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Ending of Turning Red Explained

The ending of Turning Red shows Mei embracing her red panda form, symbolizing self-acceptance and healing her relationship with her mother.

Pixar’s Turning Red is a colorful and emotional story set in early 2000s Toronto. It follows Mei Lee, a 13-year-old girl who turns into a giant red panda when she feels powerful emotions. This transformation is a family curse. The film explores themes of self-acceptance, generational trauma, and mother-daughter relationships.

Mei’s Transformation

Mei Lee is a high-achieving teenager. She balances school, friendships, and her relationship with her overprotective mother, Ming. One morning, Mei wakes up as a giant red panda. She learns this transformation is a family curse affecting the women in her family during puberty. The curse can be sealed away through a ritual during a red moon. However, Mei starts to embrace her red panda form. She finds it empowering and a true expression of her emotions.

The climax of Turning Red happens at the Toronto SkyDome, where Mei and her friends attend a concert by their favorite boy band, 4*Town. The concert becomes the backdrop for a dramatic showdown between Mei and her mother, Ming, who also transforms into a giant red panda. This battle is both literal and metaphorical, representing the generational conflict and the struggle for self-identity.

The Battle and Reconciliation

During the concert, Mei’s transformation spirals out of control. This leads to a chaotic confrontation with her mother. Ming, with her own unresolved issues, also transforms into a red panda, much larger and more intimidating than Mei’s form. The battle between Mei and Ming is a visual spectacle, filled with humor and heart. It serves as a powerful metaphor for the clash between tradition and individuality.

As the battle peaks, Mei’s friends and the members of 4*Town join forces to help her. Their combined efforts create a harmonious melody that transports Mei and Ming to the astral plane. In this mystical realm, they confront their true selves and their relationship. Mei meets her mother as a young girl, allowing them to connect on a deeper level and understand each other’s fears and desires.

The Red Moon Ritual

The red moon ritual is supposed to seal away the red panda spirit. Mei faces a choice: suppress her red panda form or embrace it as part of her identity. Mei chooses to keep her red panda, symbolizing her acceptance of her emotions and her desire to be true to herself.

This decision creates a rift between Mei and her mother. However, it also opens the door for healing and growth. Ming, seeing her daughter’s bravery and self-acceptance, begins to confront her own fears and insecurities. The ritual, instead of sealing away the red panda, becomes a moment of reconciliation and mutual understanding between Mei and Ming.

Themes and Symbolism

Turning Red explores several themes, including generational trauma, self-acceptance, and the complicatedities of mother-daughter relationships. The red panda symbolizes these themes, representing both the burden of familial expectations and the freedom of self-expression.

Generational Trauma

The film delves into generational trauma, showing how unresolved issues and emotional baggage can be passed down. Ming’s overprotectiveness and high expectations for Mei stem from her own experiences and pressures. The red panda curse is a literal manifestation of this trauma, affecting each generation of women in Mei’s family.


Mei’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance is central to Turning Red. Her decision to embrace her red panda form symbolizes her acceptance of her emotions and her true self. This theme is reinforced by the film’s vibrant animation and the colorful depiction of Mei’s transformation, contrasting with the more subdued and controlled environment of her everyday life.

Mother-Daughter Relationship

The relationship between Mei and Ming is central to the film’s narrative. Their dynamic is characterized by love, conflict, and a deep desire for understanding. The climactic battle and subsequent reconciliation highlight the complicatedities of their relationship, showing how both characters grow and evolve through their experiences.

Cultural Authenticity

Turning Red is set in Toronto, Canada, and features a Chinese-Canadian protagonist. The film’s setting and cultural references add authenticity and specificity to the story. Director Domee Shi drew inspiration from her own experiences growing up in Toronto. This is reflected in the film’s detailed depiction of the city and its diverse culture (Screen Rant).

The film includes several recognizable Toronto landmarks, such as the CN Tower and Kensington Market. It also features cultural references like Tamagotchis and boy bands, popular in the early 2000s. These elements ground the story in a specific time and place, adding to the film’s nostalgic appeal for millennial viewers.

Critical Reception

Turning Red has received positive reviews from critics. They praised its emotional depth, animation style, and cultural authenticity. The film has been described as a “remarkably intimate coming-of-age tale” (Yahoo) and a “bright, colorful, zippy animation” that captures the joy and pain of adolescence (IndieWire).

Critics highlighted the film’s ability to tackle serious themes with humor and heart. The ending, in particular, has been noted for its powerful symbolism and emotional resonance. The reconciliation between Mei and Ming, set against the backdrop of a fantastical battle, has been compared to other poignant moments in Pixar’s filmography, such as the Carl and Ellie montage in Up and the loss of Bing Bong in Inside Out (Collider).


Turning Red is a standout addition to Pixar’s catalog. It offers a fresh and emotionally rich take on the coming-of-age genre. The film’s ending, with its blend of humor, heart, and powerful symbolism, provides a satisfying resolution to Mei’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance. By embracing her red panda form, Mei finds her true self and helps her mother confront her own fears and insecurities. This poignant and uplifting conclusion reinforces the film’s central themes of self-acceptance, generational trauma, and the complicatedities of mother-daughter relationships.

In summary, Turning Red is a stunningly crafted film that resonates with audiences of all ages. Its ending, with its blend of fantastical elements and emotional depth, leaves a lasting impression and serves as a testament to Pixar’s storytelling prowess.


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