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Western Animation / Turning Red

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"I'm a furry ticking time bomb!"note 

"People have all kinds of sides to them, Mei. And some sides are messy. The point isn't to push the bad stuff away. It's to make room for it; live with it."
Jin Lee

Turning Red is the twenty-fifth animated feature film produced by Pixar. The film was directed and written by Domee Shi (who previously wrote and directed the Pixar short Bao) in her feature debut and produced by Lindsey Collins with a story by Shi and Julia Cho. Ludwig Göransson composed the film's score, with Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell contributing to the soundtrack as well.

Set in Toronto during the spring of 2002, the story follows Meilin "Mei" Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky Chinese-Canadian girl who is torn between following her heart and chasing her doting mother Ming's (Sandra Oh) approval, in addition to juggling school, her friends, and her passions all at once. Life's awesome, and Mei's future shines bright...

...that is, until the day she wakes up to find herself inexplicably transformed into a gigantic red panda! (uh-oh!) If that weren't enough, Mei also learns that her wonderful new powers activate every time she feels strong emotions, which is a lot given her age, and that she's not the first one to gain access to these kinds of powers — but unfortunately, a secret like this can only stay hidden for so long. Now Mei has to figure out how best to navigate this hairy situation, get to grips with her new abilities along the way, and perhaps most importantly, figure out who she truly is.

The film was released on March 11, 2022 on Disney+, thus making it Pixar's third direct-to-digital film. However, the film, along with Soul and Luca, eventually got a theatrical release in early 2024, accompanied by the Pixar short Kitbull.

Previews: Teaser. Official Trailer.

Viz Media announced a manga based on the fictional Boy Band from the movie, Disney and Pixar's Turning Red: 4*Town 4*Real: The Manga starting April, 2023.

Not to be confused with the trope Turns Red.

Turning Red contains examples of:

