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Mum followed me to school and hid behind tree, says director of coming-of-age Pixar film Turning Red

It would have been a good first day of middle school as Domee Shi thought she had made some new friends and she felt like a million bucks.

Then, someone spotted a woman hiding behind a tree and she realised her mum had followed her to school.

In a recent virtual interview with AsiaOne for her Pixar film Turning Red, the 33-year-old confessed to a 'tiger mum' moment that still haunts her.


She said: "I look up and it's my mum and she's put sunglasses on because, I think, she thought I wouldn't recognise her with sunglasses on.

"And she sees me and she kind of gets startled and steps out. She's like, 'Oh, just worried about you Domee, go play with your friends. I'll just watch from here.' And I was like, 'Mum, what are you doing?'"

It was a moment that "forever haunts my dreams", said Domee.

Although, the Pixar animator-turned-director shares a very strong bond with her mother despite experiencing 'tiger mum' moments growing up.

And yes, she added them into the Turning Red script.

"But, you know, my mum had her reasons for it. I think every parent has their reasons for being protective of their kid. And making these movies is just my way of wanting to understand them and where that came from. And just try to understand my mom, and parents in general, a lot better," she added.


Turning Red follows the coming-of-age journey of Meilin Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a confident but slightly dorky 13-year-old with a solid group of friends, stellar academic performance and a stable relationship with her parents.

However, she wakes up one day transformed into a red panda and discovers it's a 'blessing' passed down through the women in her family. Whenever her emotions get the better of her, she poofs into a large adorable red panda and reverts only when she calms herself down.

Through this transformation, Meilin learns to find the balance between the perfect Asian daughter that her mother expects and the wild child in her who likes boys and goes crazy for fictional boyband 4*Town.

The film also stars Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.

At the core of the show, undeniably, is also an exploration of the delicate balance between Eastern (Asian) and Western values as they're often at odds.


In Singapore, this conflict is inevitable and has been a subject of discussion as the younger generation are increasingly influenced by the West through media and the internet.

When asked about whether there's an erosion of values, Domee, who was born in China and immigrated to Canada at two, said that it's possible for both sides to co-exist.

She explained: "But I think it's gonna be a lifelong struggle. That's kind of the conclusion that I came to making this movie and coming to terms of my own relationship with my family versus my own goals and ambitions... That's just the nature of being a person living in both of these worlds.

"And it's okay, that it's not going to be perfect... Sometimes in your life, you're going to lean more Western and sometimes you're going to lean more towards your own culture."

Producer Lindsey Collins, who was also present at the interview, said that she learnt a lot about this balance from Domee and other members of the crew while making the film as she isn't someone "of two cultures".

However, she observed that this struggle "seems slightly universal for most people who are either first-generation immigrants or in two different cultures".

"It adds another layer of stress onto an already stressful situation of growing up and being in puberty," she said, referencing the fact that the red panda is a metaphor for puberty.

For the full interview, watch the video above.

Turning Red releases on Disney+ on March 11.

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