When narrative transitions occur, they sometimes follow the world and seem smooth, or they try and engineer the future and are jagged. I think this is the latter.
Superficially, this film extends the Disney effort to cover all ethnicities with princess characters. It makes business sense to have a modern Chinese girl, and let the magic be what it is. What’s new are three things, each of which is done poorly I think.
Almost every coming of age cartoon has a problematic father. Here it is a problematic mother. I have encountered numerous Asian mothers very much like this, but that doesn’t take away the sting of the stereotype. I suppose I should applaud the gender balance, but if they want to be introspective enough to shift, they should be sufficiently introspective to fix the stereotype.
The trigger here is menarche; the metaphor is ’turning red’, and the cinematic device is a presumably a more feral animal. The overlap of the three is ‘explained’ but the cosmology is forced. Compare this to the magic of ‘Luca’ or Moana’ which seemed deep, organic and penetrated the world. This is a sloppy device. It is hard to imagine it passing the legendary Pixar scrums.
But the thing that bothered me was the rendering. I saw this in streaming form on a good device. I understand it was rendered with a new process influenced by Dreamworks’ cheaper methods that set static 2D planes behind the three D space.
The lack of depth was disturbingly obvious when they did this. Often, this was during scenes with a lot of motion, presumably because we wouldn’t notice. But that was where the lack of depth was most obvious to this simple viewer.
These were some jokes, and my 9 and 10 year old boys were pleased enough. But I think this was a jumble. It never would have passed Pixar muster even a couple years ago.
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.