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  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The film was released in 2022, but the story is set twenty years earlier in 2002. The boy band craze is still going on, Tamagochis are the hot new trend, and cell phones are flip phones instead of smart phones.
  • Accent Depundent: The background music for one of the official trailers is *NSYNC's "It's Gonna Be Me", which can be misheard as "It's gonna be Mei" (i.e. the main character). Pretty much invoked with a line edited from "You might been hurt, babe" to "You might been hurt, Mei".
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: It's very unlikely that a Chinese immigrant family so culturally traditional would be speaking so much English with one another instead of a variety of Chinese, likely Cantonese. But since large portions of the movie involve Mei and her family talking to each other, it would result in a lot of the movie requiring subtitles for non-fluent viewers to understand, so everyone just speaks English.
  • The Ace: Mei's quite academically skilled — she's getting perfect grades in all of her classes, she's musically talented and is also fluent in French — and has the ego to back it all up. However, all this pressure to be perfect gets to her after her transformation, as she gets tired of being her mother's "perfect little Mei-Mei" all the time.
  • Addictive Magic: Mei is warned that continued use of her panda will make it harder to banish during the ritual. Mei exploits it anyway as a side hustle, and does indeed have a hard time separating from the spirit, ultimately choosing to keep it as part of her. By comparison, her relatives are all able to unseal and then re-banish their panda spirits effortlessly, because they don't share the same attachment.
  • Adults Are Useless: Basically the entire adult world — police, school staff, security, etc. — exists only as part of the background. Ming doesn't face any consequences for her false accusation of Devon. Mei causes a substantial amount of damage during her frantic run home from school in panda-form, including a three-car crash, but there's no massive hunt for the mysterious bear-creature that caused all the ruckus. At school, no one seems to notice when Mei and her friends appropriate a classroom and turn it into a photo studio. At the concert, there's no security, no stage crew, and no arrangements to prevent a massive "crush" from frantic attendees rushing the stage. And no one calls the authorities about the kaiju-panda stomping through Toronto and attacking the SkyDome. At most, there is a school security guard who has to keep chasing Ming off of school property whenever she sneaks in to spy on Mei, but he's literally a background character with very few audible lines.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Nose: On the astral plane, after Mei has decided to keep her panda, Sun Yee lifts Mei above the treetops while both are in panda form, and touches noses with Mei as a gesture of love and approval.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Meilin's father Jin and her friends Priya, Miriam, and Abby call her "Mei". Ming, her mother, and her maternal relatives call her "Mei-Mei".
  • All for Nothing:
    • Mei agrees to appear in panda form at Tyler's birthday party to get money to pay for her ticket to the 4*Town concert. During her break, she discovers the concert is the same day as the ritual, and gets so overwhelmed she ruins the party by attacking Tyler when he pushes her too far and ends up not getting paid. In the climax, she parkours her way into the concert via the open roof, no ticket needed.
    • Grandma Wu and the Aunties come earlier than expected to help prepare Mei for the ritual in separating her red panda spirit during a red lunar eclipse but on that day, Mei finally decides to keep and embrace her red panda spirit before running away to the concert; much to everyone minus Jin's shock and objections.
  • All Part of the Show: The audience at the 4*Town concert thinks Ming's enormous red panda form is part of the concert, up until she tears open the SkyDome.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization reveals that the "OMG" girl's name is Stacy Frick.
  • All There in the Script: Some discrepancy exists between official sources for Miriam's and Priya's last names. Pixar's webpage for the movie gives their names as Miriam Mendelsohn and Priya Mangal. However, the lyric video for "Nobody Like U" gives their names as Miriam Wexler and Priya Dewan. Nevertheless, both sources agree on the names for Abby and Tyler: Abby Park and Tyler Nguyen-Baker.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: When Ming finds Mei's notebook full of romantic drawings of a clerk from a convenience store, she furiously presumes he's preying on her and confronts him during business hours. She drops the drawings Mei made of him as a sexy merman in front of him and the whole store, which includes Tyler (the school bully). The next day, after Mei's transformation activates, and Ming mistakes her distress for her first period, another transformation is triggered by Ming sneaking onto school grounds to bring her pads in front of Mei's entire math class. Ming is caught by a security guard and haughtily protests his actions because she pays the taxes that fund the school.
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: The family has a ritual to seal their red panda spirits into a talisman, which can only be done under a red moon. If the talisman breaks, however, the spirit returns to its host. This happens to Ming when her talisman is damaged during the botched ritual to seal Mei's panda, causing it to break completely when her anger becomes too strong to contain. The others then willingly break their talismans to help reseal Ming's panda spirit.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • A school rumor is passed quickly throughout Mei's middle school via text messages. In 2002, the vast majority of middle school students would not have had cell phones at all, and text messages were priced individually, making them rarely used. Texting would not become common until unlimited texting cell plans, up to a decade after the film's setting.
    • The sprinkle Timbits (donut holes) at the top of the Tim Hortons box are "birthday cake" flavour. This flavour was not available until 2014 when the Tim Hortons company launched it as part of its 50th anniversary.
    • When Mei is talking to her friends just before catching a streetcar, a person in a wheelchair is seen in the background using a lift on a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) streetcar. The streetcars of the time, i.e. CLRVs (Canadian Light Rail Vehicles), did not have chair lifts.
    • The book Priya is reading is not only a spoof of The Twilight Saga, but it is also titled Nightfall. The first book in the saga, Twilight, was released on October 5th, 2005 and Little Witch Academia started with short films in 2013 and 2015 before getting a full series in 2017.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The movie ends with Mei, having fully embraced her panda form and repaired her relationship with Ming, going off to hang with Miriam, Priya, Abby, and Tyler again. This shows that while the movie may be over, Mei and her friends will continue to hang out and have more adventures together in the future.
  • Animal-Eared Headband: Mei and her friends expand on their scheme to get enough money for tickets to the 4*Town concert by selling headbands with red panda ears on them, along with fake tails and other red panda-themed merchandise they make themselves. Stacy immediately buys the red panda ears and tail and walks out of the girls' bathroom while wearing them.
  • Animals Not to Scale: Mei's red panda form is a lot bigger than a real red panda, which is a fairly small animal — about the size of a raccoon, more or less. The scroll Ming shows Mei also shows their ancestor Sun Yee as a red panda, and Sun Yee's panda form is similarly huge. Justified, because it was granted to Sun Yee by the gods to protect her family in a time of war. When Ming accidentally transforms, her own red panda form is Kaiju-sized, being taller than the SkyDome stadium. Mei's grandma and aunties also transform, and all are varying sizes larger than Mei.
  • Animesque: The film pays a lot of homage to anime, as the director is an anime fan. There are a good amount of cartoony and exaggerated anime expressions on the characters' faces, like sweat drops, sparkly eyes, Playful Cat Smiles and rivers of tears. Also, Mei draws a boy she is crushing on in an anime style in her sketchbook. Fittingly, the movie takes place in the early 2000s, when anime was enjoying a revival of popularity in North America.
  • Animorphism: Sun Yee's blessing enables her female descendants to turn into giant red pandas. Unfortunately, they don't automatically get control of this power, so they will transform whenever they experience strong emotions (like getting stressed or excited), unless they undergo a ritual to seal their red panda spirit into a talisman.
  • Answer Cut:
    • After proving she can control the panda, Mei says she has a favor to ask. Cut to Ming denying her request to see 4*Town.
    • After Mei defies her mother and refuses the ritual to exorcise her red panda spirit, she runs off to join her friends at the 4*Town concert. As she brags about what she did and says she's unafraid of the consequences, the scene cuts to something she really should be afraid of.
      Miriam: Your mom must have gone nuclear.
      Mei: Who cares? What's she gonna do? Ground me? (she and her friends laugh)
      (Cut to Ming, now a towering panda monster, on the warpath)
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Mei's parents test her ability to keep her panda powers under control, they show her pictures displaying deforestation, a caged orangutan, and... her getting second place at a spelling bee.
  • Artistic License – Cars: The streetcars in the movie show the driver holding a steering wheel. Streetcars run on rails and cannot turn freely like a bus.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • When Mei is being driven to school, the announcement board states that it's Indigenous People's History Month, which 1) is actually called National Indigenous History Month 2) takes place in Junenote  and 3) wouldn't have been official until 2009, seven years after the movie takes place.
    • While there was a lunar eclipse in late May of 2002, there were a few problems with it that the writers had to ignore for the sake of the narrative. First, it took place in the early hours of May 26, not the evening of the 25th. Second, it was only visible from the western half of Canada; Toronto just barely missed it. Third, it was a penumbral (partial) eclipse, meaning the moon never passed far enough into the Earth's shadow to actually turn red.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Though the view of the CN Tower from Mei's house would roughly put her location somewhere in west Chinatown, the street layout and the architecture of the houses take more inspiration from the one at the intersection of Broadview and Gerrard known as east Chinatown.
  • Artistic License – Space: After Ming sends the aunties off to a hotel, she looks up at a crescent moon. The shape and position of the moon are wrong in several ways:
    • It's much too big. The moon in the night sky is roughly the same size as an American quarter-dollar coin held at arm's length.
    • The lit side should be angled down, toward the current location of the sun, and the points of the crescent should be angled up.
    • The points of the crescent should be at the lunar poles, not reaching around to the other side.
    • This is the same night as Tyler's party, which is eight days before the full moonnote . Eight days before the full, the moon's phase should be just a bit short of first quarter, not a huge sweeping crescent.
  • Art Shift: When Ming explains to Mei about the legend of Sun Yee, the story is presented as traditional Chinese paintings.
  • Asian Lion Dogs: A pair of these guard the shrine to Sun Yee, inside the temple compound. They're sculpted to look like two of Sun Yee's beloved red pandas, but otherwise they're accurately shown according to tradition. They also make an appearance in Mei's nightmare the night before she first transforms.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: When Mei decides to keep the panda and refuses to complete the ritual, she knocks Ming onto the ground before fleeing to the concert, breaking ming’s amulet and releasing her panda spirit, which turns her into a towering panda (about the size of Godzilla), intent on catching Mei and bringing her back home to start the ritual again.
  • Background Halo: On the astral plane, after the portal has faded away, Mei is left standing alone with a very "um, did I just make a terrible mistake?" expression on her face. There's also a faint glow behind her, and a red ribbon framing her head. Then she turns around, and the camera reveals that the glow and ribbon actually belong to Sun Yee, who is floating silently at the edge of the bamboo forest.
  • Bad Bedroom, Bad Life: In a transitory example, upon discovering that Mei's transformations have kicked in, her parents strip her room to the bare walls, leaving her with only a mattress on the floor to sleep on until her panda spirit can be properly sealed in a ceremony during the next 'red moon'. It is out of genuine concern (and to a degree, her mother's Psychological Projection) rather than any sort of malice, but it contributes heavily to the most miserable night of Mei's 13-year life.
  • Bait-and-Switch Character Intro: The role of two particular characters:
    • One of Mei's classmates is a girl named Stacy who is a stereotypical blonde Valley Girl with her own Girl Posse, setting her up to possibly be an Alpha Bitch. When she and her friends come across Mei in red panda form in the bathroom, she doesn't bully her, and even finds her panda form adorable, leading her to inspire the main four to raise money for concert tickets.
    • Similarly, from the way Grandma Wu is introduced, it seems she will be the Big Bad or an Anti-Villain. It turns out her intentions to help Mei control her powers are sincere; Ming ends up being the one going on a rampage in the climax, and Grandma Wu keeps a level head and takes charge of the aunties, and is the first to release her panda to help Mei save Ming. She's more of a Greater-Scope Villain ("villain") than Obliviously Evil.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Ming is describing the origin of the Red Panda ability to Mei, after mentioning that the current peaceful period made this unnecessary, it sounds like she's going to call the blessing a curse. Instead she calls it "an inconvenience."
  • Bait-and-Switch Silhouette: When Mei finally arrives at Tyler's party, her silhouette appears to be her Red Panda form behind the tinted glass door. Upon opening the door, while it is Mei, she's actually wearing her cardboard red panda mascot costume.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: Subverted with Tyler and Ming Lee, the former just being a redeemed bully, and the latter, an overprotective mother.
  • Big Fancy House: Tyler lives in a pretty fancy house, which is shown when he throws his party there.
  • Big Heroic Run: When Mei runs away from school after transforming to a red panda during math class, Ming follows in her car. Then the street is blocked by damage done inadvertently by panda-Mei. Ming leaves her car, takes off her high-heeled shoes, slides across the hood of another stranded car, and runs barefoot the rest of the way home, zigzagging along streets and through side alleys, and running fast enough that she gets there only a minute or two after Mei (who took a more direct route across the rooftops) did.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Mei lets out a loud "NO!" as she realizes she doesn't actually want to separate from her panda spirit, right before aborting the ritual. She gives a second one when she runs off to the concert.
    • Ming also gives one when Mei, in her red panda form, runs off after the failed ritual.
  • Big "OMG!": After a transformed Mei tries to hide in her school's bathroom, a girl named Stacy stepping out of a bathroom stall sees her and gasps "O-M-G!" in response. She comes across Mei and her friends in the bathroom later and recognizes her, prompting her to say "O-M-G" in surprise once again.
  • Big "YES!": Mei gives one when she discovers what allows her to transform back into a human. However, her excitement from doing so makes her turn back into a red panda, and she gives a Big "NO!" right after.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many of the scenes which take place in Toronto's Chinatown feature Chinese writing on the signs and buildings, and a few scenes involve unsubtitled spoken Cantonese, adding to the setting. Most notably, the Cantonese chant Mei's family uses to conduct the ritual approximately translates (and is transcribed in traditional Chinese) as such:
    Cleanse the heart and body (淨化心身)
    Hold on to the heart (緊握手心)
    [Let your] spirit return (元氣歸位)
    Swiftly to where it belongs (捷悟返身)
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mei has fully accepted her red panda form as a part of her, manages to find balance between her friends and her family, and reverses the quiet deterioration in her relationship with her mother; but Ming owes the city of Toronto $100 million for damages incurred from her rampage.
  • Bland-Name Product: Mei's backpack is a BagSport (JanSport), and Stacy's cell phone is a Jokia (Nokia).
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Mei tries desperately to pretend nothing is wrong when she goes to school after her first transformation. It's not even remotely convincing.
      Miriam: What's with the tuque?
      Mei: (mechanically) Bad hair day.
    • Mei's stumbling attempt to "explain" her transformation to her friends is basically words strung together at random in hopes that they'll end up making sense. Her friends don't believe a word of it.
  • Blessed with Suck: When Sun Yee took on the blessing of the red panda, it was to protect her village during wartime. The blessing was passed onto her descendants, but they had progressively less need to become a giant red panda after times became more peaceful and they moved to another country. The only way that Mei can control her transformation is if she regulates her emotions all the time, from the happy to the enraged. As Mei's mom states regarding the red panda affliction:
    "And what was a blessing inconvenience."
  • Blessing: The red panda transformation was first granted to Sun Yee as a way to protect both her family and her village. Sun Yee later passed this ability on to her descendants, considering it a blessing.
  • Blunt "No": Ming gives a very firm "no" to Mei after she asks (offscreen) if she can go to the 4*Town concert.
  • Bookends:
    • The movie begins and ends with photos of Mei. In the beginning, it's a carefully arranged portrait of Mei and Ming, showing how Mei constantly lives under Ming's watch and is pressured to be the ideal daughter for her. The end photo is a spontaneous selfie of Mei in her panda form at the 4*Town concert with all of her friends and family posing alongside 4*Town themselves, showing how she's finally found a balance between her friends and family.
    • The movie also begins and ends with a narration by Mei, and both times include the phrase "I'm Meilin Lee, and ever since I turned thirteen…".
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The argument about if Mei should go to the concert. As Mei points out, she can raise the money, and her friends will be with her, so she will be safe. As Ming points out, there is a significant difference between controlling your emotions at home or at school and controlling your emotions at a music concert.
  • Boy Band: Mei and her three BFFs are big fans of an In-Universe boy band called 4*Town. A prominent conflict in the film is how Ming won't allow Mei to go to a 4*Town concert, so she and her friends decide to use Mei's red panda form to earn enough money to buy tickets to see them.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Mei talks to the audience at the start and ending as a narration monologue.
  • Break Them by Talking: Set up twice, then subverted both times:
    • Ming tries to do this to Devon in their confrontation at Daisy Mart, but it falls flat because her accusations are all false.
    • At the 4*Town concert, Mei screams desperately at her mother that she lied — everything she did with her panda was her own idea, and her friends had nothing to do with it. She's hoping it will break Ming's rage and get her to change from her giant panda form back to human. It doesn't work; after a momentary pause, Ming gets even angrier than before.
  • Bully Turned Buddy: Obnoxious bully Tyler ends up joining Mei's circle of friends after they discover him at the 4*Town concert, and he helps to stop Ming's rampage.
  • Call-and-Response Song: 4*Town's song "U Know What's Up" has a section with the repeated call-and-response "You want it?" "I want it!" During the concert, this is naturally turned into an Audience Participation Song, with 4*Town asking, "You want it?", and the audience yelling in unison, "I want it!"
  • Call-Back:
    • Early on, Mei's friends ask her to come to karaoke with them but she declines due to it being cleaning day with Ming. The movie closes with Mei finally going karaokeing with them, having developed a healthier relationship with Ming and gotten her approval.
    • Mei and Miriam's first and last scenes together both involve them bumping butts. The first time, Mei is in her human form and it only involves her and Miriam. The second time, Mei is in her panda form and Miriam, Priya, Abby, and Tyler all join in together.
    • After Ming embarrasses Mei at the Daisy Mart, she tries to console Mei in the car by helping to comb back a bit of stray hair that had fallen in her face. Mei does the same when she comes across the teenage version of Ming in the astral plane in her own moment of grief.
