The pandemic once again takes fans away from enjoying a new Pixar title on the big screen, but Red is so fun, bright and original that it doesn’t lose its polish on home video.
Comes to Disney + the story of a flawless little girl whose life is turned upside down when puberty peeps in a very different way: no acne or wider hips, Meilin Lee wakes up one morning in the skin of a huge and hairy panda Red. Her mother explains what happens to her: due to a mystical bond between the animal and her family, a defect in her genes will make her turn into a red panda every time she feels a strong emotion.
The plot, as you can see, already has great potential but what makes Red a cartoon with a great character is undoubtedly the style adopted by the director Domee Shi. In her directorial debut on an animated feature film, the filmmaker brings a whole new approach to Pixar that will drive nerds and millennials alike.
Pixar’s first female director
It seems incredible just to think so, but in its 35-year history, Pixar had never entrusted a feature film to a woman. The only female name we find in the filmography of the Emeryville studios is Brenda Chapman, who however abandoned Brave – Rebel during the making and is therefore considered to be co-director along with colleagues Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell.
Ten years later, Domee Shi becomes the first woman to have a Pixar film of her own, written and directed by her. On the other hand, in 2018 she had already marked the history of studies by becoming with Lei bao lei the first director of a Pixar short film. Those few minutes were enough for viewers and critics to understand all her talent and her unique gaze: winner of the Oscar for best short film, Bao had as protagonists a steamed ravioli and his human mother and he told the syndrome of empty nest.
“Everything is changing – explained Chi in the press conference held in Rome which was also attended by Mashable Italia – now more and more girls, thanks to streaming, are discovering the world of animation that was previously dominated by males. When I studied animation, there were 50 students. % boys and 50% girls, now women are the majority in the same school “.
Meilin Lee completely dominates the film. Starting with her introduction: it is she who introduces herself, breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the public. A choice that had never been seen in Pixar and that millennial Domee Shi (she was born in 1989) leads back to her passion for Lizzie Maguire, the successful Disney Channel TV series starring Hilary Duff and the animated counterpart of she.
“The idea – explained Chi to the Italian press – was to show the world from the point of view of the protagonist. The style is the reflection of a thirteen-year-old nerd”. And producer Lindsey Collins confirms: “We embraced this idea that it was the protagonist who decides all aspects of the film: from the color palette to the shots. Even the soundtrack is designed as if she had written it.”
Influences and inspirations
To shape Mei’s character, director Domee Shi took a lot from herself at that age: “I too was the good girl with high grades. I was clumsy, nerdy, with a small group of friends and amazed by my body. it changed unexpectedly. Surely all the most embarrassing parts are inspired by me at that age. The main difference is that I wasn’t obsessed with a boyband but with Harry Potter. ” Even the choice of the red panda can be traced back to the little girl the director was: “It seemed to me the perfect metaphor for purity. And then red is the color I felt when I was 13: I was always red with anger or embarrassment”.
Even for everything related to style, the inspiration comes from the years that the director lived as a young girl: the early 2000s. There are no smartphones and social networks, but Tamagotchi, boybands and jelly bracelets. Passionate about manga and anime, Domee Shi wanted to pay homage to Japanese cartoons in her stylistic choices: “In Mei’s transformations you will recognize Sailor Moon and other 90s anime that have been a great inspiration to me for this film”.