Latest Disney/Pixar animated hit draws on BU knowledge

March 17, 2022

Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” tells the story of Mei Lee, a 13-year-old girl in Toronto torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence.

“Spot the Canadiana” is a fun game for viewers of the latest Disney/Pixar movie, “Turning Red,” which is set in Toronto. But it’s not just about spotting the CN Tower on the skyline — panda-eyed viewers may also spy a Manitoba connection when reading the credits.

Brandon University professor Dr. Alison Marshall is listed as a cultural consultant on the film, which was produced by Pixar and being distributed by Disney.

“This was an exciting opportunity, and it was an honour to have been asked to do this,” Dr. Marshall said. “I was part of the film since the early animation phases and helped shape key cultural elements in the film to help ensure cultural authenticity and positive portrayals.”

Dr. Alison Marshall stands in front of the Sun Yatsen Monument in Toronto’s Riverdale Park close to East Chinatown (credit: Jennifer F. Griffiths)

It’s easy to see why the BU professor was selected for her expertise.

“Turning Red,” which is currently streaming on the Disney+ service, tells the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a Chinese Canadian girl who discovers that strong emotions transform her into a giant red panda. Film reviewers have lauded the movie’s careful depiction of culture, including Mei’s challenge at navigating the different worlds of school and home.

This is familiar ground for Dr. Marshall, who has written extensively on Chinatowns and Chinese Canadian history, and who last year was awarded a Volunteer Manitoba award for her work on the subject.

“What a thrill to see a familiar name on the big screen, and what deserving recognition for Alison, who as a scholar, researcher, and person is so dedicated to the Chinese community,” said BU President Dr. David Docherty. “This is also a timely reminder that representation in popular entertainment is meaningful and important, and that popular entertainment itself is a critical social glue bringing us together as a community, each with our own unique cultural contributions.”

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