    • During their walk to the first sealing ceremony, Mr. Gao tells Mei what's actually sung isn't important, only that the person sings from their heart (for instance, he says he prefers to sing Tony Bennett songs). During the impromptu ceremony to re-seal the panda spirits of the other Lee women, their singing alone isn't enough, but then 4*Town joins in with their opening number, which grants the magic the power needed to work.
  • Calling the Old Woman Out: In the climax, after Ming has transformed, attacked a concert, and seems ready to hurt her friends, Mei finally snaps and yells at her over her controlling behavior, saying that the concert was her idea, that she's not the perfect little girl Ming thinks she is, and that she's tired of her mother's impossible standards.
    Ming: THIS. ISN'T. YOU!!!
    Mei: THIS IS ME!! (bites Ming, making her drop her) I'm not your little "Mei-Mei" anymore! I LIED, MOM!
    Ming: (shocked) WHAT?!
    Mei: (angry and a little desperate) It was my idea to hustle the panda! My idea to go to Tyler's party! It was ALL ME! I like boys, I like loud music, I like gyrating! I'M THIRTEEN! DEAL WITH IT!
  • Calming Tea: Although the herbal tea Ming gives Mei was intended to help with menstrual cramps "It helps relax your-" "Okaythankyoubye!"), it seems to have this effect as well, stabilizing her transformation in time for math class after nearly losing control with Tyler in the hall beforehand.
  • Candlelit Ritual: The Red Moon ritual is traditionally performed while surrounded by dozens of red candles and lanterns, but, like the traditional incantation, they're purely for the aesthetic.
  • Casting Gag:
  • The Chain of Harm:
    • An example of unintentional harm being passed along. Ming winds up putting her own daughter under the same stifling expectations that her own mother did.
    • Beautifully inverted in the climax. After being forgiven for her betrayal by her friends, Mei repays that debt by extending a hand of caring and understanding to her traumatized mother. That support gives Ming the inner strength she needs to apologize to her mother for losing control and scarring Wu so long ago.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Mei's friends singing "Nobody Like U" happens three times throughout the movie — first to establish their friendship with Mei, then again to cheer up a distraught post-transformation Mei, then finally to help perform the red moon ritual.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The red panda Goofy Suit Mei wears during her temple work in the opening is brought back for Tyler's party, where she dons it again to avoid actually becoming the panda.
    • In the first sealing ceremony, Gao mentions in a throwaway line to Mei that any song will work for the ritual so long as it comes from the heart. Later on, Mei's friends get 4*Town and the entire crowd to sing one of 4*Town's songs so that the ritual will work on Ming.
  • City Shout Outs: Robaire starts the 4*Town concert with "Toronto! Who knows what's up?".
  • Closet Geek: Tyler is secretly a fan of 4*Town, and The Stinger shows that Jin is one too.
  • Color Motif:
    • Red for Mei. Her cardigan is red, she turns into a red panda which turns her hair red, and her dream the night before her transformation occurs is shown in red lighting. This makes sense, as red is an important colour in Chinese culture, symbolizing luck, joy, happiness, and celebration.
    • Mei's friends also prominently wear certain colours: Miriam wears green, Priya wears yellow and Abby wears purple.
    • Ming, Grandma Wu and the aunties all wear green. Green is the complementary or opposite colour to red, symbolic of how they have sealed away their red panda spirits.
  • Colossus Climb: Mei uses this technique while she's fighting her mother's kaiju-sized red panda form.
  • Combat Parkour: Mei relies on this when fighting Ming at the concert, quickly switching between her red panda and human forms to give her an advantage in both speed and agility.
  • Coming of Age Story: The movie is one for Mei; she learns what she likes and more of who she really is.
  • Commonality Connection:
    • When Mei sees that her mother's astral self is a teenager, and hears Ming's anguished confession, she realizes just how mentally tortured her mother has been all these years, and why. She also realizes just how much alike they are. Not a word is said, or needed; Mei simply gets it, and her reaction is as natural for her as breathing. In just a few seconds, she and her mother form an entirely new bond over their shared experiences, and that becomes the basis for their new and better relationship as seen in the ending.
    • After spending most of the movie at odds with each other, Mei and her friends manage to find common ground with Tyler through their shared love of 4*Town.
  • Company Cross References: In Pixar tradition, this film has several references to the company's works and in-jokes:
    • One of Mei's books bears a sticker resembling the rabbit from Burrow. It can only be seen for a split second. Multiple Burrow-esque rabbit stickers also appear on a promotional poster. She also has a a keychain hanging on her desk of the yarn ball from the short Purl.
    • The logo of Star Command appears as a sticker on Miriam's skateboard, serving as a case of Pixar's Production Foreshadowing for Lightyear. The promotional poster mentioned above also features a sticker of Sox.
    • Mei affectionately refers to the red panda statues in front of her family's temple as Bart and Lisa, a reference to The Simpsons, which Disney got in their Fox acquisition.
    • In the bathroom scene, where Mei's group tries to hide her, one of the stall doors in focus has Nemo in sticker form.
    • At Tyler's place, the Luxo Ball is floating in his large pool while Mei's group is looking down at the backyard.
    • While Mei makes her frantic escape from school, she bumps into a blonde man and a hijab-wearing woman. On the upper left, the papel picado skull designs featured in Coco can be seen.
    • The gothic Carter is wearing an Escápula t-shirt, the heavy metal band also featured in Coco.
    • As Mei heads towards the Skydome in her Red Panda form, she passes a parked Pizza Planet Truck on her left.
    • The recurring A113 in-joke appears three times in the movie: the SkyDome seat number seen in the TV ad for 4*Town, the actual ticket featured in the credits, and the chalk wheelbarrow used by Jin to makeshift a stadium-sized banishing circle for Ming.
    • A restaurant in Mei's neighborhood has the logo for Bao on its sign.
    • A sticker of Rainbow Unicorn from Inside Out can be seen on someone's cellphone.
  • Concert Climax: The girls have a fundraising drive to get tickets to the 4*Town concert. When they attend it, it culminates with Ming destroying SkyDome in her Kaiju red panda form out of sheer rage over Mei leaving the red moon ritual early.
  • Control Freak: Mei's mother Ming has a lot of controlling tendencies that Mei has internalized, such as demanding perfect grades, suppressing her interests, and demanding that she use all of her recreational time contributing to the family temple. This is less out of malice or selfishness and more out of concern for her daughter's well-being, Mei's inability to be honest with her mother only enabling her actions. This is also a generational habit, Ming's relationship with her mother mirroring her daughter's relationship with her.
  • Cooldown Hug: Mei's transformation is uncontrollable when her emotions run high, such as being distressed or very sad. When her friends all accept her for who she is and they all share a group hug, it comforts and calms her enough that she reverts back to human form.
  • Concealing Canvas: The scroll which tells the tale of Sun Yee and the Red Panda Blessing is kept in a secret compartment in the temple, concealed behind a painting of Sun Yee.
  • Correction Bait: When Stacy and friends see Mei as a panda in the bathroom, Mei hides in a stall while her friends try to convince them that they didn't see that. It falls apart when one of Stacy's friends comments, "So she's like a magical bear?", prompting Mei and her friends to simultaneously correct her, complete with Mei poking her panda head over the stall door to say "Red panda!" with the others.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • One of the major inaccuracies shown on the optical media cover sheet is presenting Tyler as one of the main characters playing an active part with Mei exploring her panda form and with a timid disposition. However, Tyler doesn't become a friend of the group until near the end of the film, and spends most of the movie at varying levels of hostility with the main characters. Tyler originally had some insecurities he was masking, but isn't timid unless he gets physically overpowered. The closest the film comes to this situation before the end is when Mei agrees to be the life of Tyler's birthday party if she receives a financial reward.
    • One of the film posters shows Tyler pointing and laughing at Mei's panda form and doing so unusually close to Ming Lee, however, the closest situation to this idea is Ming showing Mei's embarrassing drawings of Devon to Devon himself and Tyler laughing at Mei over this, as he otherwise thinks the panda is cool too.
  • Crime of Passion: Played for Drama:
    • Mei decides to use her red panda form to make enough money to buy tickets to go to the 4*Town concert with her friends. During Tyler's birthday party, Mei finds out that the concert she wants to go to is actually on the same day as ceremony to remove her red panda and Abby got the date wrong, which leads her to feel overwhelmed by stress and causes her to lash out at Tyler when he insults her family. Mei scratches his face and terrifies him, scaring every other guest at the party as Mei realizes what she's done. This leads to her Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure when Ming accuses her friends of manipulating Mei and Mei is too afraid to deny it.
    • Ming is revealed to have done this in the past with her mother, lashing out at her with her red panda form after getting into an argument with her about her marriage to Jin. Her panda form was colossal when compared to her other family members and she destroyed half of the temple in the process scarring her mother, an event she's deeply ashamed of. When Mei chooses to defy her by keeping the red panda form and running off to see the 4*Town concert, Ming grows angry enough to unleash her panda form once more, leading her to go on a blind rampage and attack her daughter at the concert, endangering lives in the process. Once she's defeated and Mei meets her on the astral plane, Ming starts crying Tears of Remorse over how she's acting, and Mei helps her mother and grandmother come to terms with what happened before everyone but Mei has their red panda removed.
  • Cringe Comedy: The movie is riddled with hilarious and cringe-inducing moments that reflect the life of a middle schooler going through puberty. One notable example (after Mei first transforms into a red panda and is hiding out in the bathroom) is Ming mistakenly thinking that Mei had her first period and awkwardly having The Talk with her. There's also the scene where Ming finds Mei's drawings of Devon, assumes that he's a child molester, and takes Mei with her to the convenience store where he works where she verbally assaults Devon and shows him (and the rest of the store) Mei's drawings. However, both of these pale in comparison to Mei's entire class seeing Ming get into a confrontation with their school's security guard... and then yelling that Mei forgot her sanitary pads.
  • Crowd Song: Invoked by Mei's friends at the end to help with the ritual to seal Ming's panda spirit, getting 4*Town (and later the entire audience) to sing "Nobody Like U" in sync with the chanting of Mei's female relatives. Mei, herself, also joins in.
  • Cursed with Awesome: At first, Mei hates her new transformation, but over time learns to love the "new her" and embraces it to the point that in her red panda form she has superhuman strength and agility, can leap over many buildings in a single bound, and even learns to Double Jump using the explosive burst from her transformations.
  • Curse Escape Clause: All of Sun Yee's female descendants acquire a mystical red panda spirit sometime during their teen years, which remains with them for life and gives them the ability to turn into a giant red panda. But the panda can cause a lot of trouble if it's not controlled, so eventually they figured out a way to banish the panda spirit into a talisman, usually a piece of personal jewelry. With the spirit confined, the transformations stop.
  • Curtains Match the Window: Post-panda transformation, Mei has orange hair with matching eyes. The rest of Mei's female relatives have a similar transformation when they release their panda spirits.
  • Cuteness Proximity:
    • Mei's red panda form ends up invoking this reaction from both her friends and her classmates in spades. When Mei's friends see her transformed state for the first time, their response is to gush over how adorable she looks. Abby even buries her face in Mei's fur.
    • Mei's parents do a test over whether Mei can control the red panda transformation by showing her different things to raise her emotions (such as a picture of a sad orangutan in a cage, or a photo of her only coming in second at a spelling bee when she was younger) and bring out the big guns at the end: a box of ridiculously cute kittens. Mei is only barely able to contain her emotions and prevent herself from transforming due to sheer Cuteness Overload. This is apparently part of the tradition, since Ming later refers to it as "the kitten box".
  • Darkest Hour: Mei and her friends discover that Abby got the date of the 4*Town concert wrong, as it's in fact the same night as the ritual, basically rendering their efforts to get tickets All for Nothing. Mei stresses over now having to choose between the two, and fears letting her mom down. This results in her losing control and attacking Tyler, which is the exact moment her mother shows up. Ming immediately blames Mei's friends for putting Mei up to all of this, and Miriam begs Mei to tell the truth. But Mei, still in horrified shock over attacking Tyler and not wanting to disappoint her mother, says nothing. She and her mother then leave, and she's in depressed silence over betraying her friends the whole car ride home.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: As this movie is set in 2002, there are some bits of twenty-first century culture that may be familiar to those who grew up in that era or who had Asian parents. Most of it comes from Ming's attitude:
    • Ming talks about how boy bands have trashy music that corrupt the youth and Abby mentions that her parents derided it as "stripper music". In the 2020s, boy bands no longer have that kind of stigmatization and are mostly just seen as a harmless pastime.
    • As noted by director Domee Shi, Mei's elders tend to be stricter because they grew up in generations where they were expected to conform more than the increasing openness of Mei's time period.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?:
    • Compared to Mei's red panda form, her mom, Ming, is revealed to be of a terrifying, kaiju-sized variety. So, a daughter talking back to her rampaging mother (as well as Shaking the Rump in front of her) at the 4*Town concert counts as this.
    • In the junior novelization and The Real R.P.G., Tyler calls Panda Ming "Momzilla" and a "psycho bathmat". Panda-Ming is too busy destroying the concert to notice.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Mei resorts to headbutting her giant red panda mother to stop her rampaging in the 4*Town concert. She's not happy about it, though.
  • Disappointed in You: When Mei's mother turns down her repeated pleas to see the concert, she asks her husband angrily if she's the only one who sees the problem. He stands up and answers the phone without a word.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • When Mei sees her red panda form for the first time, she panics and cries in the bathroom about being a "gross red monster". Her mother, however, thinks it's something else and comes in ready with supplies and The Talk, initially unaware that's not why she's hiding.
    • The entire plot is an obvious extended metaphor for puberty, with Mei (and her family) initially horrified at her bodily changes, only for Mei to begin enjoying her new form. From that perspective, Tyler accusing her of "flaunting the panda all over school" sounds almost like innuendo.
    • When Abby asks Mei to turn into the panda, she sounds a lot like a drug addict who's jonesing for a fix.
    • Ming's ballistic, rage-induced rampage in the climax is akin to an argument between a parent and child on the verge of becoming physical. Mei is in real danger of getting hurt, and Ming is oblivious to it, while berating her for not being the girl she wanted her to be. In the end, talking down Ming or appeasing her doesn't work; Mei is forced to knock her out and have the family restart the transformation ritual in a rush, akin to how sometimes paramedics need to restrain a violent person.
    • Mei's desire to keep her panda transformations rather than locking it away as her family demands comes off as a demand for bodily autonomy against a controlling family/culture, with her family eventually realizing that they have no right to demand it from her. Mei even says "My panda, my choice" at one point, in an allusion to the feminist slogan "My body, my choice".
  • Dog Pile of Doom: Mei's aunties, grandmother, and parents attempt to dogpile on her when she's in panda form after she rejects the ritual in order to make her do it again. They predictably get thrown off, and in doing so Ming's talisman is damaged.
  • Double Jump: When racing to the 4*Town concert in the climax, Mei discovers that the somewhat explosive nature of her transformation can be used this way, allowing her to gain boosted air time by precisely timing her switches from beast-to-human and vice versa, bordering on limited flight at times, which also helps slow down her falls.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The film's title has several meanings. Becoming embarrassed, lustful or enraged, experiencing menstruation, and turning into a red panda, all of which Mei is capable of.note  It also can be interpreted as embracing both Chinese and Canadian culture given the symbolism of the colour red to both countries.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. When an emotional and enraged Mei tackles and shakes Tyler in panda form, everyone in the vicinity is horrified at what she did. No one makes an unflattering comment about the latter being attacked by the former. It is treated as seriously as it would've been had the genders been switched.
  • Double Take: A verbal example from Mei when Mr. Gao is talking about the ritual.
    Mr. Gao: Oh, well, I've got 50 years' experience as a shaman. This will be a piece of cake. And mostly painless.
    Mei: Thanks, Mr. Gao. Wait, "mostly"?
  • The Dreaded: Grandma Wu. It's played with in her first scene when she calls Ming. It plays it like she's the Dragon Lady head of a Chinese Tong or Triad. However, the reason she's so dreaded to Ming is because of her upbringing and the incident where she attacked her in panda form years ago.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Mei doesn't seem to harbor any hard feelings towards Tyler when she sees him at the 4*Town concert; she and her friends welcome him with open arms. Likewise, Tyler is no longer upset at Mei for tackling him in her panda form and terrifying him at his birthday party.
    • Mei's friends, particularly Miriam, give her the cold shoulder at first when she was unable to stand up for them while Ming blamed them for her schemes. It's then revealed that Miriam had been lovingly caring for Mei's Tamagotchi-like virtual pet the whole time, a sign that they are still concerned for her predicament.
    • Ming's pandemonium at the SkyDome caused millions in damages to the stadium and surrounding infrastructure. Furthermore, thousands of civilian lives were at risk in the chaos, including the highly publicized appearance of 4*Town. One would figure that Ming would be bombarded with lawsuits or jail time by the Toronto community and celebrities, affecting her tourist attraction job. Yet, in the aftermath, the community has brushed off any ill-will towards her and visits her temple as usual. Mostly, as she still has to pay back the large sum of damages through her business earnings. It's unknown if she's also banned from the stadium or not.
    • Mei herself forgives Ming for attacking her and trying to take her by force in her kaiju panda form, and the two are on better terms by the end of the movie.
  • Eating the Eye Candy:
    • Mei gets doe-eyed watching a classmate named Carter do a dramatic hair flip.
    • After dismissing Devon the convenience store clerk as looking "like a hobo", Mei absentmindedly sketches a boy in her notebook who looks kind of like him, and gradually it sets in that she does find him attractive. Later, when she passes by the convenience store while rushing home in her panda form, she takes a moment to ogle him before heading on her way.
    • All the girls at the 4*Town concert cry intensely over the band when they come out.
  • Eat the Camera: The camera zooms into Abby's mouth as a transition during the montage of Mei at school.
  • Emotional Powers: Mei's family ability to turn into a red panda is caused by feeling strong emotions such as excitement or anxiety. Before getting a handle on it, she often transforms against her will and becomes stuck that way because of the anxiety of transforming, best exemplified when her excitement from calming down enough to turn back immediately transforms her again. Unfortunately, in this form emotions are also stronger, and a negative mental state can easily be tipped over into rampaging, which inspired a culture of strict emotional control in the family.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: After Ming takes Mei home from the party after busting it, Mei leaves behind her Tamagotchi.
