Disney Store Official Turning Red Deluxe Figurine Playset, 9 Pc., Moulded Character Toy Figures for Kids, Includes Mei Lee and Friends

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Disney Store Official Turning Red Deluxe Figurine Playset, 9 Pc., Moulded Character Toy Figures for Kids, Includes Mei Lee and Friends

Disney Store Official Turning Red Deluxe Figurine Playset, 9 Pc., Moulded Character Toy Figures for Kids, Includes Mei Lee and Friends

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Mei and her friends are loving, unabashed fans who don’t have to overcome their dorky passions to find self-acceptance and social acceptance. Mei isn’t the “dutiful Asian child” stereotype, nor is her mother the overbearing “tiger mom.” Turning Red gives us a parental figure who doesn’t have an easy route to self-acceptance and doesn’t have all the answers, but who recognizes, in the end, that it’s more important to parent like a team leader than a tyrant. While Mei's father is shy and mostly stays out of the way, her mother, Ming — a terrific Sandra Oh — is attentive to the point of overbearing. In addition to being super-involved with Mei's studies, Ming rigorously polices her daughter's social life, in hopes that she won't be too influenced by Western ways. Mei and her friends are determined to attend the 4*Town concert, so filmmakers knew they’d need a spectacular venue for the occasion. Artists started with the actual dimensions of Toronto’s SkyDome, then played with the scale to find the sweet spot, allowing the climactic ending to unfold to its greatest potential. The Turning Red mug is a must for any Disney collection, with its adorable design and cute features, it can hold all the tea you'll ever need.

But the buzz around the movie in the days since its March 11 release has been tinged with drama, and might well give you the impression that Turning Red is Pixar’s most controversial film since — maybe ever. While that’s probably not true, the dust-ups around Turning Red keep gaining attention and going viral — maybe less because lots of people are mad than because the things a few people are mad about are just ... kind of weird. Now imagine my astonishment during Oscar-winning “Bao” helmer Domee Shi’s masterful animation “Turning Red,” while I watched its 13-year-old central character undergo a similar episode with her own mother! The heroine in question is the overachieving Meilin ( Rosalie Chiang)—Mei for her loved ones—growing up too fast with her budding hormones and changing body amid her Chinese-Canadian family in the Toronto of the early aughts. A slightly dorky straight-A student she may be, but there's nothing anyone could do to stop her from noticing all the good-looking boys—particularly a local store clerk—that she and her best friends frequently gush over. That anyone includes her disciplined, willowy mother Ming ( Sandra Oh), who discovers Mei’s notebook of suggestive heartthrob drawings in furious disbelief. What’s Mei to do if not literally turn red and POOF, transform into a furry, monstrously cute red panda in the midst of navigating all these intense emotions? (Why hadn't I thought of this when I was similarly busted? And more importantly, where was this movie when I was growing up?) The vast majority of the film’s audience seems to adore its main character, a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian girl named Mei, with her proud fannish hobbies and her loyal geek squad friends. And they’ve been loudly celebrating Turning Red’s unique elements: Its early-2000s Toronto setting, its celebration of teenage girlhood, and especially its thoughtful depiction of a child grappling with complicated issues of family, community, and repressed history.Her mom instructs her to suppress her feelings and the panda along with it. But then something funny happens: Her friends find out about the panda, and rather than being weirded out by it, they think it's the cutest, coolest thing ever. Soon, Mei is newly popular and having the time of her life, and she starts to wonder: What if the panda, far from being some shameful aberration, is actually the truest expression of her happy, goofy, emotional self?

Many people are reading Turning Red as a narrative about intergenerational trauma. This can manifest as learned behaviors in response to oppression, abuse, or other challenges that are then passed down through the family or community — like Mei’s family inheritance — until they become embedded and difficult to interrogate. It’s also easy to see this narrative as a commentary on the way Asian diaspora children deal with the tremendous expectations they face to succeed — even in societies where they face discrimination and alienation, often silently. The controversies, such as they are, range from claims that this film isn’t relatable to insistent discomfort with the depiction of a young woman in puberty, a child having autonomy, and the very reality of — yes, sometimes cringeworthy — 13-year-old girls.

The story is set in the early 2000s, and it follows a 13-year-old girl named Meilin Lee, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, who lives in Toronto's Chinatown. Mei is an obedient overachiever, a straight-A student who spends her free time helping her parents run a temple built to honor their Chinese ancestors.

I've seen Turning Red in a theater and now that I have, I'm really upset that most people aren't going to experience it like this. I don't think I've ever felt more seen by a film like this as an Asian Canadian in the Toronto area. In fact, it might be a sign of how special Turning Red is that it’s attracting the kind of criticisms that aren’t really controversies at all, but rather baffled, individualized emotional explosions in response to a film that disobeys the expected rules about what it’s supposed to be. Whether Turning Red is relatable shouldn’t be a question. Except that the larger cultural debate around Turning Red was prescribed for us, completely predictably, by a single loud critical voice proclaiming that it isn’t. And that is the genius of “Turning Red,” a radical, brazenly hormonal PG movie that instantly fills a huge void in the lives of awkward, novel female teens who might just be starting to crawl out of their childhood cocoons with a disharmony of mystifying awakenings and sexual feelings. That achievement is perhaps no surprise coming from Pixar, a studio that can always be trusted for a generous dose of reflective, grown-up nostalgia as well as a good old-fashioned coming-of-age saga. After all, weren’t some of the best characters of the fiercely inventive animation house—from the talking dolls of the “ Toy Story” franchise to the corporeal feelings of “ Inside Out,” the rebellious princess of “ Brave,” and the aspiring young musician of “ Coco”—gloriously defined by its signature preoccupations? Still, “Turning Red” (which deserves a lot better than the straight-to-streaming fate Disney has bestowed upon it) feels pioneering and surprising even for the shop behind the groundbreaking animated sci-fi “WALL-E.” For starters, never before has a Disney female ever been asked, “Has the red peony blossomed?” as an inquiry about the start of her menstruation.And so Turning Red tells a story about shame, repression and social anxiety — areas that I, like more than a few Asian Americans, know a thing or two about. During the movie, I found myself sometimes wincing in recognition at Mei's tension and embarrassment as she's torn between her family and friends. I also balked at moments that seemed to exaggerate for comic effect, especially when it came to Mei's mother, who's clearly been conceived along the lines of the controversial "tiger mom" stereotype.

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