Book Review: “The Art of Turning Red” by Disney and Pixar

Hi everyone!

I received “The Art of Turning Red” to review, which features artwork from the upcoming Disney and Pixar animated film that will debut on Disney+ March 11th, 2022. The 160-page book releases February 22nd. The film is directed by Domee Shi, who was the first female director of a Pixar short (“Bao”) and now is helming this coming-of-age animated movie that Shi has referred to often as an “Asian tween fever dream”.

Pete Docter, Pixar Chief Creative Officer writes the foreword in a unique way, as if he’s talking to director Domee Shi’s mother. Domee Shi handles the introduction with the first line, “So, after finishing a short film about an old lady smothering her dumpling son to death, I realized I still had a lot to unpack in my relationship with my mother…”. She also talks about how the red panda represents “the messiness of growing up”.

The Art of Turning Red” is in the same format as other “Art of” books from Chronicle, with a lot of concept art, sketches, storyboards and more.

Character development includes Meilin Lee, who is the 13 year old lead character, and her mom Ming. The concept art of Mei starts early on in the book in her human form, and later on we see artwork of her as the large red panda. Mei starts turning into a red panda as she hits adolescence, anytime she starts getting emotional.  Story supervisor Rosana Sullivan says that “The development of Mei as a character mirrors that of our director, Domee”. We learn in the book that Panda Mei is inspired by a number of different animals, including baby red pandas and alpacas. In the middle of the book, there is something unique – a small sketchpad that mirrors the one that Mei has in the movie (one that triggers the Red Panda’s arrival).

Mei as the red panda – image copyright Pixar

The film “Turning Red” lends itself very well to a concept art book – it is a very colorful, vibrant movie with a lot of emotion and unique characters.  There are short text blurbs throughout the book that talk about the film from those who worked on it. “The Art of Turning Red“, by the nature of the book, has some spoilers so you may want to wait until after watching the film to enjoy the book. I have previewed about a half hour of the movie as of this writing and there is a lot in the book I’ve not seen on screen yet.

From the publisher:

This stunning volume is an exclusive look behind the scenes of Disney and Pixar’s original feature film Turning Red.

In “The Art of Turning Red”, explore the art and making of Disney and Pixar’s newest original feature film. Mei Lee is a confident, dorky thirteen-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. And as if changes to her interests, relationships, and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which for a teenager is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda! With character designs, storyboards, colorscripts, exclusive interviews with the creative team, and much more, this vibrant volume shares a behind the scenes look at this new animated film, for aspiring artists, animators, and fans alike.

EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES: Fans will want to delve into and explore this new Pixar film through production art, stories, and making-of details exclusive to this book.


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