  • Epic Fail: During the opening, Mei steals Tyler's basketball and tries to make a shot. The ball not only misses the hoop, but actually bounces onto the road where it is subsequently run over and flattened. Tyler is appropriately ticked off.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Ming, Wu and the aunties are visibly shocked when Mei decides she's keeping her panda spirit.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Mei has two in the film:
    • The first one happens when her friends visit her, and she realises her relationship with said friends helps her control her shape-shifting ablilities.
    • The second happens in the school bathroom, when she realises that she can use her red panda form to make money for the 4*Town concert.
    • Miriam has a moment towards the end of the film, when she realises that 4*Town can help Mei and her family complete the ritual to return Ming back to normal.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Averted with Mei; one of the stickers on her flute case declares "This Girl Loves Math", and when math class begins she whips out her notebook and pencil in full gunslinger mode. Played straight with her classmates, though; they all groan quietly when their teacher begins to teach the quadratic formula, and once Mei's mom creates a ruckus, they all too eagerly abandon their lesson in favor of watching the chaos unfold.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Tyler has been mocking Mei for how creepy and stalker-ish her mother is. In the climax, when Ming attacks the concert, he joins Mei's friends in assisting with restoring Ming back to normal and saving 4*Town when they are dangling from their stage harnesses. He is a jerk at first, but he wouldn't want someone hurt for real.
    • The aunties, despite generally not being nice to Mei, are all shocked when Ming, in her red panda form, grabs Mei and later throws her onto the ground at the stadium. They're also horrified when they see Ming destroying the stadium.
  • Eye Motifs: Eyes are emphasized at several important points in the film:
    • When Mei wakes up as a red panda, it's indicated by an Eye Open shot followed by an Eye Cam view of her bedroom.
    • In the temple, as Ming shows Mei her panda-talisman necklace, the talisman is reflected in Mei's eyes.
    • When panda-Mei and panda-Ming confront each other at the 4*Town concert, there is a rapid back-and-forth of Extreme Closeups that emphasize their angry red eyes.
    • Seconds later, Mei gets up close and personal with her mother, perching on panda-Ming's nose and yelling directly into her gigantic eye.
    • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises are frequently used to indicate strong emotions for all the characters.
  • Eye Open: When Mei wakes up from her nightmare, it's shown using this trope. It also serves as the first indication that she has transformed into a red panda: the area around her eye has red fur.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • After her first transformation, Mei fails to notice that she's suddenly grown an extra few feet.
    • During the scene in the bathroom where Ming thinks Mei has her first period, Ming quickly opens the shower curtain which Mei is hiding behind and somehow fails to notice the giant red panda (Mei) standing right behind her. She also somehow fails to hear Mei yelling "I'm a gross red monster".
    • Ming spent her life keeping her eye on Mei, hoping to see signs that her panda form would awaken. Yet she, who once went through the same experience, ignored the minor detail that Mei's eyebrows were now red, failed to question the all-encompassing beanie Mei elected to wear that fine spring day and why Mei is acting so robotic.
    • After Mei throws a dodgeball in her furry arm at Tyler, who barely dodges it on time, Mr. Kieslowski (the math teacher) and the other students besides Stacy and her friend, react to neither Tyler's Close-Call Haircut nor the hole in the window caused by Mei's ball, don't question how Mei could throw a ball with such strength, or notice what Mei's arm looked like before she threw it. He just gives Mei a time-out for doing an illegal throw.
    • While Mei and her friends are merching the panda for concert money, her after-school habits change radically with the minimal excuse that she's joined a Mathletes club. She hangs out with her friends instead of going straight home, her grades slip badly (which she hides from Ming in contrast to previously showing her proudly), and she becomes evasive when Ming questions her about what she's doing. These are classic signs of a kid who is Up To Something, yet Ming misses them all.
    • Mei and her friends have no worries about the 4*Town concert conflicting with the date of the red moon since 4*Town will be in Toronto the weekend before the red moon...until they discover that Abby misread the schedule and 4*Town is actually going to be in Toledo the weekend before, and they will be in Toronto on the night of the red moon. Cue Mass "Oh, Crap!".
  • Fan Community Nicknames: In-Universe. Fans of 4*Town, such as Mei and her friends, call themselves "4*Townies".
  • Fangirl: Mei and her friends are huge fangirls of 4*Town, and their motivation throughout the film is to attend the boy band's Toronto concert.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Mei's aunties get introduced with a view of their footwear before shots of their jewelry are seen.
  • Fiction Isn't Fair: After Mei decides to keep her panda form and go to the 4*Town concert, Ming transforms into a giant red panda and follows her to the arena, causing $100 million in damage and endangering thousands of people's lives in the process. She faces absolutely no legal repercussions for any of her actions. However, she is still raising money to repair the SkyDome, which may be court ordered; still, it would be practically impossible for a middle-class citizen to raise anywhere near the amount required to fully repair the arena.
  • Fiery Redhead: Appears as a plot point. All of Sun Yee's female descendants gain bright vermillion hair when their red panda is awakened. The pandas are based in wild emotions, so it's the quality of being "fiery" that turns Mei into a redhead.
  • First Period Panic: When Mei wakes up after turning into a giant red panda for the first time, she locks herself in the bathroom in a panic. Her parents assume she has gotten her first period, and her mother walks in armed with a variety of medicine and pads. It's not until later that her parents realize that the family curse has manifested in Mei.
  • Five-Token Band: A white girl, three Asian girls (Korean, Indian, and Chinese), and Tyler, who is Black and Vietnamese.
  • Flat "What": Priya gives one to Miriam after they find out that the 4*Town concert is on the same night as the red moon ritual.
    Miriam: Oh, no.
    Priya: What?
    Miriam: 4*Town's the same night as the ritual?
  • Flaw Exploitation: In the climax, Mei exploits her mother's hatred of "gyrating" to "keep her busy" while the rest of the family prepares to do the red moon ritual again.
  • Food Porn: The scene of Jin making dumplings consists of lots of closeups on the near-photorealistic ingredients being prepared. And it looks delicious.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The 4*Town concert. Mei and her friends are forbidden from going by their respective parents, but resolve to raise the money and go anyway behind their parents' backs. When this finally gets out, it's the final straw that causes Ming to unleash her own panda.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Abby switches to Korean whenever she gets angry or frustrated. She first yells at some classmates for failing to throw away trash and later rants about getting the dates for Toronto's upcoming concert mixed up for Toledo's.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Mei and her three best friends: Mei is the confident one, Miriam is the rational one, Priya is the cool one, and Abby is the overly-energetic one.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Cheerful overachiever Mei is sanguine, practical Miriam is phlegmatic, excitable, Hot-Blooded Abby is choleric, and perpetually deadpan Priya is melancholic.
  • Four Is Death:
    • Grandma Wu (who is Chinese) makes a passing mention of how unlucky the number four is after Ming tells her the SkyDome light is from the 4*Town concert occurring at the same time. She's not pleased that her replacement talisman in the denouement is a big number four because 4*Town merch was the most readily available thing. She blames doing poorly in a card game on it, losing even when she got four of a kind (in four 4s and an ace).
    • Played for Laughs when Lily mentions she held her daughter Vivian in for a day to avoid giving birth to her on the 4th.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the opening Photo Montage, Mei is shown along with Ming and Jin after some type of small business/entrepreneur course. While this is how Ming learns how to make running the temple a profitable business, this is also how Mei picks up the means to profit from the students by merching out her panda form, and by the family in augmenting the usual temple profits with even more panda merch.
    • Tyler tends to wear a lot of blue in his clothing. This fits in perfectly with the colour-coordination between Mei and her friends, foreshadowing how he'll join their gang at the end of the film. His usual outfit of a tank top/jersey and sweatband looks a lot like the outfit worn by Aaron Z., his favorite member of 4*Town, foreshadowing the fact that he's a Four-Townie too.
    • During Mei's panicked rush home in panda form after her first transformation, she leaps over the head of Mr. Gao, who doesn't seem surprised or shocked at all, but happy to see it instead. He later turns out to be the one who's sealed away the panda-spirits of what seems to be her entire family minus Grandma, explaining why he wasn't phased at all.
    • Ming's reaction upon finding Mei's drawings of Devon — namely, blaming Devon for "manipulating" Mei into drawing them — foreshadows her reaction to finding out about Mei's plan to pay for 4*Town tickets using her panda transformation, where she similarly blames Mei's friends for "manipulating" her into going along with it. She even finds out about them in the same manner: by checking under Mei's bed, foreshadowing that Mei hiding the panda merch under there isn't going to work out for her.
    • During the montage as Mei and her friends are hustling the panda and raising money, one of the recorded frames shows Mei dancing in and out of panda form. In one case, she switches to her red panda form and the sudden appearance of her tail launches her accidentally at the camera. She uses this new ability both to traverse the rooftops to get to the concert quickly, as well as to propel herself during her fight with Ming.
    • There are several hints to Ming's red panda form, particularly about its size. When one of the aunties brings up Ming's panda and how much trouble it was for her, all the aunties and Wu shudder. Jin mentions that when he saw Ming's red panda form, it was really big. And that turns out to be a huge understatement when it's revealed that Ming's red panda is the size of a skyscraper.
    • When Ming reveals her talisman that seals her panda spirit, it's prominently red, as opposed to the other green jade items that Wu and the rest of Mei's family use to seal theirs. This hints at both Ming's panda form's sheer power and volatility compared to the others, as well as Ming's repressed emotional turbulence tied to it. When Ming's anger at Mei's rejection of the ritual and of her boils over, the cracked talisman is further damaged by the raging panda spirit until it fully shatters and transforms Ming once more.
  • Freakiness Shame: Mei is embarrassed about her involuntary panda transformations, but her friends (and most other people who see her) actually think it's pretty cool. In the movie proper, everyone at school starts to believe the same, making it a Zig-Zagged example.
  • Free-Handed Performer: 4*Town is your average Boy Band group which only sings and dances on stage.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad:
    • During the intro, Mei's attempt to do a cartwheel on the sidewalk ends up with her falling over and the contents of her back spilling out resulting in everyone in the vicinity staring at her.
    • When Ming embarrasses Mei at the Daisy Mart, all of the customers in the store laugh at her.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Has so many instances of this that it has its own page.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mei finds out that the reason that her mother is hard on her is that during one of her transformations as a kid, she injured Grandma Wu and was scared of her powers. During the climactic fight, Mei calls out her mother, saying that just because she had to be the perfect daughter doesn't mean that it was right how she treated Mei like an ideal extension of all her hopes and dreams and not a person.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: At the film's climax, Ming rants about how she was always expected to be a perfect daughter and was never allowed to go to fun things like concerts. Mei immediately fires back that this doesn't justify or excuse Ming doing the same thing to Mei and making her feel worthless.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • The morning Mei turns into a panda for the first time and has a Freak Out in her bathroom, Ming goes through everything that she thinks could've gone wrong, and Jin slowly steps forward. Then she asks, "Did the red peony bloom?", and Jin, realizing what that means, freezes and starts Backing Away Slowly.
    • When Mei is trying to prevent her mother from coming to her 'Mathletes meet-up' (because she's really going to Tyler's party), there are two cats sleeping by the temple doors behind her, along with a kitten that looks like one of the box kittens. When the footsteps of the approaching aunties become audible a few seconds later, one cat instantly picks up the kitten and they both high-tail it past Mei and Ming, headed for the temple building across the courtyard.
  • Generational Trauma: Sun Yee is the Lee family's most revered ancestor. A widowed mother in times of war who was granted the Red Panda form by the gods so she could protect her village and daughters. For generations, the Red Panda was seen as a blessing, however, the advent of modern times and migration to Canada turned it into a inconvenience. Metaphorically, it can be seen as containing a warrior's soul inside one's genetic memory even if peaceful times render its destructiveness dangerous. This caused Grandmother Wu to teach her daughters and granddaughter that the Panda must be restrained at all costs. If you couple that with her overly strict and demanding parenting, then you get Ming — a subservient, perfectionist daughter who feels as if she's not enough and that only family matters. Ming is a loving mother but unwittingly emulates Wu's child-rearing style and causes Mei to inherit her own insecurities. In Ming's case, the "repress the Panda" is even stronger, as her Red Panda form is truly gigantic and accidentally scarred her mother's face out of anger. That and her eventual breaking out with Wu prompt Ming to be an overprotective mother.
  • Get Out!: Mei tells Ming to leave when she's panicking over her newfound red panda form. She quickly catches herself, however, and assures Ming that she didn't mean it.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Mei's family emphasize that the red panda must never be allowed out, and all the women in the family have to repress the beast as much as they could lest it break free, until the ritual when it can be separated from them. At the climax, when the transformed Ming is accidentally knocked out, Mei's grandmother and aunties break their talismans, transforming back into red pandas in order to gain the strength to pull Ming back into the sealing circle.
  • Good-Times Montage: The "hustle the panda" sequence is done as one of these. A span of two weeks is shown in only a few minutes of screen time, and almost every shot shows Mei and her friends having enormous fun with the whole thing, even while they're working very hard.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: When Mei and friends celebrate on Tyler's roof, they jump up in celebration, and remain suspended for an extra second upon hearing to their horror that they got the date of Toronto's concert wrong.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: Ming does an impressive one when she jumps down to the SkyDome floor. Quite justified, given that she's a kaiju-sized magical red panda, over a hundred feet tall with a mass of many tons.
  • Groupie Brigade: Mei's classmates turn into her fanclub when she intentionally turns into a giant red panda in front of them for the first time.
  • Group Picture Ending: During the ending the audience is shown a picture of Mei in her panda form, along with her family, friends, and 4*Town.
  • Half Empty Two Shot: During the 'panda hustle' montage, there's a brief shot of Ming in the temple, kneeling in front of the shrine. It's a direct echo of a shot from earlier that showed Ming and Mei kneeling and saying their devotions to Sun Yee — but this time Ming is alone. Mei isn't there, and Ming is looking sadly at the empty cushion. It shows that Mei isn't spending time with her mother as she had been shown to do before.
  • Happy Place: While her parents are testing her ability to control her emotions, Mei imagines being comforted by her friends in order to control herself.
  • Headbutt of Love: In the temple, after telling the transformed Mei the story of Sun Yee and the red panda blessing, Ming tries to comfort her extremely distressed daughter by touching foreheads with her. It's a beautiful moment that demonstrates Ming's love for her daughter better than any other single moment in the whole film.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack:
    • After Mei refuses to seal away her panda and leaves to go to the concert, a rapidly-rising heartbeat is heard as Ming's anger grows to the point where her damaged talisman breaks, releasing her panda spirit.
    • A speeding heartbeat is also audible in earlier scenes of the movie, whenever Mei is feeling a lot of stress and/or high emotion (and thus, is under threat of transforming).
  • Heartfelt Apology:
    • Mei gives one to her friends for failing to defend them from her mother's accusations at Tyler's party.
    • Ming also gives one to Mei from across the spirit-separation portal in the spirit realm, apologizing for the way she's raised her over the years.
  • Heavenly Concentric Circles: The red moon ritual to seal the red panda — a form granted by the gods to the Lees' ancestress — features two of these. A chalk circle has to be drawn and then people chanting or singing have to stand around it (not inside or on the line). At the center goes whoever is being purified. When the circle has been sufficiently powered by the music, a shaman/priest proceeds to Stab the Sky with a sword-like object containing a red gem. In both of the times the ritual is performed, the shot is arranged so the (round) gem is positioned in front of the moon, and focuses the light of the red moon into a beam that strikes the person in the circle.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Mei's nightmare is filled with some... rather unsettling sounds (these are even on the film's soundtrack, so you can have pleasant dreams while listening to it).
  • Henpecked Husband: Jin is certainly this; Ming makes most of the decisions in the house, and at one point makes a decision regarding the 4*Town concert before he even has a chance to say a word.
  • Hereditary Curse: After Mei's parents discover that she's started transforming, they explain that their family has a mystical connection to red pandas, and that the ability to transform into said animal is a hereditary trait passed down to the women in their family. Mei isn't pleased at all by this news and tries to grab at the tapestry of their ancestor who first received this ability while her parents desperately hold her back.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Mei has a massive one that lasts several hours when she gets home after transforming in the middle of maths class, learns that her parents already knew about her transforms, and realises her own ancestor is responsible. She tries to self-harm herself to get rid of her panda parts, and breaks down to tears when she realises she might never get rid of it. It takes her friends saying they love her no matter what to break her out of it.
    • Mei falls into another one after she attacks Tyler at his party. She is so horrified by her actions that she doesn't even defend her closest friends when Ming accuses them of manipulating her, and remains silent throughout the whole thing.
  • History Repeats: Jin tells Mei that her mother Ming and Grandma Wu had a fight when Ming went through her red panda phase. The climax has Mei fight her mom during her phase, the same way Ming fought her mom. Both fights dealt with the daughters wanting to live their lives, and both mothers were hurt as a result. Although the horror of what she did drove Ming to fall in line, Mei breaks the cycle by seeing her mother is neither infallible nor out to ruin her life, just another "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl struggling with impossible expectations.
  • Hope Spot:
    • After Mei first transforms to a red panda, brushing her fur calms her down enough to turn her human. Then her surge of joy at being human again makes her transform again.
    • When the math teacher starts his lecture on the quadratic formula, Mei smiles and whips out pencil and notepaper like she always does. For just a moment she's in her comfort zone — no panda, no puberty problems, just her and something she loves to do. Then Miriam passes her a note: "Your mom's outside".
    • As Mei is racing home to hide her panda form after transforming at school, she leaps from a rooftop across the street from the family temple, aiming to land safely out of sight inside the temple wall. It looks like she's going to make it... until she doesn't.
    • When Mei confronts her mother's kaiju-panda form at the concert, she's trying with all her might to convince Ming that "I'm not your little Mei-Mei anymore!", and that Ming needs to accept that whether she likes it or not. For a second Ming hesitates and it looks like maybe Mei got through... and then Ming comes back angrier than ever.
