Disney’s “Turning Red” Turned Me Red

{Author’s note: I absolutely recognize that this is a great film to show to a coming-of-age kid already completely aware of the birds and the bees. My perspective is that of a mother of the typical young Pixar audience who is nowhere near the age of puberty. If you are looking for a different perspective, please see what New Orleans Mom writer Jaime has to say about why she loves this film here.}

Disney’s “Turning Red” Turned Me Red

It’s Friday night, which in our house means a good old fashioned Family Movie Night. Over the last several weeks, we have seen the advertisements for the new Pixar film Turning Red coming out. We were very excited because, honestly, when has Disney and Pixar ever let us down?! The popcorn was ready, the lights were dimmed, and we were all set for a fun, familial time. However, about 20 minutes into the awkward film, I found myself questioning if I should turn the movie off because much like the pre-pubescent main character, I, too, was flooded with emotions resulting in anger, disappointment, and concern.

Disney deceived us.

Just as with every movie, I checked the rating and we watched the trailer first. We were led to believe this would be a comical film, a film that would highlight Chinese culture, embracing one’s quirks, and big cute furry animals. What we were sold on, wasn’t what we got. Yes, there were quirks, but not the typical Goofy / Donald Duck kind – more like the teenage girly ones that derive from puberty. I’m pretty sure that if my boys knew what they were getting themselves into, they would have opted for a different movie. The kids didn’t laugh much during this “comedy,” and there were questions that I had to answer such as “What are those?” (referring to the Kotex pads) and “Why is her mother so mad?” (when Mei Lee’s mother threatens the store clerk’s life for taking advantage of her innocent little girl). NONE of these topics were even hinted anywhere in the trailer or description. My kids and I just weren’t prepared for what we got ourselves into.

Let’s Talk About Sex

I’m not an overly conservative person when it comes to mature content in movies. I’ve let my kids watch PG-13 movies dozens of times. I absolutely intend to discuss periods and sex with all of my kids but on my time and at a much more appropriate age other than 3, 5, and 7. Heck! My 9 year old even knows exactly where babies come from and how they’re born. It’s easy enough to assume the title of this movie is literally about a red panda, but when the topic of a girl getting her period comes up, multiple times, I have the A-Ha moment! Ok, Disney, I see what you did there, but how’s about a little HEADS UP?! At the first mentioning of the Kotex pads, ok, I thought maybe it was a little adult humor. But then, Mei Lee’s mother makes a huge deal about the pads waving them about because she thought her daughter left them at home while she’s on her period. Ok, so this wasn’t just subtle adult humor; this movie is going there, I realized. My kids had questions at this moment.

Talking about periods wasn’t on the agenda for this carefree evening. And, honestly, it isn’t on the agenda anytime soon for my little girls. Having these conversations, in the middle of a movie, I might add, is just as hard on them as it is on me. Yes, I was blindsided with having to address this topic, but so were they. Is my 5 year old daughter supposed to just accept the fact that she’ll bleed from her vagina every month for years to come to prepare her body to have sex and have babies and then finish the hour and a half of the fun family movie?! As if! I remember those conversations with my own mother. I cried … seriously. It can be a scary, uncertain, and serious topic — not something to briefly explain in the middle of an animated movie. It’s just not the family dialogue we should have during this lighthearted evening or even in the first 5 years of life, to be honest.

Boy crazy much?

The scene in this “family” movie that really got me wondering if I should continue to watch with the kids is when Mei Lee is alone in her room, fantasizing about the cute boy from the Daisy Mart. She finds herself drawing pictures of him, detailing his muscles and his abs. Suddenly she’s hiding under the bed with her drawings and starts drawing faster and faster and faster as she gets bug-eyed, panting heavily. I immediately perked up from the couch and was ready to hit the remote because I honestly wasn’t sure where Disney was going with this scene next. The insinuation was a bit uncomfortable for me sitting next to my little girls.

To intensify the awkward scene, Mei Lee’s mother finds her drawings and gets disgusted as she turns the notebook sideways and upside down to view the center-folded, inappropriate drawings as if she just found her daughter’s porn stash from under her bed. Words like “sicko” and “sexy” were thrown around in these moments of the movie. Now, I 100% recognize that my girls will have crushes (my 5 year old girl has already begun that phase), and I can absolutely appreciate that time in her life where she becomes a bit flirtatious and likes boys, but she doesn’t need to see Mei Lee getting so wrapped up in her feelings, hiding her intense feelings from her mother, and then getting shamed for it. I think it’s cute and quite innocent when my daughter comes home to tell me how the cute boy from class chased her on the playground, but I feel like this movie could’ve tainted that. It was a bit extreme for my daughter to see a little girl taking her thoughts to that level on the screen.

The other female characters in the movie seem to be a bit obsessive with boys themselves. I mean, a couple of characters mention “gyrating” one’s hips multiple times when it comes to feeling those feelings toward boys. Why do I need to make the connection of crushes to private areas with my little kids? A crush is just a crush to them right now, nothing more. This movie suggested it can definitely lead to something more. The same girls who “gyrate” in the movie literally drool over boys throughout the entire film whether it’s the boy-band they’re hustling money to see, the older store clerk, or some boys playing basketball. I mean, they actually catcall at the boys from the bleachers. Liking boys and flirting is completely natural and normal, but do we really need to teach our girls that’s it’s ok and even a little funny to do the same thing we’ve been trying to teach our sons NOT to do? Pick a political correctness here, Disney.

At the end of the day, the humor just went over their heads.

What was meant to be funny for a youthful audience, wasn’t. Mature content aside, the 2002 setting had no appeal to my kids either – Tamagotchis and CDs are things of the past that I don’t think my kids have a clue about. Now, this is the one fraction of the movie I actually did personally enjoy because I thought the satirical boyband bit was spot-on and did bring me back to my own 13 year old girl feels, but my own kids couldn’t relate and quite frankly were unimpressed and not entertained.

