With the pandemic, Disney has taken the bad habit of “sacrificing” the latest Pixar feature films originally planned for cinemas. After Drunk and Lukeso it’s the turn ofRed alert to be released exclusively on the Disney+ streaming platform on Friday March 11. A disappointment for the team of Canadian director of Chinese origin Domee Shi and for the studios, whose productions have not been shown on the big screen since Forward in March 2020.
However, the story ofRed alert not lacking in inventiveness. We follow a thirteen-year-old girl nicknamed Mei-Mei, exalted and emotional, in the grip of the torments of adolescence. Torn between her first romantic feelings, her overflowing energy and the strict traditions of her Chinese family, she suddenly changes into an imposing red panda and only manages to resume her normal appearance when she manages to channel her emotions.
In the kitsch Toronto of 2002, punctuated by the hits of boy bands and Tamagotchi but still far from the frenzy of social networks, the young Mei finds refuge in her group of friends and quickly discovers that this transformation into a red panda handed down for several generations from the side within his family. His mother, possessive and intrusive, will then help him follow an ancestral ritual to allow him to free himself definitively from his curse.
Refreshing thanks to an energetic cadence and caustic humour, Red alert stands out from other Pixar films for its ability to break the studio’s usual codes. Well known for its audacity, the company from Emeryville in California pushes the slider of extravaganza further than usual, thanks to the creativity of its director and the female production team that surrounds her.
Domee Shi, already at the origin of the short film Bao (2018), is freely inspired here by the Japanese references that have marked his career, from Sailor Moon animated films from Studio Ghibli, such as My Neighbor Totoro Where Spirited away. There is even Ranma 1/2 in these deliberately overplayed expressions, these improbable metamorphores and these big manga eyes which exacerbate the emotions of characters.
The metaphor of the hairy, crazy, angry red panda to illustrate the transformation of a thirteen-year-old teenager in the middle of puberty works wonderfully. Even if the theme has already been explored by Pixar in the film Vice versa in 2015, Domee Shi delivers here a work rich in childhood memories and symbols. “The red panda is the perfect image of the upheaval that I experienced like all the others at this age. There are these hairs which appear everywhere, and then this red which will represent both love, the nascent desire , anger and of course the first period. These are difficult times but I wanted to show through this film that we all survive them”explains the 33-year-old director during the presentation ofRed alert to the French press.
True trademark of the studio, Pixar thus delivers with its 26th feature film a new film with several readings. Even if children will appreciate the facial expressions and pranks of the red panda, it is rather teenagers and their parents who will find themselves through this modern tale. Between the need for emancipation on the one hand and the desire to keep some control over one’s offspring on the other, the entry into “the stupid age” as the director points out, is treated there with as much second degree as benevolence, for teenagers as for adults.
Led by three songs by the new American pop star Billie Eilish – which perfectly translate the effervescence that there was around the groups in the 2000s -, the disturbed evolution of Mei-Mei makes it possible to question for almost an hour and a half on self-acceptance and how to deal with change. Without reaching the heights of a Vice versa in terms of emotion, without being either the most beautiful of the Pixar feature films in terms of graphics and animation, Red alert worth the detour for the daring choices of its director. Domee Shi delivers a very personal, feminine and inspired film, which would undoubtedly have deserved a chance in cinemas, now freed from health constraints.
Gender: Animation, family, comedy
Director: Domee Shi
French dubbing: Jaynelia Coadou, Yumi Fujimori, Lou Lévy, Isabelle Gardien
Country : United States
Duration : 1h40
Exit in France : March 11, 2022 on Disney+
Distributer : Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios
Synopsis : The adventures of Meilin Lee, a 13-year-old teenager, full of confidence, but torn between her image as a model little girl in the eyes of her overprotective mother and the chaos of adolescence. And as if all the changes taking place in her weren’t enough, every time she is overwhelmed by her emotions – which, for a teenager, happens almost all the time – she transforms into a giant red panda!