Needless to say, we loved the new Pixar film Turning Red and its portrayal of the early 2000s through the eyes of its Chinese-Canadian protagonist, Meilin. Through her sudden transformation into a red panda, Meilin learns the true meaning of friendship and family.
Directed by Domee Shi, who brought her own experiences growing up in Toronto to the film. This includes the accurate and relatable portrayal of Chinese culture and growing up, with a dash of that Pixar and Disney magic.
Western audiences have expressed their disconnect with Turning Red online due to the core portrayal of Asian culture, which was a critique that was similarly made to Shi’s animated short film Bao back in 2018.
To learn more about the spark of magic that brought Turning Red to life, IGN Southeast Asia spoke to the star of the movie, Rosalie Chiang. The young voice actress gave insight on her portrayal of Meilin and the very heart of Turning Red’s themes.
How similar are you to Meilin, especially in regards to your upbringing?
Very, very similar. Personality-wise not so much, but the things she went through in the movie are what I’ve been through personally. She has her close-knit friends and I also have my own squad back home.
Meilin’s relationship with her mother Ming especially, was relatable as Asian mothers are such interesting people. While my mom can be overbearing and strict at times, we have to understand that they do it out of love and not with malicious intent.
Your father is Singaporean, have you been to Singapore, and is there any part of Singaporean culture that you are drawn to?
I’ve been to Singapore twice, and the second we came home, I told him I wanted to go back immediately. Honestly, it’s the food, especially from hawker centers, that stands out about Singapore when I was there.
Trying out each culture’s food, with how each culture is so defined by their cuisine, was a very insightful experience for me.
Did you own a Tamagotchi-like device like Meilin or did you prefer other kinds of video games?
I did not own a Tamagotchi actually, but something that Meilin owns that I had was slap bracelets, which I was obsessed with growing up.
What is your favorite boyband?
I’m a huge K-Pop fan, both boy and girl bands. Seventeen, BTS, EXO, and with bands like Twice, BlackPink, Red Velvet, I can go on and on.
What was your favorite Pixar film and how surreal is it to star in one yourself?
My favourites are a toss-up between Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles. The fact that I grew up on their movies and there will be people growing up on Turning Red, is totally surreal.
Everybody has a connection to the movies they grew up with, especially with Pixar and Disney movies, and I’m excited to hear about the people who have a connection with Turning Red someday.
What was it like to work with Sandra Oh?
I didn’t get to work with her in the recording booth, but we had lunch before the press tour started. She’s an experienced actor and she gave me a lot of advice on how to maneuver through interviews.
We foresee Turning Red to be a modern Asian classic, like Mulan or Kim’s Convenience, what makes Turning Red special in your opinion?
The fact that it is a coming-of-age movie through an Asian lens. I was never a fan of the genre, they seem to airbrush the imperfections that come with growing up. It’s never messy or awkward like how growing up really is.
Turning Red is very unfiltered, cringe, awkward, weird, and messy, which is exactly what puberty is and what coming of age really is. The fact that it is from an Asian perspective is even more special since there aren’t many coming of age movies from this perspective.
Though a lot of people say they can’t relate to this, I think people can watch this movie as a cultural experience and learn how other cultures experience this aspect of life.
What were your favourite scenes and performance from Turning Red?
Any scene where Devon is included, where Meilin draws fan art of him and reacts to what she’s done was so fun to perform and rewatch.
What is your advice to young Southeast Asians who are looking to get into the entertainment business?
It’s going to be a tough and unpredictable journey and my advice is to enjoy the process. It took me a long time to get to where I am, and I got lucky. Just because I’m here, doesn’t mean other people are going to reach here the same way. It’s going to be hard, but don’t worry.