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‘Turning Red’ director Domee Shi was a Pixar intern 11 years ago—now she’s the first woman to solo-direct a feature there


Domee Schi became the first woman in 36 years to solely direct Pixar’s “Turning Red” movie.

Shi’s feature broke many Hollywood barriers. “Turning Red” follows the story of 13-year-old Canadian-Chinese teen Meilin Lee through the awkward throes of puberty — in this case, a “magical puberty transformation,” Shi told the New York TimesMei becomes a gigantic red panda when she’s overwhelmed with anger, lust, embarrassment, and rage.

Shi described the feeling as an “Asian teenage fever dream,” in an interview with Times. He was influenced by “Teen Wolf” (pop culture icon) and “Lizzie McGuire (pop culture icon).

Shi (32), believes it is time to center the awkward adolescent experiences of half of the population. Shi stated that Shi spoke out for the Times. We are as nervous, sweaty, lusty, and exuberant as boys.

She had to convince senior Disney executives before she could bring the film to the public. Before the pitch meeting, she thought: “How can I sell it and get white old men excited about it and want to see more?”

Shi spent over a decade at Pixar learning animation and pitching skills. Shi started at the studio in 2011 to work as a storyboarding intern. She was rejected her first time (her father, an arts teacher encouraged her to try again). described the experience to the website That ShelfAs “a lot to have fun” and “the toughest thing I’ve done in life.”

She stayed at Pixar for the duration of her internship as a staff artists and helped to make films like “Inside Out” or “Incredibles 2”. During that time, she began working on a side project — “doodling outside of work” as she told Deadline — and pitched Pixar on three short concepts in a studio open call in 2016.

Pixar legend Pete Docter is her inspiration (they co-produced “Inside Out”) and his mentoring. He encouraged her to pitch “Bao,” an eight-minute film about a dumpling, which comes to life with a surprising twist at the ending. It’s meant to symbolise the importance of Pixar. all-consuming loveA parent is an older woman who cares for and raises the baby dumpling. She eats it as a protective act, but it’s just as destructive.

Docter loved Shi’s original ending and he changed hers when she officially pitched it to him.

She said it as follows: the Times: “Pete was in that pitch meeting, and he stood up and stated, “Wait! That is not the version you told me about a couple weeks ago.”

Shi was then allowed to re-pitch her original idea: “I think because of that experience it gave me the confidence to not be afraid to try bold, weird and shocking things in the stories I want to tell — to not censor myself,” she said. 

Shi won the Oscar for best animated short film, 2019 with “Bao”, which was greenlit by Pixar.

Shi has been encouraged by “Bao”, “Turning Red”, to write stories that are true to her experience as an Asian-Canadian woman.

“We are changing the way universal stories look, feel, and can no longer be portrayed only by one group,” she told WBUR. I think that we all can identify with Mei’s struggle to grow up, and her relationship with her mother.

While “Turning Red,” is now available on Disney+, it did receive a theater screening. Toronto Life reportsStaff at Pixar Amphitheater

At the end of the movie, Shi got up onstage with Pixar vice president and producer Lindsey Collins, production designer Rona Liu and visual effects supervisor Danielle Feinberg — the first time anyone at Pixar had seen an all-female leadership team on stage together.

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