  • Hot Drink Cure: Ming gives Mei a flask of herbal tea to help with period cramps, unaware that Mei didn't actually get her period. It does help calm her down when she's trying not to transform, though.
  • Hulking Out:
    • Mei turns into a giant red panda when her emotions run high, such as being overly excited or furious. In fact, Pete Docternote  basically described Mei's situation in the movie as "the Hulk, but cuter" when presenting it at the D23 Presentation 2021.
    • Upon reaching her Rage Breaking Point, Ming turns into a red panda that is even bigger than Mei's and ends up destroying the SkyDome in a fit of rage. According to Jin, this isn't the first time this had happened, as Ming's red panda form had destroyed half the temple in a similar fit of rage after her mother showed disapproval towards Jin.
  • Hypocrite: Ming derides 4*Town as a bad influence for Mei, but has no problem watching a soap opera with Mei about a two-faced woman who plans on killing her fiancé to get his empire. The plot doesn't exactly have kid-friendly themes for a 13-year-old, referencing how parents both during the 2000s and even today would turn a blind eye towards violence, but try to shield their children from things even a little sexual.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • When Mei storms off after her request to see the 4*Town concert is denied, Ming complains aloud about how a daughter could show her mother such disrespect. Then her own mother calls and Ming immediately tells Jin to say she's not home.
    • Ming rants at the crowds in the 4*Town concert to "put some clothes on". Considering at that point she's a giant Kaiju who isn't wearing anything at all, she's in no position to talk.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Mei runs into this in two ways: the obvious one is that she doesn't want to transform into a giant red panda instead of being an average kid. But the other is that she wants to be an average kid, having fun and doing things other than being "perfect little Mei-Mei"... and her Superpowered Alter Ego lets her do that. As such, her Character Arc is about being torn between the two sides of being "normal", and the lesson is ultimately about embracing both sides of herself.
  • I Shall Taunt You: In the climax, Mei tries to distract a transformed and out-of-control Ming by Shaking the Rump at her while her family tries to prepare and perform the ritual again.
  • I Will Show You X!:
    • When Mei finally decides to turn into her panda form at Tyler's party (after she initially refused when he complained), she tells him, "You want the panda? You're getting the panda!"
    • When Ming asks Mei why she has to be so crass, she replies "You wanna see crass?!" and then starts twerking in front of her.
  • In a Single Bound: Mei is able to leap over great distances in her red panda form, easily clearing roofs. She later discovers she can gain extra air time by timing the "poofs" of her shapeshifting back-and-forth right.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: When the 4*Town concert starts and all the members have assembled on stage, Mei and co. (including Tyler) are so overwhelmed with emotion over finally seeing them live that they start blubbering with trails of tears and snot.
  • Internal Reveal: Ming spends a good portion of the movie viewing Mei as perpetually being her perfect little daughter "Mei-Mei", to the point where whenever she happens upon evidence of Mei's wilder side, she blames someone else for corrupting her. It's not until the climax that Mei finally voices how this flawed, unruly teenager who "likes gyrating" is the real her. Ming doesn't take it well.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Mei transforms into a hulking 8-foot-tall red panda whenever she exhibits emotional overload, such as uncontrollable joy or anger.
    • This seems to be a standard part of the red panda power, unless and until the person truly masters the panda. Ming, Wu, and the aunties all change as soon as their panda spirits are freed, and only change back to human after the spirits are sealed again. Mei is apparently the first one in several generations to learn how to fully control the red panda and make it the blessing it was supposed to be.
  • Irony:
    • In order to continue looking perfect, Mei often allows her mother to believe she's so pure and perfect that she'd never draw suggestive pictures of her and Devon, or actively hustle her red panda form. Her lying unto itself compromises the very "perfection" her mother has built her daughter's image around.
    • Just before Mei attacks and knocks out her mother during their fight at the concert, she shouts that she's "sorry I'll never be like you!" She (and the audience) soon find out that she has never been more like her mother than in that instant: just like Ming, she's lost her temper and is using her panda form to attack someone she loves dearly.
  • It Only Works Once: The ritual to seal the panda spirit only works during the first red moon after it manifests, and the change is permanent if that opportunity is missed. There is a slight loophole for those have previously sealed their spirit, allowing them to do so again under the same conditions if the spirit is released.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ming not allowing Mei to attend the 4*Town concert because she disapproves of the band's style and sound isn't very reasonable, but she does have a point about the concert not being the best place for Mei to go considering her situation. Since everyone, including Mei, is still trying to keep her red panda identity a secret at this point, she points out that it's very risky for Mei to go to a concert with thousands of other people and potentially expose herself there if her excitement gets the better of her. Also, while she was wrong to accuse Mei's friends of being a bad influence, especially since everything that she was blaming them for was Mei's own idea and not theirs, the fact that Mei had just violently attacked Tyler in a fit of rage lends further credence to Ming's concerns about letting Mei go to a big public event.
  • Just Woke Up That Way: After the Nightmare Sequence, Mei wakes up as a giant red panda the next morning, but she doesn't realize it until she looks in the bathroom mirror.
  • Kaiju: Mei's enraged mother transforms into a Godzilla-sized red panda during the climax.
  • Keep It Foreign: In the English version, Mei excels at French. In both French dubs, she instead excels in a Spanish class.
  • Kick the Dog: During the climax, in a fit of rage, Ming rants to Mei about how she always put her family first when she was a teenager, and how she was "never a bad daughter". If anything, she is basically saying Mei's being a bad daughter by thinking of herself, undermining every self-sacrificing thing she's ever done for her mother.
  • Killer Rabbit: Fluffy and cuddly though the red panda form may be, there are several instances that remind the viewer that the form was granted to the Lee family line to be a weapon during wartime, specifically Mei nearly maiming Tyler after he pushes her too far and Ming turning into a kaiju-sized red panda and nearly levelling a stadium in the climax.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Deconstructed with Tyler. His Birthday Party Gone Wrong is his own fault. He tries to appear cool but everyone is bored until Mei shows off the panda. Then when he attempts to bully her into continuing the entertainment, showing No Sympathy when she says she needs time alone, Mei corners him and roars in his face. All he can do is cry and say that he's sorry. However, he is still a 13-year-old boy who suffered scratches and bruises from the assault, and could've ended up a lot worse had Mei's mother not shown up at that moment. Even Mei, who has every right to be mad at him, is ashamed of what she did to Tyler.
  • Liar Revealed: Subverted. After Ming finds out that Mei has been secretly hustling the panda for money, Ming finds her at Tyler's birthday party, where Mei grimaces as she expects to be chastised by her mother... but Ming walks past her without saying a word. Instead, Ming goes to chastise Mei's friends, as Ming is still holding onto the self-imposed image of Mei being a sweet innocent victim of exploitation.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Inverted. Mei's ability to turn into a red panda came from her mother's side, and the blessing only passes on to female descendants of Sun Yee, her ancestor, meaning the blessing/ability is passed on from mother to daughter, and not to sons.
  • Little "No": Helen gives a small "No." when she sees Ming knocked out, and Mei trying to drag her back into the ritual circle.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Mei's hair starts off as black before her first transformation causes it (including her eyebrows) to turn red.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: 4*TOWN, have their own website at
  • Love Bubbles: Carter, a Pretty Boy schoolmate, appears surrounded by these when Mei checks him out.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: A temporary example. Mei's initial inability to control her red panda transformation results in her parents confining her to her bedroom, which is stripped to a mattress, quilt, pillow and her favourite stuffed animal. It's strongly implied that if she hadn't convinced her parents that she had her panda transformation under control, she would have been kept like that for a month.
    Ming: No one can see her like this.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: For the red moon ritual, Wu leads Mei's aunties in a Cantonese chant to power up the magic circle, but Mr. Gao tells Mei that any kind of song will work as long as it's sung from the heart. In the climax, Wu and the aunties' chant isn't enough to get the much bigger circle to work on Ming, but Mei's friends and 4*Town themselves singing "Nobody Like U" turns out to be powerful enough to create a Pillar of Light and allow Ming to re-seal her red panda spirit in time.
  • Magical Incantation: Subverted. There is no specific incantation that must be said for the red panda-sealing ritual. Any song will work, be it a Cantonese chant or a hit song by a Boy Band, so long as it comes from the heart.
  • Magic Music: The ritual to seal away the red panda spirit involves singing from the heart. The priest, Gao, says any song will do, but Mei's grandma is old-fashioned and has everyone do a Cantonese chant. In the climax the ritual is successfully pulled off with Mei's friends singing 4*Town's hit song "Nobody Like U", with 4*Town themselves later joining in.
  • Magic Pants: Mei's clothes disappear and reappear when she switches between human and panda form. More justified than some examples, as the panda form is literally the result of magic.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Ming's overprotective nature stems from a genuine love and concern for Mei, she's just overly controlling and unwilling to be challenged by Mei changing as she grows up.
    • Ming's mother Wu is foreshadowed to be a stern, overbearing type, but is revealed as very even-keeled compared to her Control Freak daughter (though it could also be that she's mellowed as she got older). Notably, when Mei isn't strong enough to pull Ming into the sealing circle, Wu doesn't hesitate to destroy her own talisman and reclaim her ability in an effort to help her daughter.
      Grandma Wu: I am not losing my daughter!
  • Man Bites Man: Mei escapes from Ming's grip during the latter's SkyDome rampage by biting her.
  • Market-Based Title: In Japanese, the film's title is Watashi Tokidoki Ressā Panda, which translates to "I'm Sometimes a Lesser Panda"[note]"lesser panda" being both the correct name for the species in Japan and referring to Mei's feelings of inferiority[/note].
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!":
    • Everyone in Mei's class is seen trying to duck for cover by the window (the exception being Miriam, who instead ducks under her own desk as it flies over her), when she turns into her red panda form in the middle of a maths class, causing all the desks and chairs to get thrown across the room.
    • Mei's friends all scream in terror when they first see Mei's red panda form. Mei quickly calms them down, however, by assuring them that it’s actually her.
    • In a comic example, Mei and her friends react this way when Stacy catches the transformed Mei in the bathroom, and they realize they just lost any chance they might have had of keeping Mei's secret.
    • The "sisterhood" have one when they see Ming approaching during the panda hustle scene, as they realise they've almost been caught using Mei's panda form to raise money for going to the 4*Town concert. They quickly try and make it look as though they were simply doing studies before Ming enters.
    • Mei and her friends have one when they learn that the 4*Town concert is on the same night as the ritual to remove Mei's red panda spirit, with Mei having an all-out panic attack. They have another one not long after when Tyler decides to start bullying Mei, prompting the latter to attack him.
    • All the kids at Tyler's party, including Mei's friends, are shocked and scared when Mei attacks Tyler for insulting her family.
    • At the first red moon ritual, Wu and the aunties are terrified beyond words when they inadvertently push Ming to her Rage Breaking Point by blaming her for Mei's decision to keep the panda, which also shatters Ming's talisman and unleashes her red panda in response.
    • The attendees at the concert all have this reaction when Ming attacks the stadium while in her red panda form.
    • Mei's aunties, grandma, and dad all have one when they arrive at the concert and see panda-Ming attacking the place and almost hurting Mei.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Just before the ritual, Grandma Wu tells Mei "May Sun Yee guide you, and keep you safe", seeing it as Mei becoming her true self by banishing the panda. In the spirit world after everyone saves Ming, Wu repeats this blessing, but now it's an affirmation of Mei's independence and decision to keep the panda.
    • Early in the movie, as Mei and her mother are preparing to clean and open the temple, Ming asks "Are you ready?" and Mei answers, "Let's do this!" In the epilogue, just before they open the temple to the public they have the same lines, but swapped: Mei asks "Are you ready?" and Ming answers, "Let's do this!" The DVD commentary confirms that this was intentional, part of showing how the relationship between Mei and her mother has changed.
  • Menagerie of Misery: Invoked by Mei's parents when they're testing her ability to control her panda: one of the photos they show her is a sad orangutan in a cage reminiscent of very old zoos, where the animals were kept in small cages instead of habitat enclosures.
  • Middle School Is Miserable: Inverted. Mei enjoys school, enjoys learning, and enjoys getting good grades. Her friends are there, and going to school means she's out from under her mother's control for at least a few hours. After she begins transforming, school also means the panda hustle, having fun and earning money toward the 4*Town concert tickets.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: A rare negative example of this trope: when Ming finally finds out that Mei has been hustling her panda side, it's right after Mei has just lost her temper and physically attacked Tyler after he finally insulted her family one time too many. Ming shows up at Tyler's party, shocked at Mei's behavior, and Mei visibly cringes, preparing to be scolded. But Ming doesn't scold her daughter, she just walks past Mei without a word; she instead scolds Mei's friends, believing that Mei is only "hustling the panda" because her friends manipulated her into doing so. So as per this trope, Mei avoids a scolding after all—except here it isn't a good thing, because hustling the panda actually was Mei's idea, so Mei has effectively thrown her friends under the bus by letting her mother scold them. Mei later apologizes to her friends for this.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: While transformed, Mei frequently throws her arms in the air when she's scared. This is actually a threat display used by red pandas wherein they make themselves look larger in order to scare off predators.
  • Mirror Reveal: When Mei wakes up after first transforming, she's unaware of her new form until she sees herself in a bathroom mirror.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: In the spirit realm, Sun Yee's mirror portal shows the person as they would be without their panda spirit. However, the lesson isn't that this is the person's true self, but actually them denying an aspect of themselves.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Downplayed as Devon is only 17, but after Ming finds Mei's somewhat lewd drawings of her and Devon (the clerk at the Daisy Mart), Ming suspects that these things happened in real life and calls Devon a "degenerate", banning Mei from going to the Daisy Mart. Given Ming apparently does things like this on a regular basis, Devon just rolls his eyes and keeps his job.
  • Monumental Damage: The Rogers Centre (still called the SkyDome here, before the name was changed) is partially destroyed during Ming's rampage as a red panda. Following the Time Skip, the stadium is undergoing repairs and the revenue coming in from visitors to the temple is paying for the damage.
  • Moose and Maple Syrup: The film takes place in Toronto, Canada,note  and is directed by a Canadian who grew up there, so naturally, it is filled to the brim with Canadian references. To start, there are plenty of shots of the CN Tower and 4*Townnote  is scheduled to perform at the SkyDomenote . A Daisy Mart convenience store is a recurring location. The distinctive Toronto Transit Commission CLRV streetcars are seen frequently as are Canadian mailboxes and Ontario license plates. There is mention of hosers, Celine Dion, loonies and "Grade 8"note . Mei wears a maple-leaf shirt to bed, wears a toque with a maple-leaf design to school, has a Canadian flag pin on her bag and has a Canadian flag sticker on her flute case. Ming sets a box of Tim Horton's Timbits (donut holes) on the table for breakfast; they also turn up at a party. Other foods like poutine, bagged milk, ketchup chips, and maple syrup also show up. Mei's school (named after Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson) features Canadian flags flying at its entrance, a classroom with a large Canadian flag on the wall, a music classroom with the first 4 bars of the national anthem on the wall, a French classroom, a beaver as its mascot and an announcement board stating that it's Canadian Indigenous People's History Month. Period-accurate Canadian moneynote  is seen. Background characters are seen wearing clothing with maple leaves, Canadian flags, or referencing loons. Ming has a moose bobblehead. Sports teams referenced include the Toronto Blue Jaysnote , the Toronto Raptorsnote , and the Toronto Maple Leafsnote . A Fictional Counterpart version of the MuchMusic logo appears. Phone numbers are seen that use the "416" area code. A billboard ad for Air Canada is seen. Even the 3 opening trash receptacles and automated parking meters are accurate to Toronto. At one point, Ming (who is voiced by the very Canadian Sandra Oh) says "Soorry" in her Canadian accent. Finally, the only person to actually say "Eh?" in the movie, though, is the guy at the SkyDome ticket booth.note 
  • Morphic Resonance: When transformed, Mei's mother, grandmother, and aunties all retain the hairstyles of their human forms.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Mei's panda transformations are treated as unusual by those who are initially unaware of it, but more in the sense of finding out that someone else has an extra digit, or Abnormal Limb Rotation Range like Ming's double-jointed elbow, rather than something completely earth-shattering in its implications in how the world works.
  • Mundane Utility: To raise money for the 4*Town concert, Mei uses her panda form — a powerful war machine gifted by the gods to fight off bandits and armies — as a means to sell photos, merchandise, and panda rides.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • All over Mei's face when she impulsively attacks Tyler at his party and he starts pleading for his life, as the other kids recoil in fear and she realizes that she could have seriously hurt him due to the size and strength of her panda form. She goes into a full Heroic BSoD afterward, not even reacting when Ming accuses her friends of corrupting Mei. It lasts for about eight days, only ending after she decides to embrace her panda spirit.
    • Mei is distraught after she knocks out Ming during their fight in the stadium, and runs up to try and pull her back to the ritual circle. Even her grandma and aunties show genuine concern for her.
    • Ming has been in a perpetual state of this her entire life, as she accidentally scarred her mother during a transformation. It was traumatic enough that she reverts to a teenage girl in the astral plane. Later, Ming is deeply remorseful when she realizes how badly her controlling parenting has hurt her daughter.
    • Technically more "My god, what am I doing", but Mei's expression when she's going through the ritual and sees her panda spirit looking back at her pretty much says this.
    • Grandma Wu seems to experience this as well. First she sees that her treatment of Ming is responsible for panda-Ming becoming an uncontrollable, rampaging monster. Then Mei shows her that the red panda can be controlled and used very effectively for good, as Mei fights her mother's titanic panda-form and wins. Altogether, the movie's third act is a crushing demonstration of Wu's mistakes in dealing with both her daughter and the red panda. It's easy to interpret her forgiving Ming and her acceptance of Mei's decision to keep the red panda as her own attempt to make amends for her long-ago mistakes with Ming.
    • Ming's red panda spirit gives Mei an apologetic look after it leaves Ming's body, possibly after realising how much destruction it enabled Ming to cause.

