Pixar’s latest animated feature “Turning Red” features several Easter eggs while also paying homage to Toronto, where Chinese Canadian filmmaker Domee Shi grew up.
“Turning Red” follows the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian girl from Toronto who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited or stressed.
In an interview with Variety, Shi, 34, teased that the new Pixar film is filled with Easter eggs that refer to past projects and upcoming films from the studio, including “Lightyear,” which will shed light on the origins of Buzz Lightyear.
Featuring the voice of Chris Evans, the film is referenced by a sticker on a skateboard owned by one of Mei’s friends.
Shi’s full-length feature directorial debut highlights some memorable gadgets of yesteryear, like the Tamagotchi and the classic Nokia phone.
The film pays homage to Toronto by featuring several landmarks and references, from Tim Hortons’s doughnuts and NBA star Vince Carter’s Toronto Raptors jersey to the CN tower and the iconic Rogers Centre (originally the SkyDome).
Shi’s previous work, the award-winning Pixar short film “Bao,” was also referenced in the film. “Bao,” which follows the story of a Chinese Canadian mother who turns an anthropomorphic bao into her child, won an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2019. The short film gets a nod in the form of one shop sign that Mei passed as she walked along a street during her introduction.
Many other references to Pixar’s other popular projects are hidden in the smallest details throughout the film that viewers may have missed:
“Purl,” another Pixar short, is seen hanging from Mei’s desk.
A sticker of the rabbit from “Burrow,” another Pixar short film, appears on Mei’s notebook.
The “Toy Story” Pizza Planet Truck
The Pizza Planet Truck, originally featured in “Toy Story,” can be spotted parked on the street as Mei in red panda form make a dash to see 4*Town in concert.
The “Luxo Jr.” Ball
The Luxo Jr. Ball, a yellow ball with a blue stripe and red star, can be seen floating in the pool at Tyler’s house party as Mei and her friends chat on a rooftop. The famous ball first appeared in the “Luxo, Jr.” short as a prop.
A sticker of a clownfish that resembles Nemo from “Finding Nemo” can be seen on a bathroom stall door at Mei’s school.
“Luca,” a film about a young sea monster, is alluded to in a dream when Mei dreamt of a 4*Town member as a merman.
The door to the astral plane that Mr. Gao creates is reminiscent of the astral plane that characters in the film “Soul” were hoping to access.
The “papel picado” flags, which are a subtle visual reference to “Coco,” can be seen hanging from buildings during a scene in which Mei was running in her red panda form.
Mei’s mother makes breakfast porridge for her family, arranging the ingredients in a similar smiley face design as Mushu prepares for Mulan.
“Monsters Inc.” is referenced in the form of designs on Abby’s purple dungarees, which are decorated with the same floral design on Boo’s door.
A unicorn sticker on a student’s phone resembles the unicorn character with rainbow-colored hair in “Inside Out.”
Born in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing in 1989, Shi and her parents Shi Le and Ningsha Zhong immigrated to Canada two years later so that her mother could pursue her Ph.D. at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Shi decided to become an animator when she was in high school, and she ended up studying animation at Sheridan College in Canada. After graduating in 2011, she worked as a cartooning instructor before joining Pixar.
“Turning Red,” which was released on March 11 on Disney Plus, received 7.1 out of 10 stars on IMDB and scored a 94% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Although it has been well-received by critics and viewers, the movie was given two and a half stars by CinemaBlend in a controversial review which has since been taken down.