Meilin Lee is an Unconventional Pixar Heroine

Meilin Lee
Credit: metacritic

Meilin Lee is one of the most unconventional heroines ever in an animated movie. Turning Red, the movie in which she stars, is one of the most personal movies Pixar has ever made. It tells the story of a Chinese-Canadian girl during her puberty when hormones are skyrocketing and new emotions are leaping to the fore. One day, Meilin wakes up to find that she transforms into a giant red Panda whenever she is angry or upset. This is a rather vivid symbol of adolescence itself when teenagers become volatile more often than not. 

Poignant and Personal 

The director Domee Shi is known for her poignant, heartfelt animated movies. In 2017, she made a Pixar short named Bao where a woman’s bao bunch comes alive all of a sudden. It undergoes the complete process of transformation from an adorable little dumpling to a sullen, angry teenager.

The film eventually went on to win the Oscar for best animated short that year. Turning Red treads the same line to a great extent. The protagonist is another teenager who develops the strange ability to transform into a panda when her mood is down. The movie is quite amusing in its handling of puberty. 

Now, Pixar is a movie studio that follows some extremely stringent rules while making a movie. In fact, their moviemaking process is almost legendary now. In the earliest days after its creation, Pixar gained some notoriety for polishing and modifying a story until it boiled down to its very essence.

The main intention was to hold on tight to the core emotion of the tale like love, loss, birth, death, or character development. Now, this may seem like too much, but Pixar did snag a lot of prestigious awards for a lot of movies that we now remember very fondly. 

Poignant and Personal 

Turning Red shows the Way

Turning Red breaks those rules. The movie is almost completely faithful to its original pitch and does not include many changes. There are many scenes from the film’s storyboards in the early creative process which later made it to the movie.

For example, Meilin’s mother goes to her school to spy on her, peering at her daughter through a pair of binoculars. It is quite evident that the inspiration for these incidents comes from Domee’s own personal experiences. If you know something about Pixar movies, you will know that these scenes don’t usually make the final cut. 

The focus on personal experiences is a recent trend, but it is fast gaining traction. Meilin is sweet and awkward in her own way. Sure, she is angry, rebellious, and carefree with her own group of friends. But since she received her magical ability to turn into a giant red panda, she also turns far more cautious and self-aware.

Meilin also shares a troubled relationship with her mother who, like all Asian mothers, keeps a hawk-like watch on her daughter. She does not approve of romantic relationships and is extremely overprotective. How they navigate this uncomfortable sea forms a large chunk of the movie. 

Such soulful movies are the need of the hour. We all love watching animated movies, but a movie that captivates our very souls and hearts is really special. By breaking stringent rules, the filmmaker injects relatable characteristics and experiences into the movie. This ensures the audience not only connects to the characters but also encourages other filmmakers to come forward with more such stories. 

Turning Red shows the Way


1. Who is Meilin Lee Turning Red?

Meilin Lee is the protagonist of the Pixar movie Turning Red. 

2. What is the Meilin Lee Panda?

Meilin Lee turns into a red panda when she is upset or angry. 

3. Who is Meilin Lee voice actor?

Rosalie Chiang is the voice actor of Meilin Lee. 

4. Where can we find some Meilin Lee fanart?

You can find them on Pinterest.

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