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Turning Red’s deleted debate scene would have changed the movie’s tone

Watch an exclusive clip here, as protagonist Mei and her frenemy Tyler trade insults as they run for class president

Detail from an unused animatic from Turning Red, a loose pencil and ink sketch of Mei in red panda form, running from a crowd at school, crying Image: Pixar Animation Studios via Polygon
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

The Blu-ray and DVD edition of Pixar’s joyously strange anime-inspired movie Turning Red arrives on May 3, and the package includes some surprisingly substantiative deleted scenes. As usual for Pixar movies, Turning Red clearly went through significant story changes during its years in development. The deleted scenes, voiced by the actors and developed as far as the animatic stage, show some of the radically different early story directions director Domee Shi and co-writer Julia Cho took.

Polygon has an exclusive reveal on one of these scenes, a planned sequence where protagonist Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang) would have been running for class president against her obnoxious school rival, Tyler Nguyen-Baker (Tristan Allerick Chen). As the complete four-minute version of this clip from the Blu-ray shows, this scene would have taken place after Mei first learns she’s the latest in the line of Lee women who turn into giant red pandas when they experience strong emotions. So as Tyler baits and publicly mocks her, she’s at risk of exposing her panda transformation to her entire class for the first time.

Note that in this scene, she’s wearing her junior power suit with the exaggerated shoulder pads — the same suit she wears in the completed film for her presentation to her parents about why she should be allowed to attend a concert by 4*Town, the boy band she and her four best friends are all obsessed with.

In the full clip, though, Mei winds up throwing caution to the winds when Tyler repeatedly mocks 4*Town as a terrible trash band, and she deliberately turns into a giant panda to attack him, as her friends desperately try to hold her back. The complete cut scene would have changed the tone of the movie somewhat, with a fart joke, more childish insults and heightened emotion (Mei sneers at Tyler here for “flunking bio,” because he’s getting a mere B-), and Mei deliberately setting out to use her panda power to assault someone in public.

But the scene also would have provided more setup for the Mei/Tyler rivalry that runs throughout the film, and for the eventual reveal about how Tyler really feels about 4*Town. Like so many deleted scenes, it feels inessential to the point where cutting it makes sense, but it’s also a fun look at an alternate path for the story, and a different sense of development for the characters.

Turning Red will be available for digital rental on April 26, and the Blu-ray/DVD set will be available May 3.

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