With Domee Shi at the helm, ‘Turning Red’ narrates a comedic coming-of-age tale about a spirited school girl who inadvertently turns into a giant red panda every time her emotions run wild. An outstanding student, 13-year-old Mei Lee is all set to set her new school year ablaze when she undergoes a shocking transformation. A unique power runs through her family’s bloodline, which is activated by her surging hormones, turning her into a red panda every time she becomes stressed, anxious, or overly emotional. While her friends are quick to accept her new form, she does her best to hide her fulffy side from everyone else at school.
The 2022 animated movie takes a creative approach to exploring a coming-of-age journey, driven by the infectiously peppy energy of Mei and plenty of humorous moments along the way. The Disney-Pixar film not only presents rich visuals but subtly details the story of a young girl living a life constructed for her by her parents. She diligently follows their instructions until her panda transformations force her to relinquish her perfect self and accept the messiness that comes with life. For those who found solace in the heartfelt storytelling of ‘Turning Red,’ these animated stories offer a similar emotional resonance.
10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021)
‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ directed by Gino Nichele and Swinton O. Scott III, is a relatable animated comedy based on the beloved book series by Jeff Kinney. The film follows the misadventures of Greg Heffley, a middle schooler navigating the ups and downs of adolescence. Alongside his derpy best friend, Rowley, Greg embarks on a series of hilarious escapades, including attempts to become popular, surviving the school talent show, and dealing with his eccentric family members.
As Greg documents his experiences in his diary, fans of ‘Turning Red,’ will be treated to a similarly charming coming-of-age story filled with friendship, laughter, and life lessons. ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ captures the essence of adolescence with its endearing characters and lighthearted humor, making it a delightful watch for those who appreciate similar elements in ‘Turning Red.’
9. Onward (2020)
A Dan Scanlon directorial, ‘Onward’ follows the journey of two elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). Set in a fantastical world where mythical creatures live among humans, the brothers receive a magical staff and a spell to bring back their deceased father for one day. However, their attempt to cast the spell causes only the lower half of their father’s body to appear.
Determined to complete the spell and spend time with their father, Ian and Barley embark on an epic quest filled with danger, discovery, and brotherly bonding. Coming from the same studios as ‘Turning Red,’ ‘Onward’ matches its visual richness and features a star-studded cast. Both films delve into themes of friendship and courage while delivering a truckload of hilarious moments.
8. Elemental (2023)
In the fantastical world of ‘Elemental,’ where beings of fire, water, air, and earth coexist, Ember Lumen, a young fire elemental, faces the challenges of systemic segregation in Element City. As the daughter of immigrants who run The Fireplace bodega, Ember struggles to control her temper while her father expects her to inherit the family business. When a mishap leads to encounters with city inspector Wade Ripple, Ember finds an unexpected ally in her fight to save the Fireplace from closure. The water and fire elementals embark upon a quest to uncover the mysteries of the city and save her shop.
Along the way, they discover an unlikely romance despite the fundamental incompatibility between fire and water. Directed by Peter Sohn, the film explores themes of identity, culture clash, and resilience. Similar to ‘Turning Red,’ ‘Elemental’ wears its heart on its sleeve and contains a strong message of finding one’s own path through life, free of past pressures and societal expectations.
7. Encanto (2021)
Under the direction of Jared Bush, Charise Castro Smith, and Byron Howard, ‘Encanto’ is a vibrant animated film that takes us on a magical journey into the heart of Colombia. The story centers around the Madrigal family, who live in a magical house in the mountains. Each member of the family possesses a unique gift, except for Mirabel, the protagonist. Feeling like an outsider, Mirabel sets out to prove her worth and uncover the truth behind her family’s magical abilities.
However, when the magic of the Encanto begins to fade, threatening the safety of their home, Mirabel realizes that her ordinary nature may hold the key to saving her family. Where Mei stood out for having a unique power, Mirabel feels outcasted by not having one. Both ‘Turning Red,’ and ‘Encanto’ explore themes of family and societal acceptance and are driven by its colorful characters, catchy music, and enchanting animation.
6. Luca (2021)
‘Luca,’ helmed by director Enrico Casarosa, is a heartwarming animated adventure that transports us to the picturesque Italian Riviera. The film follows the journey of a young sea monster named Luca, who dreams of exploring the world above the ocean’s surface. When he ventures onto land, Luca develops a friendship with Alberto, another sea creature who shares his desire for adventure. Together, they embark on a summer filled with excitement and discovery, all while hiding their true identities from the human inhabitants of the coastal town.
