red exists to dispel such ignorance, approaching unnecessarily awkward issues through the life of a hyper-active young teen, then turning cultural by setting this within an Asian family demanding results from their daughter.
Turning Red concerns control – controlling emotions, controlling children, and controlling natural bodily functions. Mei (Rosalie Chiang) can’t express herself. Becoming angry or effusively happy creates problems, if not for her than her parents who feel this reflects on them. Because modern social norms still shy away from discussions of periods and feminine products, Turning Red’s greater theme about letting kids find themselves becomes lost in wider conversation (and tainted by dismally misinformed political pandering).
Turning Red calls for awareness and acceptance
Turning Red calls for awareness and acceptance
In the strongest moments, Mei hides truth from her mother. She goes out to parties, and makes up lies just to avoid consequences. Mei isn’t doing wrong – e.g., no drugs – yet she fears her mom discovering that Mei enjoys pop music, is learning about boys, and beginning to rely on friends for advice. More than maturing, Mei encounters increasing rebellion and anger, yet forcibly suppresses both because the only conversations with her parents revolve around staying within expectations.
It’s brief, but Mei’s mother finds a hiding place under her daughter’s bed. There Mei hid boy band posters, cash, and hilariously, a test with a B+ score instead of an A. Turning Red calls for awareness and acceptance, certainly, but also adaptive parenting styles that let kids make mistakes, sometimes on their own, without aggressive correction.
Pixar’s soft style and joyfully charming animation give this script visual life, finding the gags where possible, and making standard life events into total catastrophes, typical for any teen, but wrapped in fantastical Asian beliefs without losing a wider audience. Turning Red carefully mocks the outlandishness of making puberty more stressful than it is, and focusing on women, breaks from the typified comedy that hones in teen men and their hormonal drive. Never is the body humorous, only the situation, and even then, only when amplified by anxiety at home and at school.
Pixar adds a slight grain structure to Turning Red and that’s fine… except the encode can’t keep things stabilized. Maybe it’s the gorgeous pastel color palette that reveals too much, but chroma noise and artifacts appear too often, doubly so for this format. It’s as if Disney merely carries over the codec used for streaming services for the disc release rather than utilizing the additional space. That’s a shame, leaving Turning Red unimpressive on a format flush with dazzling animated features.
Turning Red isn’t a failure at all. It’s gorgeous, with resolute resolution. Visible compression or not, detail thrives, from the fuzziness on sweaters to individual hairs. Animated cityscapes reveal all of their detail. Some aliasing shows on Mei’s glasses, but otherwise, the animation shines.
A nicely handled HDR pass emboldens Turning Red, yet maintains the pale-ish aesthetic. Black is black where absolutely needed, and contrast full, yet the imagery appreciates a careful midtone, where it often stays. That follows the delicate color design.
Using the sound design for additional story impact, Mei’s first time as a fox brings hearty footsteps as she walks. It’s typically lean as these things go for Disney, if creating a marginal punch in the low-end. Stress introduces a heartbeat, also beefy, but in Disney’s context. Range sounds lean overall.
Positional speaker use isn’t remarkable. Motion tracks decently enough, height channels used sparingly at best. For a major film, it’s pedestrian.
Two Blu-rays come in the case, and they contain all extras, including the commentary (which deserves a spot on the 4K too, but alas). Other bonuses on the movie disc include a great feature on how a handful of shots come together. At 14-minutes, there’s plentiful detail. Then, a fun look at how the boy band came together for eight minutes.
Pop in the bonus disc to view a nine-minute featurette on the animation style and tech, although it plays more like an EPK. Then, six deleted scenes include an introduction, running 23-minutes all together. There’s no apparent reason why this required another disc, and frankly, it’s plastic waste not to find the space on the first.
Intelligently approaching awkward coming-of-age issues, Turning Red is delightful with a goofy sense of humor suited to the story.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 44 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: