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If you mixed Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro with Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, you'd be halfway to Pixar's next original offering: Turning Red. Helmed by Domee Shi (the Oscar-winner of the "Bao" short that ran before Incredibles 2), the film centers around Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), a dorky and boy band-obsessed 13-year-old who wakes up one morning to find that she has transformed into a giant red panda.
Don't worry, though — this occurrence is actually quite normal for her family, which has enjoyed a special connection with the fuzzy animals over the generations. However, any powerful surge of emotion will trigger the switch (a kid-friendly metaphor for puberty). To really drive home the themes of adolescent rebellion in the face of raging hormones and bodily changes, the movie's latest trailer utilizes NSYNC's "It's Gonna Be Me."
“We needed our character Mei to be obsessed with something that her mom would not approve of,” Shi said in a statement. “Boy bands were the first step into the world of boys for a lot of girls that age. The guys were all super pretty, polished, soft and loving, and they had of way of bringing girls and their besties together. Plus, I thought it’d be really cool to create an animated boy band.”
Watch the trailer below:
That "animated boy band" within the world of the film is known as 4*Town, and they've got three songs courtesy of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS (the Grammy-winning duo behind No Time to Die's title track). One of 4*Town's hit singles, “Nobody Like U,” can be heard in the trailer above. Jordan Fisher, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, and Finneas O’Connell are on vocals.
"When we first started talking about Billie Eilish and FINNEAS — back before they’d won a billion Grammys — we could see then how they had their finger on the pulse,” said producer Lindsey Collins (WALL-E, Cars). “We were big fans. We met with them and pitched this crazy idea of a boy band, asking if they’d be interested in writing and producing the songs. They were!”
Ludwig Göransson — the composer for Black Panther, The Mandalorian, and Tenet — will provide the instrumental score. “I’ve been a fan of his for a while,” added Shi. “We were drawn to his versatility — he’s a composer, but he also produces pop music. We knew he would help us create a very unique sound."
The voice cast also includes Sandra Oh (Mei's mother, Ming), Orion Lee (Mei's father, Jin), and Wai Ching Ho (Mei's grandmother). Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Priya, and Hyein Park play Mei's tight-knit group of friends: Miriam, Priya, and Abby. Tristan Allerick Chen (Mei's classmate, Tyler), Addie Chandler (Mei’s secret crush Devon), James Hong, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Sasha Roiz, and Lily Sanfelippo co-star.
Turning Red will premiere on March 11, 2022. Disney and Pixar have yet to confirm if the movie is slated for theaters, Disney+, or a combination of both (à la the "Premier Access" model adopted for Black Widow and Jungle Cruise).