With about a month until Turning Red begins streaming on Disney+ (March 11, 2022), we’re thrilled to begin sharing details, insights, and behind-the-scenes looks about the film. Several weeks back, we were lucky enough to chat with many of the Turning Red filmmakers to learn all about the movie — and we’re more excited than ever for the film to premiere.
Although we still can’t share too many specifics about the plot itself, we can say Turning Red is a peek inside that confusing time when your body is going through changes, when your taste in music grows, when your relationship with your parent’s changes, and when your friends become, well, everything. These drastic and ever-evolving changes lead to many emotional and hilarious moments throughout the film.
DIRECTION AND PRODUCTION
In our first discussion with director Domee Shi and producer Lindsey Collins, we chat about the amazing color palette of the film (fire and emerald), how the water looks throughout the film (thick, almost like clear glue), and Mei’s flute-heavy theme music from Ludwig Göransson.
You’ll hear me talk about the color palette many times throughout the interviews. This is because the colors in the film give it such a unique look. Not only does this come across in the main characters Mei (fire) and Ming (emerald), but softer versions of these colors permeate throughout the film — especially in the lower contrast backgrounds and shadows.
Talking with Rona Liu was a joy, and her work as the Production Designer definitely made a mark on the film. I was able to ask her about working with Domee and how crafting the vision for the film started with locking down four things first — Mei, Ming, Panda Mei, and the Temple. Those elements had to be crafted first to allow the team to decide on the character’s final look and proportions between each other and within their environment.
Fun fact — In an earlier interview, Rona noted that Mei was 13 years old, and the film was set in 2002.
Danielle Feinberg (Visual Effects Supervisor) is one of those people that ever since the first time we spoke with her, we felt like we had known her for years — it was a great joy to speak to her again.
In our discussion, we dive into the lighting of the film but also the risk that she took stepping into the new role. In her earlier presentation, she explained that she heard about a new character articulation technology during a Pixar networking breakfast called Profile Movers.
The technology originated with Bill Sheffler, and although it was unproven at the time, Danielle knew that it could impact the highly expressive characters in the film. Profile Movers allowed rigging and articulation artists to spend their time focusing on the big picture (the larger points of articulation). In comparison, the computer calculated and moved some of the smaller (cumbersome) articulation points in a more automated fashion. Profile Movers took traditional character point weighting and advanced it to the next level.
Lastly, we were able to speak with Animation Supervisors Aaron Hartline and Patty Kihm. In earlier sessions, the duo shared details of how the blend of 2D and 3D animation styles was a lot of fun to work with and required them to uncover some interesting challenges simultaneously.
Throughout our conversations, the artists discussed how expressive the characters are in Turning Red. That is definitely apparent in the characters’ anime-styled-eyes which you’ll notice are used to push emotion even further in the film. Pupils contract down to small dots and expand (with graphical elements) to almost fill the whole eye.
Interestingly, as much as the expressions were pushed further, some of the characters’ movements were reduced or limited. Aaron highlighted that this was the first time a director requested a more isolated motion at the studio.
At Pixar, they’re trained that motion comes from the whole character — the spine, head, arms, and so on. But, in Turning Red, there are moments where a character may only move an arm individually while the rest of the body remains still.
The best example of this is the girl, Stacy, who exclaims “O…M…G…” in the trailer when seeing Panda Mei in the bathroom stall. Notice how Panda Mei pushes the girl back into the stall by only moving her arm. In earlier tests, Panda Mei would take a small step forward while leaning in to push her into the stall — it was a bit of retraining for animators on Turning Red, but it really sells the 2D styling. The team truly nailed the character movement throughout the film.
Be sure to stay tuned to our social media channels as well as our site as we’ll be sharing a ton more details about Turning Red leading up to (and after) the film’s release.