As Luca and Alberto immerse themselves in the wonders of the human world, they befriend a local girl and face challenges from others. Much like in ‘Turning Red,’ the fish boys learn valuable lessons about friendship, acceptance, and the excitement of self-discovery. With its vibrant animation and charming characters, ‘Luca’ is a delightful tale that can replicate the magic felt by fans of ‘Turning Red.’
5. The Little Prince (2015)
‘The Little Prince,’ directed by Mark Osborne, is a mesmerizing animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved classic. The film intertwines two narratives: one follows a young girl who befriends her eccentric elderly neighbor, the Aviator, who tells her the story of the Little Prince; the other recounts the timeless tale of the Little Prince himself.
As the Aviator shares the Little Prince’s adventures through the cosmos and encounters whimsical characters like the Fox and the Rose, the girl discovers profound truths about life, love, and the importance of imagination. Just like Mei in ‘Turning Red,’ the young girl is put on a pre-determined path by her mother and discovers the wonders of life with the help of friends and a little magic.
4. Song of the Sea (2014)
With Tomm Moore at the helm, ‘Song of the Sea’ is an artistic animated film that draws inspiration from Irish mythology and folklore. The story centers on a young boy named Ben and his sister Saoirse, who discovers she is a selkie, a mythical creature capable of transforming between human and seal forms. After their mother’s disappearance, the siblings embark on a magical journey to save the faerie world and uncover the secrets of their own heritage.
Along the way, they encounter a host of fantastical creatures and confront their fears. Comparable to ‘Turning Red,’ Saoirse possesses a unique magic that can transform her into an animalistic form, giving her a new perspective on the world. Those who enjoyed the subtle themes of self-discovery and exploration in the former movie will be enraptured by the hauntingly beautiful visuals and emotional depth of ‘Song of the Sea.’
3. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a visually stunning stop-motion animated film that immerses us in a world of magic and adventure. Set in ancient Japan, the story follows the journey of a young boy named Kubo. He possesses the ability to manipulate origami with his shamisen, a magical stringed instrument. After accidentally summoning a vengeful spirit from his past, Kubo sets out on a quest to locate three powerful artifacts that will help him defeat the malevolent forces threatening his family and village.
Along the way, he is joined by unlikely allies, including a talking monkey, and a samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey). Under the direction of Travis Knight, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ weaves a powerful coming-of-age tale like ‘Turning Red.’ If you liked the magical elements and sense of adventure in the latter, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ will blow you away with its fascinating lore and memorable characters.
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Helmed by acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ is a charming animated film that begins when Kiki turns 13, the traditional age for witches to leave home and hone their skills. Accompanied by her black cat, Jiji, Kiki embarks on a year-long apprenticeship in a new town. Armed with her broomstick and her talent for flying, Kiki opens a delivery service to support herself.
As she navigates the challenges of independence and self-discovery, Kiki encounters a colorful cast of characters, including a friendly baker, an artist, and a kind elderly woman. Along the way, she learns about friendship, perseverance, and the importance of believing in oneself. If you liked the coming-of-age themes in ‘Turning Red,’ ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ will delight you with its magic of adolescence and the liberating experience of forging one’s own path in life.
1. Leo (2023)
In the directorial hands of Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, and David Wachtenheim, ‘Leo’ takes us back to middle school from the point of view of two classroom reptiles, the lizard, Leo (Adam Sandler), and the tortoise, Squirtle (Bill Burr). Having been alive for more than half a century, the pets have seen all manner of children pass through their class, and play a game among themselves of profiling every batch.
When Leo is taken home by one of the students as an assignment, Leo inadvertently reveals his ability to talk. He calms the surprised child by claiming that he can speak only to her and gives her life advice that ends up helping her make friends. Soon every student in the class takes turns taking Leo home, as the lizard uses his vast experience to counsel the kids into becoming their best selves. Like ‘Turning Red,’ ‘Leo’ revolves around various issues faced by middle schoolers as they attempt to express themselves. From overbearing parents to superiority complexes, all manner of problems are addressed by the film in a heartfelt manner, making it a must-watch for those who liked ‘Turning Red.’
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