  • Never Trust a Trailer: A few minor examples.
    • In the trailers, Ming is present when her daughter Mei is about to throw a dodgeball at Tyler, and Ming cries out, "Mei-Mei, stop!" In the movie proper, the "Mei-Mei, stop!" line is from earlier in the movie, and in the dodgeball scene, while her mother was spying on her daughter from her car, she'd already driven away by the time Mei throws the dodgeball at Tyler.
    • Mei's line "But maybe I like this new me" from the trailer isn't in the movie proper at all.
    • Ming's line "This little quirk runs in our family" isn't either.
  • The New Rock & Roll: Exaggerated with Ming, who thinks that 4*Town is this, even going so far as to completely ruin their concert in her hundred-foot panda form.
  • Nice Girl: Mei's friends are defined by their good character. Throughout the film, they're supportive and encouraging of Mei as she learns to control her panda, and even after the Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure, Miriam still takes care of Mei's Tamagotchi.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • It's heavily implied that Ming's confrontation with Devon and (unintentional ) humiliation of Mei at the Daisy Mart are responsible for triggering Mei's early panda transformation. Had she not done that, most of the film's events likely wouldn't have happened. Of course, it later becomes a case of "Nice job fixing it, hero", after Mei realises the benefits the red panda form gives her.
    • Ming's inability to control her helicopter parenting causes her to spy on Mei at her school, with her classmates around her, embarrassing Mei so much that she transforms into the red panda, forcing her to run out of the school in a panic.
    • By not telling Mei about her transformations before she started experiencing them, Ming not only betrays her own daughter's trust, but also causes her to break down over the fact that she might be stuck this way forever. Ming and Jin's talk outside Mei's door doesn't help matters, either.
    • Much later, when Mei tries to escape the temple, she unwittingly causes her mother's talisman to become damaged.
    • When Mei escapes during her ritual, no one except Jin thinks it might be a good idea to comfort Ming, whose panda is Kaiju-sized and extremely aggressive. In fact, Grandma Wu explicitly asks Ming how she could let her daughter get so out-of-control, upsetting her further. The result? Ming transforms and destroys much of Toronto and the SkyDome.
    • As Mei is trying to keep Ming's Kaiju panda form busy, she gets fed up and headbutts her mother unconscious. Unfortunately, Ming collapses outside of the ritual circle, and her massive form is far too heavy for Mei alone to drag her back. Fortunately, Wu and her aunties unleash their own panda spirits to provide the necessary muscle.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The night before Mei wakes up as a red panda, she has bad dreams all night long, featuring all manner of surreal and unsettling imagery such as angry ghostly red pandas, Devon as a merman suffocating on dry land, and flowers with the faces of 4*Town blooming.
  • No Antagonist: The closest to a Big Bad is Ming, and even she's not an outright villain, just a misguided parent. Even Tyler becomes nicer towards the end.
  • No Endor Holocaust: There is no mention of anyone getting injured or killed in Ming's rampage through Toronto and her subsequent damaging of the SkyDome, even though the incident apparently went down in infamy as "Pandapocalypse 2002".
  • No Periods, Period: Played with, as whilst Mei doesn't get her period in the film, they are heavily discussed, as Ming initially mistakes Mei's panic and hiding after her first transformation for Mei getting flustered about her first menstrual cycle. Ming even has a care package of ibuprofen, a hot water bottle, Vitamin D supplements, and various different pad options ready for the day. In fact, the entire movie is a puberty / first period metaphor—heck, one of the pre-production alternate titles for the film was "PMS — Panda Mayhem Syndrome".
  • Non-Indicative Name: Lampshaded by Ming in regards to 4*Town — she wonders why they're named that if there are 5 members.
  • Noodle Incident: Judging by everyone else's reaction to Ming accusing Devon of seducing her underage daughter, this isn't the first time she's made wild accusations. Pretty fortunate that everyone is used to her dramatics, considering Devon could've been in serious trouble if they weren't.
  • No Sympathy:
    • Played straight with Tyler, as he keeps mocking Mei for her mother embarrassing her. He doesn't care that Mei doesn't want Ming's Control Freak nature. Tyler pays for it at his birthday party when he pushes Mei too far. Later, at least, he helps save 4*Town and assists in restoring Ming back to normal, showing he has grown out of this.
    • Zig-zagged when Mei apologizes to her friends for letting Ming bully them. They're a bit cold at first. While Miriam aptly points out that Mei threw them under the bus by not speaking up for them, she actually isn't mad; far from it, she's been taking care of Mei's Tamagotchi. No, while she was hurt and disappointed, her bigger concern was that Mei was letting her mother run roughshod over her life and being oblivious to the fact that Ming's behavior is not healthy at all. When Mei gives a sincere apology and promises she is done being her mother's doormat, they tackle her in a hug and welcome her back to the fold.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Despite the characters being Canadian, some of the voice actors don't put any effort in affecting an accent — such as Rosalie Chiang, Ava Morse, and Tristan Allerick Chen. It's evident for the former and latter, who pronounce the "Z" in Aaron Z.'s name as "zee" instead of "zed".note  Not to mention native Canadian Sandra Oh doesn't have an accent until Ming apologizes to her mother in the astral plane — pronouncing "sorry" as "sore-y".
    • For Torontonians, one jarring aspect is that most people in the movie pronounces the name of their city "Toronto", with two T's. The vast majority of citizens (although not everyone) slur the second T, making it sound like "Toronno". Both times Mei and the second time Abby say it, they slur the second T; every other mention is pronounced with both Ts.
  • Not Quite Flight: Mei's acrobatics during the fight with her mother's kaiju-panda form are this. Even double-jumping can't entirely explain how she can change direction and accelerate to ramming speed in mid-air.
  • Not So Above It All: During the scene where Mei and her friends are "hustling the panda" to raise money for 4*Town tickets while the song "U Know What's Up" is playing, at one point Mei's mother Ming visits the school with dumplings, and Mei and her friends have to very quickly re-organize the classroom to eliminate evidence of panda-hustling. When Ming opens the classroom door and finds nothing suspicious, she puts the dumplings down as the security guard shows up to escort her away. However, the security guard eats one of the dumplings as he's leaving.
  • Offering a Hand: This is something of a recurring image in the movie, to the point of symbolizing Mei's Character Development:
    • Several times during the first two acts, Ming holds out her hand to Mei, who takes it and passively follows where Ming leads her. It shows how much Mei is under her mother's control.
    • When Mei finally decides to break from her mother during the first red moon ritual, the first open sign of it is when Ming puts a reassuring hand on panda-Mei's paw and promises, "We can do [the ritual] again." Mei pulls her paw away, refusing the contact — refusing to be led by her mother — for what is likely the first time in her life.
    • The roles are reversed when Mei meets her mother on the astral plane. After she realizes how much alike she and her mother are, she doesn't hesitate to offer words of support and then a hand to Ming. Ming takes it, and Mei then leads the way to the exit portal.
    • At the portal, Ming holds out her hand with one last appeal to her daughter, but Mei refuses to take it. It's clearly one of the hardest things she's ever done, but she will no longer allow herself to be led anywhere she doesn't want to go.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Tyler tells Mei that she has a choice: she can either attend his birthday party as a red panda, or he tells her mother about the little side hustle. Mei realizes she doesn't have a choice, but demands $200 in compensation. Tyler agrees to that, foreshadowing that he's a bully but he's not all bad, and also foreshadowing that when we finally see his house, it turns out his family is rich enough to live in a mansion, thus explaining why $200 is a price Tyler has no problem with paying.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Mei has a slight freak out when she looks in the bathroom mirror, realises she's transformed into a red panda for the first time, and tries to hide it from her mom while worrying that she might see her in her new form.
    • Miriam passes Mei a note during class the first day of her transformation: "Your mom is outside". The look on Mei's face says it all.
    • Mei and Ming are both shocked when the former transforms into her red panda form in the middle of a class, prompting a Screw This, I'm Outta Here from Mei, with Ming trying to catch up with her. Mei is also in a perpetual state of panic when she's running home afterwards.
    • Mei says this word for word when she hears her friends outside of her room. She also screams in horror not long afterwards when she unwittingly reveals her panda form to them after Abby mentions that 4*Town is going to be in Toronto.
    • Tyler realizes that taunting Mei during gym class wasn't a smart idea, as she launches a dodgeball at him so fast it nearly decapitates him, carving a large circle out of his hair instead (which is somehow glowing red hot for a couple seconds after). He has another, much bigger one later on when he inadvertanlty provokes Mei into attacking him at his own birthday party.
    • Mei is petrified and sweating bullets when her mom discovers all the drawings she made of Devon, a boy she likes, who works at a nearby convenience store.
    • When Jin says Ming's mother is on the phone, Ming immediately panics and tells him to say she's not home. When she does answer the phone, she's so scared she can barely talk coherently. When Ming tries to tell her mom that she can handle the ritual, her mom says that she's on her way and hangs up the phone, which doubles the trouble.
    • At the 4*Town concert, Mei gives a picture-perfect example when she realizes what, or rather who, that gargantuan face peering through the SkyDome roof belongs to.
      Mei: MOM?!
    • Ming is both pissed off and horrified when she sees Mei's panda merch under her bad, and then sees that Mei used her stuffed animals to fake herself being asleep, realizing that Mei has run off.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Abby gives an awkward smile when she sees Ming approaching during the panda hustle, as she realises they've almost been caught using Mei's panda form to raise money for going to the 4*Town concert.
  • One Extra Member: Lampshaded by Ming, who asks why the Boy Band group is named 4*Town if there are five members in it.
  • One-Hit KO: Mei ends the fight with her mother's kaiju-panda form with a high-speed headbutt to panda-Ming's forehead.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Mei seems to suffer this a fair bit:
    • When she first discovers her red panda form and is desperately trying to hide it from Ming in the bathroom, Mei angrily yells at her mom to Get Out! before immediately regretting it. For Mei, who still deeply respects her mother and tries to keep a perfect image around her by that point, it shows just how badly the red panda transformation's broken her self-control.
    • When she's at school after her first transformation, Mei wears a red toque to hide her red hair and starts speaking robotically in order to suppress her emotions. Her friends quickly notice this, with Miriam passing her notes in maths class to see if she's okay.
    • Mei, who talks about respecting your family and ancestors, tries to tear apart the shrine of her ancestor on learning the truth about why she turned into a red panda. She screams "It's your fault!" as her parents try to calm her down.
    • When she first arrives at Tyler's party after being told not to use her panda form by her grandma, she wears her cardboard red panda costume (rather than being in her real red panda form, like she agreed), and starts acting goofy. Her friends quickly pick up on this and take her to a corner to ask her what is wrong.
    • After attacking Tyler during his birthday party, she remains completely silent due to being in complete shock, and doesn't even react when Ming blames Mei's friends for what happened.
    • Ming is normally pretty confident and no-nonsense, but when Jin picks up the phone and it's her mother on the other line, Ming freaks out and initially tries to hide.
    • Any time Abby drops her Genki Girl nature, the situation's gotten serious. Despite being excited to see Mei's panda form, Abby immediately calms down and tries to comfort her after seeing how distraught the latter is over it, and she becomes noticeably saddened after Mei betrays her, Miriam and Priya at the end of the second act. Notably, when she and the girls are at the 4*Town concert's ticket booth, she's resting her chin on the counter as if she doesn't even have the energy to hold her head up.
  • Opening Monologue: The story begins with Mei talking about herself and how she does things. According to the DVD commentary, the opening was based around the concept of "How would Mei direct a documentary about herself?"
  • Open-Minded Parent: Out of the main girls, Miriam is the only one to get permission to go to the concert, with the only stipulation being that she pay for it herself.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: All of Sun Yee's female descendants inherit her ability to transform into a giant, anthropomorphic red panda when experiencing strong emotions such as anxiety or excitement.
    • Mei demonstrates that with the right thoughts, the transformation can be controlled.
    • There are connections to the full moon. Sun Yee was given the ability under a red moon, and the form can be sealed during the first red moon after the transformation manifests.
    • The size seems to depend on how much emotions have been bottled, as when Ming's panda form shows up after years of suppressed emotions, she's a Kaiju.
  • Painful Confession:
    • Meilin's first transformation into her panda form is met with horror and disgust. Likewise, Mei's mother Ming treats it as a problem. When Mei's friends discover her panda form, Mei tries to calmly explain the situation before bursting into tears and confessing her own feelings about her transformation.
    • Despite the close relationship between Mei and Ming, Ming's high expectations on her child to be a perfect student and complacent daughter as well as Mei's growing interests in subjects considered to be "questionable" threaten to buckle that bond. Mei's panda transformations further throw a wrench in their relationship when Mei begins to accept her panda form as a part of her (which Ming refuses to do with her own due to trauma). After their big fight as pandas over their conflicting ideas, Mei confesses to her mother that she's changing and no longer the daughter she is expected to be. She then bursts into tears as she reveals her fears about drifting apart from her, to which Ming reassures her daughter of her love and support.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: Abby shreds the 4*Town flyer into bits and starts furiously rambling in Korean after realizing that she read it wrong and the concert is actually on the 25th instead of the 18th—the same day as the sealing ritual.
  • Parental Betrayal: This is a major driver of Mei's changing relationship with her mother. Two examples stand out:
    • Ming promises to "be with you every step of the way" while Mei waits for the red moon, but then she does nothing to help Mei fight the panda transformation.
    • During the climactic fight at the concert, the enraged Ming accuses Mei of not being a good daughter, when Mei has always done her best to be exactly that. That's enough to send Mei into a real rage of her own.
  • Parents as People:
    • While Ming is a fairly overbearing mother, she's also a genuinely worried parent who loves her daughter and is simply looking out for her. Unfortunately, her own lack of social skills means that she picks some pretty bad ways to show her concern. Her response to finding embarrassing drawings of Devon is to drive over and confront him, accusing him of assaulting her underage daughter. She's then oblivious to how everyone is laughing at Mei and congratulates herself for how she handled the situation. Yeah, that's grade-A parenting right there.
    • Mei gets to see a teenage Ming crying at the realization she hurt her mother (an act that happened quite a long time ago), and can relate to it after their fight which had happened only moments prior. It goes to show that Ming, for all her faults, is dealing with significant baggage with her mother, and was also expected to be perfect. One of the first things Ming does when her mother calls is to fall on her side and tell her husband to lie about her not being home.
  • Partial Transformation: Mei only turns parts of herself into her red panda form as she struggles to control it. In the end, she can change parts of it willingly for effect.
  • Passing Notes in Class:
    • Mei is informed that her mother is observing her from outside the classroom by Miriam next to her passing over a note.
    • Later, Abby passes a note to Stacy about where to get panda pictures, which Stacy then passes along using the 21st-century equivalent: text messages.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: When Mei's aunties arrive to help with the ritual, they get in some minor jabbing at both Mei and Ming's expense the way only family members can.
  • Paying It Forward: At the concert, Mei's friends forgive her betrayal of them at Tyler's house. Minutes later, Mei repays that debt by forgiving her mother for how she has treated Mei over the last few days and weeks. Ming then continues the chain by forgiving herself and apologizing to Wu for her long-ago loss of control (though Wu has already forgiven her), and by warming up to Mei's friends in the epilogue.
  • Period Piece: ...In that the film is set around 2002 with the music and cell phones of the time. Not like actual periods, though they are discussed.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Even when she is showing a bit of excitement, Priya usually has a frown on her face.
  • Photo Montage: The movie starts with a series of photos of the young Mei doing various things with her parents, and particularly her mother Ming.
  • Pillar of Light: The second attempt at the ritual, using a much bigger circle and many more singers, produces a massive pillar of light reaching past the clouds.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Miriam asserts that she, Priya and Abby still love Mei as a friend when the latter is upset over her newfound panda form.