Call my kids sheltered; call me uptight; call me naïve; make all the excuses. But, Disney did not need to force me to have these mature conversations with my kids. When advertised on Disney+ as a cute furry panda, of course the little ones are going to beg to watch. But when the cute furry panda, forces my kids to understand things their little minds just aren’t ready to grasp, it definitely leaves me feeling duped and my kids slightly corrupted. I give this movie two RED angry faces. The kids didn’t appreciate it and Mommy couldn’t handle it. I highly recommend doing your own research on the film before turning this one on for the family.

Tell us, what did YOU think of the movie???

Jennifer Gonzales
Wife to my high school sweetheart, Ross, and mother to 5 children: Trip, Conner, McKenzie, Piper, and Sutton, I am a born and raised Southern Louisiana Lady. I am a graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy, received my Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed. from LSU followed by my Master’s of Education from UNO, and for the past 15 years, I have been outwitting high school boys as an English teacher at Holy Cross School. When I’m not grading papers, driving to baseball practices, or making grocery runs, I can be found cheering on my LSU Tigers, cutting up with my girlfriends, and attempting DIY projects around the home. I’m all about sippin’ some wine during the sunset while the kiddos play in the yard and the hubby works the grill. I’m living my best mommy life these days and am always happy to share the journey with others!


  1. My 8 year old daughter saw this and had no questions because she already knows about periods – she’s seen me deal with that before as her mom, personally I don’t think we should be keeping them in a bubble about what to expect when their bodies develop. It was fine. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • I agree that we should teach girls about their bodies. The author even said her 9 year old was aware, but she had other younger children.

      I’m glad I read the review and don’t think this movie will be appropriate for my 4 year old at this time.

      • For what it’s worth, my four year old watched the entire thing and didn’t have one question: most of those things just didn’t resonate with her or went over her head. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. I’m sorry people are being so incredibly rude about this post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I don’t think most parents expect an animated movie with a panda to be about menstruation and puberty, so it’s appreciated to get your perspective before I spend 2 hours on it. I assumed it was a little kids movie, too, when I first saw it being relentless advertised on Disney+.

    • Yes, it was very unexpected for me! Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your warm thoughts with me. Much appreciated.

  3. We for sure are skipping this one. We used to look forward to Disney movies but lately it seems like they are constantly putting things in that my kids do not need to be exposed to. Thanks for the review.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to write this review. I really appreciate the heads up about the content concerns and I’m sorry you got so many negative comments.

  5. My 7 year old son saw it and loved jit. He has a general sense about periods because I have them and don’t hide them from him. We talk openly about our bodies and how they work.

    If we can watch Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars—filled with shooting and violence—he’s not going to be harmed by thinking about a girl menstruating or crushing on someone.

  6. I agree whole heartedly! It’s not so much the movie, itself, but what was advertised vs what was delivered. PG is the same rating as Frozen! This is no Frozen. I watched early Friday with my son (5) who was home sick. He just saw the cute panda, but I’ve warned my whole family not to watch it with my daughter. Too much sex. Too much “my panda, my choice.” If it at least had a higher rating, we’d know to check into it more before watching. I don’t know who rated it, but they didn’t watch the movie or they don’t know any REAL children.

    • Yes, I couldn’t believe this was the same rating as Frozen. That’s what really threw me! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  7. I feel like you should always screen a kids movie prior to watching them with young kids. Especially if you don’t know how to address the topic with younger kids. It literally comes with a rating and then you save yourself from having to show your kids such OBSCENE topics like maxi pads and periods. Or gyrating. I guess we forgot about the Elvis days… or even Backstreet Boys? If there’s one lesson you should learn is helicopter parenting and sheltering your kids will just get them to lie later in life.

    • Yes, unfortunately, Elvis was before my time and I was in high school when the Backstreet Boys were a thing. I definitely agree with you in that we’ve had plenty of pop culture that promotes “gyrating” – I was never exposed to that at ages 3 and 5 though. But, I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts and for reading my article! 🙂

  8. Sorry, but not every movie is going to be tailored to your exact specifications, and it seems like a quick Google search could have prevented you from the truly heinous task of having to talk to your kids about a normal bodily function experienced by over half the human population at some point in their lives. What exactly is so “adult” about menstruation? Plenty of girls start their periods around 9-10, and shrouding it in secrecy will only make them feel like it’s something dirty or “bad” that they have to hide. And maybe if boys get introduced to the topic early, they won’t grow into men who are so fragile and terrified of women’s bodies that they can’t even handle hearing the word “tampon” without needing a damn fainting couch.

    • I do agree with you that boys can start to learn about these things early as well. Like I said in the article, my 9yo learned all about the birds and the bees at the very young age of 7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for reading my article.

  9. I only have sons – 7,4 & 1 – and they were not traumatized by seeing an animated box of pads because they (the older ones at least) already know about periods and puberty. Not in the doom and gloom way you presented it, but just as a matter of course.

    “Your body will keep growing and changing until you become an adult. Part of those changes will be things you can see, like growing more body hair, and part will be things that happen inside your body that you’ll mostly be aware of for how they make you feel.”
    “Oh ok.”
    The end.

    The beauty of “Turning Red” that you are missing is that it is an accurate depiction of what it means to be an awkward newly minted teenage girl. Having some sort of reference point for the not far of future when your daughter finds herself feeling emotionally out of check or scared by her concurrent desire to separate from you and need to feel you holding her close *could* be a huge comfort to her.

    • Yes. I 100% agree in the beauty of the movie. It is absolutely a wonderful movie for that age group! Thank you so much for reading the article and sharing your thoughts with us!


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