Why Turning Red Director Domee Shi Thought Bootylicious Was The Perfect Song For A Pivotal Scene

Today's the day we can experience the joy of Pixar's latest, "Turning Red," another homerun from the heralded animation studio, courtesy of Domee Shi, writer, and director of the acclaimed short film "Bao."

Not too long ago, she condensed the bittersweet realities of motherhood into a fantastical tale of a dumpling coming to life, so you won't be shocked to learn that "Turning Red" also weaves magic into a universal tale of self-discovery. Other than one very minor detail, our lead character, Mei (Rosalie Chiang) is just your average 13-year-old girl! She harbors young crushes, doodles during class, fangirls about boybands, and appreciates the power of a good pop song like, for example, Destiny Child's "Bootylicious." Oh, and when she gets a little too excited she turns into a giant red panda. You know, teenager stuff.

Mei, can you handle this?

As you can imagine, going from a tiny preteen girl to a fluffy kaiju-esque creature can be a mildly traumatic experience, and certainly takes some adjustment on Mei's part. It certainly doesn't help that she's also juggling a complicated relationship with her overprotective mother (voiced by Sandra Oh) and all the other pains of being 13. So at the very least, it's a good thing she has just the soundtrack for the occasion! The early 2000s were a magical time for pop hits. Boy bands were thriving, as Mei and her friends will frequently remind you throughout the film, and it also marked the rise of Queen Bey. By 2002, Destiny's Child were enjoying their big breakthrough, with their massive hit "Bootylicious" topping charts left and right — which is just one of the reasons that Domee Shi took special care to get the song featured in "Turning Red." According to Shi, the Destiny's Child hit worked perfectly for a pivotal transformational moment in Mei's journey. Per Variety, Shi said:

"She's finally getting comfortable with her body and celebrating it. It's about confidence. It was also funny to see a giant red panda dancing to that song."

Two wins for the price of one! Not only does Mei have the anthem of a generation to help her get hyped and comfortable in her new, red panda body — she also has the perfect rhythm for breaking out into a chaotic dance scene! I haven't yet had the pleasure of enjoying this inspirational sequence, but the thought of our bubbly protagonist embracing her confidence whilst icons Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams whisper, "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" is guaranteed to make me cry.

"Turning Red," which was co-scripted by Julia Cho, also features a score from Ludwig Göransson, along with songs on the soundtrack written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell. Their original songs are performed by the biggest boyband in the world of "Turning Red," and the object of Mei's adoration, 4*Town. Here's Disney's official synopsis for the film:

Turning Red introduces Mei Lee, a confident, dorky teenager torn between staying her mother's dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships, and body weren't enough, whenever she gets too excited, she "poofs" into a giant red panda!

"Turning Red" drops exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, March 11, 2022.