    Miriam: We love you, Mei.
    Priya: You're our girl.
    Miriam: Yeah, no matter what. Panda or no panda.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: At the end of the second act, Ming discovers Mei has been transforming to hustle enough money to buy concert tickets and catches her in the act at Tyler's party. However, she furiously blames Mei's friends for manipulating her into it, and Mei, desperate to retain her mother's approval, doesn't defend them when they ask. Once Mei realizes that she wants to keep the panda, the first thing she does is seek reconciliation with them.
  • Poor Communication Kills: No one thought to warn Mei that she would turn into a red panda, even though it's an ability that runs in her family and her own mother turned into an enormous, city-destroying Kaiju years ago. Justified, since it's implied that Mei's first transformation happened much earlier than anyone expected and Ming assumed she would have seen it coming and prepared accordingly.
  • Post-Modern Magik: In the denouement, Ming has to re-banish her red panda spirit into Mei's Tamagotchi pet, since it was the most readily available container. The virtual pet has been replaced by an icon of the spirit, but otherwise functions exactly the same.
  • Power Dyes Your Hair: Any Lee family member who undergoes their panda transformation will have their hair change from black to red.
  • Power Nullifier: Mei's family manages their transformation by undergoing a ritual under the lunar eclipse that banishes the red panda spirit from their bodies and seals it away within a talisman. If this talisman should ever break, the spirit will be released and restore their transformations, so they all keep them closely on their person.
  • The Power of Friendship: Mei finds that she's able to retain her human form by remembering the embrace her three BFFs gave her when she revealed her secret to them. It gets deconstructed to a degree in that she realizes that the love she's supposed to have for her family isn't nearly as strong, indicating the estrangement she feels from her mother but doesn't initially want to confront.
  • Powers via Possession: Mei and her family gain the ability to become giant red pandas through a red spirit panda that lives within them. Sealing the spirit removes the power.
  • Present-Day Past: The film uses several slang terms (e.g. "ride or die", "fur baby") that weren't mainstream, or coined, in 2002. And though twerking was certainly a thing in 2002 (it originated in the "Dirty South" rap scene of the late 1980s) it wasn't hugely known outside of the Southern U.S. until Miley Cyrus's infamous dance routine at the 2013 MTV Music Awards.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: Mei ends up giving her prized Tamagotchi to her mother, Ming, so Ming can use it to store her red panda spirit.
  • Product Placement: Mei's parents eat some Timbits doughnut holes from Canadian fast food staple Tim Hortons.
  • Production Foreshadowing:
    • As per Pixar tradition of throwing in an Easter Egg of upcoming subsequent films, the previous film Luca has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo where a record labelled "4*Villaggi" can be seen in Giulia's room, an Italian parody of the Boy Band 4*Town from this film.
    • This film has one for Lightyear, with Mei having a Star Command sticker on her backpack. A promotional poster also features a sticker of Sox on the bulletin board.
  • Puberty Superpower: Mei's shapeshifting ability manifests when she's 13 years old and is experiencing puberty. This ends up becoming an Entertainingly Wrong moment, as when Mei freaks out after transforming and hides in her shower, Ming (Mei's mom) enters under the assumption that she just had her period.
  • Pun-Based Title: Turning Red is about a girl who turns into a giant, anthropomorphic red panda.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Mei first learns about the family "inconvenience", her response is, "Are! You! SERIOUS?!!"
  • Race Against the Clock: In the climax, Mei and her family have to race to organize and conduct the sealing ritual again, in order to re-seal Ming's panda and return her to normal before the red moon ends.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • When Ming spies on Mei at school and presents her pads to the entire class; the sheer embarrassment from that, combined with Mei's prior humiliation from the Daisy Mart incident the day before, Tyler pasting her drawings of Devon all over the school, and her having just learned about her transformations, causes Mei to scream out in embarrassment and rage, and panda out so forcefully that the entire class is knocked away.
    • Much later, at Tyler's party, Mei has a panic attack when she realizes that the 4*Town concert is coming on the same day as her red moon ritual. Tyler then repeatedly provokes her into coming down to give his guests more rides; when he insults Ming and her temple, Mei becomes so angry that she attacks Tyler on the spot.
    • In the finale, Ming reaches it after Mei refuses to seal in her panda spirit and takes off for the concert (along with her mother, sisters, cousin, and niece pushing her too far by blaming her for Mei's decision in keeping the panda). In the scuffle, Ming inadvertently fractures her pendant, allowing her panda spirit to break free and transform her.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!":
    • Mei does this when hiding from her mom in the shower after her first transformation, and sees her mom about to open the shower curtain.
    • She gives another one when she sees her mom spying on her outside school.
  • Reactive Continuous Scream: When Mei's friends go to her house and see her in panda form for the first time, they let out a collective scream of shock, which prompts Mei to let out a shriek herself, realizing she just unwittingly exposed her form in front of them.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Abby's angry rambles in Korean are not subtitled. Neither is the Cantonese chanting performed by Mei's family members during the sealing rituals.
  • Recurring Riff: The main melody of Turning Red's intro theme, "Turning Red", shows up in many other songs in the soundtrack.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Whenever someone is being overtaken by emotion in their panda form, their eyes glow red and their teeth become sharper.
  • Red/Green Contrast: The bubbly, extraverted Mei wears a red sweater and later has red hair in contrast to both her stricter, more finicky mother Ming, who wears a green blazer and green eyeshadow, and her laid-back, supportive best friend Miriam, who wears a green beanie, green flannel and green pants.
  • Residual Self-Image: In the astral plane, everyone appears at their current ages except for Ming, who is stuck at the exact age she accidentally hurt her mother. Mei has to guide her out of the forest and back to her proper age, which (together with her mother's forgiveness) is what finally allows her to let go of her need for control.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Instead of being scared or repulsed by Mei's red panda form like she expected them to be, the kids at her school think that it's the cutest thing they've ever seen. Mei, Miriam, Priya, and Abby exploit this and decide to sell photos and merchandise of Mei's panda form in order to raise money to buy tickets to the 4*Town concert.
  • Rite of Passage:
    • Played for Laughs with the 4*Town concert, as 13-year-old Mei proclaims that going to the concert will turn her and her friends into true women.
    • Played straighter with the red moon ritual that seals the red panda spirit; every one of Mei's female maternal relatives has gone through it, and they view it as a necessary part of growing up.
  • Roofhopping: Twice, as a Meaningful Echo.
    • When Mei's transformation triggers at school, she is humiliated and clumsily dashes home on the streets and the roofs of Toronto as a giant red panda, causing plenty of damage along the way.
    • By the night of the concert, Mei has a better handle on her powers, and when she sneaks out to attend it she gracefully makes leaps and bounds across the roofs, switching between both human and red panda form with ease.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • According to Domee Shi, the red panda is what Mei transforms into because it symbolizes quite a bit about her and her story; red pandas are close to their mothers (which is how Mei and Ming's relationship starts out), they eat bamboo despite how it lacks nutrients (much like how teenagers love junk food even though it's not good for them), and the colours of their fur represent Mei's heritage as a Chinese-Canadian girl (their fur is red and white; red is an important colour in Chinese culture, and red and white are also the colours of the Canadian flag).
    • For the women in Mei's family, transforming into a red panda and the attendant personality changes symbolizes the coming of adolescence and the accompanying rebelliousness and need for independence — a major thing in Chinese culture, where Generation Xerox is kind of a big deal. In the end, Mei decides to embrace her panda side, symbolizing her desire to strike a balance between her family's legacy and the culture she shares with her friends and schoolmates.
  • Running Away to Cry: Humiliated and ashamed by her mother deciding to spy on her at school, Mei, still in red panda form, runs home crying while doing her best to stay out of sight once the two's eyes meet.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Ming tries to spy on Mei at school, she inevitably gets found by the same security guard, resulting in a background gag as the two argue.
  • Say My Name: While in her gigantic panda form, Ming furiously bellows, "MEI-MEI!!!"
  • Scare Chord: Several of these can be heard during Mei's nightmare, representing the fear she is feeling during the scene.
  • Scooby Stack: Mei and her friends stack to spy on Devon while outside the Daisy Mart. It's later shown that they pulled this off with Miriam crouching so Abby can stand on her back and Mei standing on one of the pipes outside the building, with Priya simply standing normally since she's the tallest.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Mei, after transforming into her red panda form in the middle of a maths class, quickly makes a run for it towards her home, with Ming chasing after her.
    • Mei pulls another one when she sees her mom, in giant red panda form, attacking the concert, realising who said panda is looking for. She is quickly stopped when the rest of her family arrive to help her (Mei), however.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The red panda spirit is treated as Blessed with Suck, a beast that feeds on emotions and can only be kept in check by keeping those emotions bottled up, until it can be sealed away. By bottling up her emotions instead of healthily allowing them out, Ming's panda becomes a rampaging Kaiju, while the more outgoing Mei gradually gains more control of her panda as she accepts it as part of herself.
  • Self-Harm:
    • There are several points during the film, especially early on, where Mei slaps herself to convince herself to stop talking or to punish herself for disappointing her mother.
    • Then there is the scene where in her room, after discovering that her transformations run in the family, Mei tries (and fails) to stop them by slamming against the walls and the floor, and trying to rip off her red panda body parts.
  • Shaking the Rump:
    • Near the beginning, Miriam does this while she convinces Mei to do a bit of karaoke with her friends before she leaves to clean the temple. She even playfully bumps her with it while doing so!
    • Mei later does this during the climactic battle with Ming, to deliberately disgust her mother and distract her from the fact that the rest of her family is setting up the red moon ritual.
  • Shapeshifting Sound: Whenever Mai changes back and forth between her human and red panda forms, it generates a burst of pink clouds, accompanied by a distinct "poof" sound.
  • Shown Their Work: There are so many examples of this that they were given their own page.
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: Mei, Abby, Miriam, Priya, and the other students around Mei's grade are all around 13-14 years old and are a head shorter than all of the adults.
  • Signature Device: Mei's female relatives wear a talisman often made of jade containing their red panda spirit which serve as one-use Transformation Trinkets.
  • A Simple Plan: Mei's plan for going to Tyler's party is short, simple, sounds "easy peasy", and blows up in her face because of an unforeseen problem.
  • Skewed Priorities: Even though Mei is dealing with a supernatural blessing/curse causing her to regularly shapeshift into an eight-foot panda, her biggest concern for most of the movie is whether or not she'll be able to attend the 4*Town concert that's happening in Toronto. However, by this point, her mother has publicly humiliated her twice, failed to warn her about the panda situation, and then did very little to help her through the process after promising that she would. Not allowing Mei to see 4*Town in spite of all she'd tried to do was the straw that broke the camel's back, causing Mei to view the concert as an opportunity to gain independence from her mother, since if Mei's obedience won't be rewarded, then she figures that she may as well rebel. Plus, by the time she focuses on going to the concert, she believes the panda curse has been taken care of: she believes that she can control the transformation, and she will soon be rid of it for good.
  • Skyward Scream: Mei does one when she transforms into the red panda during math class. It really shows just how far over the edge she's been driven by her mother's antics.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Mei uses her collection of stuffed animals to pull this trick when she sneaks out to Tyler's birthday party. It nearly works, too.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Downplayed. In the official trailer, Mei and her friends are seen marching down the school hallway, protesting with megaphones and picket signs about anti-littering, and protecting the environment. However, this scene was mysteriously cut from the final version, with Mei's activism toned down. Despite this, there are still shades of this side of her in the final cut when her parents use pictures of deforestation and animal abuse to test her control over her emotions.
  • Soap Within a Show: A little before the ten-minute mark into the movie, Mei and her mother Ming are seen watching a Chinese drama called Jade Palace on TV. A man and a woman are seen embracing, but Ming disapproves, as she thinks the man should have listened to his mother and married Ling-Yi. Mei agrees with her mother, believing that Siu-Jyu (the woman the man is embracing) is "so two-faced". Ming thinks Siu-Jyu is only using the man to get to the throne (since the man is apparently of royal heritage), and will probably stab the man on their wedding night.
  • Spirit World: When Mei undergoes the ritual to exorcise her panda spirit, she is transported to a realm that consists of a misty bamboo forest where her ancestor Sun Yee reveals a mirror-like portal in a clearing that she must cross through to remove her panda.
  • Squee:
    • When Mei's female classmates discover she is the giant red panda, she expects them to run away or shun her, but instead, they squeal with excitement because she's so cute.
    • Mei and her friends squeal happily when they discover that Tyler loves 4*Town just like them, and they immediately embrace him.
    • All the girls in the crowd squee as 4*Town sings a reprise of "Nobody Like U" during the ritual to seal Ming's panda away, before joining in on the song.
  • Staggered Zoom: The scene in which Mei recognizes her mother as the giant red panda that crashes the 4*Town concert starts with a wide shot of the crowd, then zooms in to a narrower shot of the crowd and finally cuts to Mei and her friends' shocked expressions.
  • Standard Power-Up Pose: In another of the movie's Animesque moments, Mei strikes this pose during her fight with her mother Ming's kaiju-panda form. An unusual example because she isn't "powering up" in the conventional sense, but it does indicate the moment when she stops trying to annoy her mother and starts actively fighting her.
    Mei: All I wanted was to GO TO A CONCERT!
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The film takes place 20 years in the past and isn't shy about its central premise being a metaphor for puberty. It's a Period Piece! This was allegedly what Bob Iger said when the film was first pitched to him; whether he figured out the pun immediately is unclear.
    • Most of the movie takes place in May, the month that is pronounced the same as the main character's name. Additionally, the film's promotion prominently features the song "It's Gonna Be Me" by *NSYNC; Justin Timberlake's delivery of the refrain sounds like "It's gonna be Mei", so not only does the chorus of the song accurately sum up the mother/daughter relationship at the core of the film, it shouts out the protagonist by name.
    • The school security guard who Ming confronts is wearing a turban and has a beard, implying he's Sikh. He's a Sikh-curity guard.
  • The Stinger: Mei is looking for 4*Town's new album CD. She calls out to Jin in the basement...who's jamming out to it.
  • Stock Sound Effects:
    • When Mei and her friends get the idea of hustling the panda to earn money for concert tickets, their dollar-sign eyes are accompanied by the distinctive ka-ching of an old-style mechanical cash register.
    • When the two temple cats run from the approaching aunties, the soundtrack includes a standard 'scared cat' yowl.
  • Strict Parents Make Sneaky Kids: Part of Mei's growth throughout the film has her skirting around her normally strict schedule and expectations placed by her mother. Even before the panda pushed her to be more daring, she attempts to hide away her romantic drawings of Devon. After getting the panda, Mei lies about her afterschool whereabouts, her diminishing school performance, and sneaking off to Tyler's party.
  • Stunned Silence: Ming briefly goes into shock fter seeing Mei's red panda form for the first time.
  • Stylistic Suck: Downplayed and enforced. While it doesn't come off as outright terrible, Ava Morse was told to have Miriam "sing bad" when she's trying to cheer up Mei and starts singing "Nobody Like U".
  • Supernatural Sealing: Any female descendant of Sun Yee can seal their red panda spirit into a talisman involving a ritual where they cross over into the astral plane. It can only be performed on a red moon (lunar eclipse). Even so, the talisman is a physical object that can be broken, which will result in their supernatural beast escaping. If they do accidentally/purposely break that Soul Jar, they can always perform the ritual again during the next red moon. However, if they fail to do so by then, the red panda spirit becomes one with them and can never be sealed away again.
