EXCLUSIVE: Domee Shi on ‘Turning Red’s Humor and Horror

Pixar’s Turning Red just might be the company’s funniest film yet.

More than any other Pixar film, it’s Turning Red that taps into the sensibilities of preteens the most. A film about a preteen going through puberty, the film tackles themes and topics that otherwise wouldn’t be covered by a Disney film. Topics like those inevitably come with a sense of humor apt for its age range, which is what allows Turning Red to be funny in a way audience haven’t seen in a Pixar movie.

Jokes about strippers, crushes, and bodily changes are some of the things Turning Red doesn’t shy from. I spoke with director Domee Shi and producer Lindsey Collins and asked how they got the green light to do such suggestive jokes. Collins admitted that she was surprised when the executives didn’t bat an eye.

There are certainly a couple of moments in there that I was surprised we didn’t get pushed back for. I was kind of half-expecting it. But they didn’t. For the most part, they knew the film they were getting. They knew the filmmaker they had. We were also unapologetic from the very first screening. They had the opportunity to say “Uh oh” but they didn’t.

Shi was confident about their choices, saying that a lot of the jokes were rooted in important character work and thematics.

We also could defend those decisions too. All of the humor was connected to themes of the movie which were girl adolescence, puberty, and generational perspectives.

Early in the movie, Turning Red shows a dream sequence that is utterly bizarre and borderline unsettling by Disney standards. In line with the earlier question, I asked Shi what prompted them to create a scene inspired by filmmaker David Lynch and how it tied into the film’s themes.

I’m so glad you mentioned David Lynch. He was an inspiration for that part. There was an even scarier version that we cut. The version you guys saw was a scaled-back version. I like it because it’s kind of weird and it elicited a lot of laughter from the audience. My intention behind the sequence was that it’s the night that puberty arrives. So what does puberty look like as a dream? It is very Lynchian and nightmarish and weird and funny.

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