Turning Red

We’re blushing: Pixar’s latest release Turning Red is set in Toronto

Toronto’s very own Oscar winner Domee Shi is about to put Toronto on the world stage. The Sheridan College graduate’s feature-length directorial debut Turning Red takes place in Toronto and will become the first full-length animated Disney movie set in Canada when it releases in Spring 2022.

Shi gave the world its first taste of Turning Red on Tuesday, with a two-minute trailer packed full of nods to her hometown. Let’s go over some of the Canadiana that Shi showcased in the teaser for this soon-to-be Canadian classic.

Lester B. Pearson Middle School

The opening shot immediately lets us know that this film will be Canadian through and through. An establishing shot of a “Lester B. Pearson Middle School” is shown with a pair of Canadian flags gently waving in the breeze. While there is no school bearing the former Prime Minister’s name in downtown Toronto, there is a Lester B. Pearson Elementary School that also houses Grade 7 and 8 students in North York.

Canadianisms. Everywhere. 

The second scene of the trailer features even more Canadiana. We get our first introduction to our toque-wearing main character, Mei, in a classroom adorned with a poster celebrating the 1980 Winter Games. There is also a hockey helmet tucked away on the top shelf in the right-hand corner. Another student whose interest is piqued by Mei’s mom peering into the classroom can also be seen wearing a maple leaf on their shirt.

The big stuff

For all of the hints that Shi crammed into the first minute of the trailer, it was the scene of red panda Mei running across the roofs that confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a Toronto film. As Mei runs crying across some rooftops, the CN Tower and Rogers Centre are clearly visible in the distance.

Graffiti Alley?

As Mei jumps between two buildings, we get a glimpse of some kids playing basketball on the classic patchwork pavement of Toronto’s alleys. A green dragon is painted on one of the walls, as well as the tag of the artist on the backboard. Given that the story seems to be set just west of downtown, could this be Toronto’s famed Graffiti Alley? Also, it’s worth noting that one of the kids is wearing a blue and white hockey jersey, quite possibly a shoutout to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

One last clue

As Mei continues to break for home after suffering her unwanted transformation, she jumps clear across a bustling street strung with red paper lanterns. At first glance, this could be any street in the world. But, upon closer inspection, one clue gives it away: the streetcar tracks. Inlaid into the pavements are those four iron rails that are a hallmark of downtown Toronto’s streets. Depending on orientation, this has to be either Spadina Avenue or Dundas Street West.

A final farewell

When Mei makes it home, she calms down enough to temporarily regain her human form. Out of the pink cloud of dust emerges Mei clad in a shirt with a maple leaf on it. However, this glimpse doesn’t last long, as she quickly morphs back into the anxiety-plagued red panda.

Domee Shi’s Turning Red hits theatres in Spring 2022.

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