  • Super-Strength: This is a standard part of the red panda transformation.
    • After Tyler makes fun of Mei for her mother following her around, Mei hurls a dodgeball at him with her red panda arm while partially transformed, with enough power that it sparks and creates a sonic boom as he barely dodges it.
    • At Tyler's party, panda-Mei can jump high in the air carrying up to a dozen 13-year-old schoolkids.
    • Ming's kaiju-size red-panda form is strong enough to push open the SkyDome's roof.
    • Mei, her grandmother, and her aunties together are strong enough in red-panda form to drag around Ming's panda form, which is at least 100 feet tall and masses as much as a large whale.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: During the red moon ritual, Mei has an opportunity to seal away the red panda form in an amulet, thereby removing the Involuntary Shapeshifting she's been dealing with. But during the ritual she realizes that the red panda is a part of her and decides to keep it, even if she can't fully control it. However, unbeknownst to Mei when the ritual began, by accepting the red panda as a part of herself, it turns into Voluntary Shapeshifting. Mei's ancestor, Sun Yee, even appears to approve of it in the ritual's forest. Once Mei emerges from the ritual, she now has full control over the panda's appearances.
  • Swirling Dust: The first red moon ritual involves swirling leaves around the chalk circle as it's being activated by Mei's family's chants.
  • Symbolism: Shortly after the climax, Ming and Mei end up on different sides of the portal from the spirit realm because the latter has decided to keep her Red Panda form. Mei admits she's afraid her choice will take her mother away from her. Ming soberly admits that she has the same fear but gives her daughter her blessing regardless. This is meant to signify how Mei's choice to be her own person (outside of perfect little "Mei Mei") will indeed change the dynamic of their relationship, but for the better.
  • The Talk: Played for Laughs. When Mei first transforms and she hides in the shower, Ming (thinking that her daughter is simply experiencing her first period) quickly enters with menstrual pads and has an awkward discussion with her about having her first period, not realizing that's not why Mei is freaking out and hiding away.
  • Take a Third Option: As a female descendant of Sun Yee, Mei is warned that she has to perform a magic ritual under a red moon to seal away her red panda spirit and return to being her normal human self, or else she'll be burdened with the strain of repressing it for the rest of her life. Her friends wonder if there's a third option: banish the panda, but keep the personality changes that came with it. In the end, Mei finds a fourth option: she embraces the red panda spirit and thereby gains full control over it, as Sun Yee did. As the red moon ends, Mei decides to take this option permanently as a way to live her own life and avoid the Generational Trauma that passed from her mother down to her.
  • Tears of Awe: Mei, Priya, Abby, Miriam, and Tyler end up in Inelegant Blubbering when 4*Town (their favorite band) is performing for all of Toronto.
  • Tears of Joy: While attending 4*Town's concert, Mei, Miriam, Tyler, Abby, and even the usually cool-headed Priya burst into joyful tears upon seeing 4*Town in person for the first time.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In the official trailer, Mei excitedly says, "This will be the best year ever and nothing's gonna get in my way!" Within 24 hours, she's dealing with both puberty and the red panda transformation.
    • Mei tells her friends that going to Tyler's party as the red panda will be "easy peasy" — after all, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
    • Ming brags to her relatives about how good Mei is at keeping the panda in. That same evening, she discovers that Mei hasn't been keeping the panda in at all.
    • When Miriam remarks that Ming must have gone nuclear over Mei keeping her red panda spirit and running off to the 4*Town concert, Mei laughs it off, saying "What's she gonna do? Ground me?" Well...
  • Terrible Pick-Up Lines: While flirting with some male school athletes, Mei calls out, "Hey, are you a triangle? Because you acute!"
  • Terrified Transformation Witness:
    • When Ming sees Mei transform for the first time, her reaction is shock and dismay — not because it happened, but because it happened before she expected it.
    • When Mei's friends first see her in her red panda form, their first reaction is to scream in terror.
    • After Mei runs off from the red moon ritual and Ming's amulet breaks, the rest of the family is horrified as they watch Ming's red panda spirit enter her body and transform her into her kaiju-sized red panda form.
  • That Man Is Dead: In the Novelization, when Mei leaves for the 4*Town concert, she thinks to herself that "Mei Mei", the girl her mother thinks she still is, doesn't exist anymore.
    • She even tells her mother as such during their confrontation at the concert.
      Ming: THIS. ISN'T. YOU!!!
      Mei: THIS IS ME!!! I'm not your little "Mei Mei" anymore!
  • That Nostalgia Show: Set in 2002 and stuffed with the pop culture touchstones of Y2K-era girlhood, particularly Mei's affection for the Boy Band 4*Town.
  • 13th Birthday Milestone: As the movie starts, Mei has recently turned 13 and thinks she's now a grownup, able to do her own thing 24/7/365, just because the Toronto Transit Commission gives her an ID at this age. Shortly afterward, she starts experiencing puberty as well as the family power handed down from her ancestor Sun Yee, which causes her to transform into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited or angry. In the film's climax, Mei angrily emphasizes to her mother Ming that she's 13 now and thinks that gives her an excuse to rebel against Ming's authority. The whole movie is in many ways a metaphor for puberty (though not specifically for menstruation, as Mei does not get her first period during the film).
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Mei's expression almost screams this when the fire escape starts collapsing under her weight during her nightmare run home from school.
      Mei: (in a tiny voice) Uh-oh.
    • After Mei's dad blurts out "It's happened already?!", Ming cringes to herself for a second — she knows that Mei is not going to miss the question's implication, nor is she going to be happy about it.
    • The reactions of Mei's dad, aunties, and grandma pretty much scream this trope when Mei admits that she lied to her mom, with them watching with slight horror on their faces.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: A red moon (a lunar eclipse) is central to the power of the red panda spirit.
    • Mei's ancestor, Sun Yee, gained the ability to turn into a red panda when she prayed to her gods during a lunar eclipse, AKA a red moon, and they answered with the red panda spirit.
    • The only way for any of Sun Yee's descendants to stop the transformations is to seal the panda spirit away using a ritual that must be performed under a red moon. This is explained as a lunar eclipse thinning the veil between the physical world and the astral realm.
    • The duration of the red moon is shortened for dramatic effect. It seems to last about as long as a total solar eclipse would: no more than a couple of hours from first contact (when the Earth's shadow first touches the Moon's disc) to last contact, with the period of totality being measured in minutes. In reality, a full lunar eclipse can last as much as three and a half hours from first contact to last, with the period of totality being up to half that.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Ming accuses Mei's friends of being bad influences for being encouraging with Mei's panda transformation. Turns out it was just because they were going against her standards for Mei.
  • Trampled Underfoot: Downplayed. The audience's first look at Mei's red panda form is two huge furry red feet crushing Mei's bunny slippers.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Starts out mild compared to other examples, but gets worse as it goes on. Ming discovers her daughter Mei's drawings of a local convenience store clerk she is crushing on, then takes her with her to chew out poor Devon and denounce him as a 'groomer' using the aforementioned sketches as "proof". Mei turns into a giant red panda (which her mom initially mistakes for her period) and has to work out how to revert to human form unaided. Mei forces herself to keep calm and avoid transforming long enough to make it to school, only to find that class bully Tyler is plastering photocopies of her admittedly off-colour drawing all over the blasted school. Ming assaults a security guard in full view of Mei's math class after sneaking onto campus and announces that she forgot her pads in front of everyone, which pushes her emotional state over the threshold for a public transformation. Mei runs home crying in broad daylight only to find out her parents knew this would happen at some point and made no attempt to warn her. Said parents elect to basically place Mei in lockdown for a month, and her room is reduced to bare walls and a mattress. All within 36 hours. Poor girl!
  • Triumphant Reprise: 4*Town's song "Nobody Like U" gets one during the climax, where it's combined with the Lee family's chant to restore Ming through the red moon ritual.
  • Trophy Child: The way Ming treats Mei has elements of this. The first few minutes establish that Mei has been raised as a carbon copy of her mother, always expected to meet Ming's very high standards in all ways, while Ming seeks to control and plan every minute of Mei's life. Mei eventually starts to express dissatisfaction with being her mother's "perfect little Mei-Mei" all the time and finally strikes back, seeking to establish herself as her own person. Especially telling is Ming's reaction to this: after Mei chooses to keep her panda and abandons the banishing ritual, Ming's not so much angry at what Mei did, as she is about how it reflects on her.
    Ming: How could she do this to her own mother?!
  • True Companions: Mei and her friends. When they see her red panda form for the first time, instead of shunning her, they compliment her new ability and assure her that they love her no matter what.
  • Truth in Television:
    • While Ming's antics may seem cartoonish and unrealistic, many viewers of Asian descent can relate to growing up with similarly overbearing parents. Even Ming's spying on Mei at school is based off the director's personal experience.
    • There really was a lunar eclipse on May 26th, 2002, visible across much of North America.
  • Turn of the Millennium: Takes place during the spring of 2002, in particular around May. The Boy Band 4*Town features prominently, and boy bands were at their height in the U.S. in the early millennium.
  • Understatement:
    • Ming explains the source of the transformation.
      Ming: Our ancestors had a mystical connection with red pandas. And what was a blessing became... (smiles sheepishly) inconvenience.
    • Mei's dad, Jin, tells her that he only saw her mother's red panda form once, and that it was "big". When Ming unleashes it at the film's climax, we see she's roughly the size of a kaiju. Mei lampshades this when the rest of the family arrives to help.
      Mei: Wh-what happened? She's huge!
      Jin: I told you she was big!
      Mei: THAT BIG?!
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ming asks if Mei got her period by asking if the "red peony bloomed".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: when Mei is running home across town after transforming at school, no one seems to pay much notice to the giant red bear-monster, other than the couple who she surprises while they're out walking.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mei's mother, Ming, brings Mei's pads to school because she still thinks Mei is having her first period. In fact Mei is trying to suppress the red panda transformation — and Ming's antics outside her classroom are enough to break her control and push her into transforming.
  • Use Your Head: When they're both in panda form, Mei delivers a monstrous headbutt to Ming, knocking her unconscious.
  • Visual Pun: Tyler's birthday party is dull verging on dead until Mei transforms to her panda form. She gets the party going and makes sure everyone gets in on the fun. She's clearly a party animal.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: After her initial Power Incontinence, Mei learns to control the panda and use it to her advantage.
  • Wham Line:
  • What Does She See in Him?:
    • At the start of the story, Mei's friends Abby, Miriam, and Priya are crushing on a store clerk named Devon, but initially Mei doesn't see the appeal, as she thinks he looks like a "hobo" (she only becomes attracted to him later when drawing idealized doodles of him as a merman). Mei then reminds her friends that the 4*Town singers more closely match their ideal of "real men". Her friends then point out that it costs a lot of money to see 4*Town, while Devon is "right there", so they can see him for free.
    • Jin tells Mei that Grandma Wu didn't think he was good enough for Ming.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Mei is clearly upset with her parents when she finds out that they already knew about her red panda transformations without telling her. She later manages to give an even more furious one to her deceased ancestor, Sun Yee, of all people when she learns that she was the originator of their "inconvenience".
    • Mei's friends call her out for refusing to tell Ming the truth about why she attacked Tyler and admit that using the red panda form to fundraise for 4*Town concert tickets was her idea.
    • Ming, the aunties, and Wu all give one to Mei after she decides to keep her red panda form instead of getting rid of it.
    • Wu and the aunties are absolutely livid with Ming when Mei runs off in the middle of the ritual, deciding she wants to keep her panda form.
    • Mei's friends and family are all shocked at Ming after she, in her red panda form, grabs Mei and almost hurts her.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: There are numerous instances of characters irises shrinking to represent surprise or terror, with some noteworthy examples being:
    • Mei, when she's about to snap from the embarrassment of her mother coming to school to bring her pads.
    • Mei realizing that Tyler has put up embarrassing posters of her crush on Devon all over the school.
    • Miriam, Priya, and Abby when they see Mei's panda form for the first time.
    • Mei after realizing that Stacy had caught her in her panda form (and Stacy, reacting to Mei's panda form).
    • Tae-young in the closing photo of all the cast together, when Abby jumps on his back.
    • Taken to an extreme when Mei is hiding in the shower and thinks her mother is about to see her in her red panda form: her irises shrink to tiny black pebbles in eyes so wide they take up almost half her face.
  • Wild Teen Party: Tyler's birthday party is a double subversion. When Mei, who promised to show up in panda form, gets stuck dealing with her visiting family, the party is lame, with some kids trying and failing to have fun. But when she gets a chance to sneak out, she bolts toward the party and gives it the life it was originally supposed to have as the red panda.
  • Wingding Eyes:
    • Whenever characters get particularly emotional during funnier moments, their eyes become large and sparkly with symbols like hearts or stars in them.
    • Mei and her friends all get dollar signs in their eyes when they realize that they can use Mei's red panda form to hustle enough money for tickets to the 4*Town concert.
  • Worms Eye View: After Mei breaks the red moon ritual and runs off to the concert, the camera moves in close to Ming, on her hands and knees, struggling to control her rage. When she stands up, the camera doesn't move with her; it stays low and pivots to look up at her. The worm's-eye perspective makes her look much taller than the rest of the family around her. The end of the shot has the furious Ming in the foreground, standing up rigidly straight with fists clenched and a truly terrifying expression on her face, looming over the others in a way that says "she's out of control" more clearly than any dialogue could.
  • World of Snark: Face it, it's practically impossible to watch this movie without finding a character who's a Deadpan Snarker, with the possible exception of Jin Lee.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • When Priya first appears, she's reading a Twilight pastiche. When she sees Mei's transformation, after calming down from the initial shock, she asks if Mei is a werewolf.
    • When Mei sees her new red panda form in the mirror, she instantly assumes she's become the star in a classic werewolf story, and everyone who sees her new form will be terrified and repulsed by it — her schoolmates, her friends, and even her parents. Fortunately, she's wrong on all counts.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Mei returns to the spirit world after performing the panda ritual on Ming, she meets her mother as a little girl, crying over the fact that she scarred her mother in a violent rage because she felt that she could never be perfect enough for her. Realizing that they're not so different, Mei comforts Ming and tells her that she's perfect enough before walking her back to her family's embrace.
    Mei: I know it feels that way, like, all the time. But... it isn't true.
  • You Are Not Alone:
    • When Mei is alone in her bedroom, struggling to suppress her panda form, her friends come to visit her. Simply by being there, they cheer her up and give her the emotional strength she needs to control the panda transformation.
    • When Mei meets her mother on the astral plane, and gives Ming the support she needs to break out of her despair, this dynamic is definitely at work between them.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is Mei's reaction to her parents' news that her transformation is a hereditary thing. In the trailer, she uses the trope name almost word for word before attempting to shred the family tapestry with her claws. In the movie proper, her words are different but the sentiment is the same:
    Mei: Are... you... serious?!
  • Your Tradition Is Not Mine: The long-standing tradition among the Lee family is to seal their red panda spirits into talismans during a red moon, as everyone sees it as a curse with no upside. By the end of the movie, Mei, having come to appreciate the benefits her new form brought her, breaks this tradition by opting to permanently bond with her red panda spirit instead, meaning she can never seal it away.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Four Town Four Real


"Really talented too."

When Meilin Lee is introducing all of the members of the in-universe boyband, 4-Town, she disregards Aaron T. and Aaron Z. saying the they are "really talented too."

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (28 votes)

Example of:

Main / AndTheRest

Media sources: