Oakland, CA — Pixar’s new animated coming-of-age film centers around 13-year-old Mei Lin Lee who’s obsessed with the fictional boy band 4*Town and struggles in her relationship with her conservative mother. And if things weren’t challenging enough, Mei Lin turns into a red panda whenever she becomes excited.
Rosalie Chiang, 17, is the voice behind Mei Lin in “Turning Red” on Disney+ which debuted Friday. Her tight-knit friends are voiced by Ava Morse as Miriam, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya and Hyein Park as Abby.
Chiang said what she liked about her character and movie was the relatable story.
“Well, after watching the movie, my mom and I kinda looked at each other like, ‘This is really similar,’" she said. “My favorite animals are actually red pandas. Before the whole project even started, before I was introduced.”
The red panda is an animal native to the Chongqing province and was studied by the animators who had Mei Lin mirror the creature’s behavior. Artist Rona Liu said that the red panda was also picked because its reclusive behaviors are like a human teenager’s.
While teenagers can be reclusive, Ramakrishnan, known for Devi playing in “Never Have I Ever,” said she loved that this movie
“I love that we show the importance of, you know, four young girls, being supportive of each other [and] just to show good female friendships,” Ramakrishnan said.
Park added that creating authentic female relationships was important for this film.
“I was way in on the friendship bit,” Park said. “And the way this movie was very relatable for me is through all those aspects of, like, being goofy together as friends, where you can truly be yourself.”