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Meet ‘Turning Red’ Animators Benjamin Su & Bruce Kuei

by Neil Bui

Dorkaholics had the opportunity to interview a pair of the animators (Benjamin Su and Bruce Kuei) who worked on the upcoming film Turning Red. The movie premieres on Disney+ this Friday (March 11). 

While Dorkaholics Chris Im wrote in his review that it may be difficult for some to relate to the film, our recent conversation with Su and Kuei indicate that there will be something for everyone in this film.

Neil Bui (NB): It’s great to meet you, Benjamin and Bruce. I’m really excited to talk to you about Turning Red. My first question is for Benjamin, what was it like bringing these characters to life?

Benjamin Su (BS): For animators, it’s always exciting ‘cause there’s so many characters in this film. You know Mei, her friends, mom, the pandas. As animators we love to wear different hats and play  with the different personalities of these characters. All of that was really exciting.

NB: For Bruce, what was the process like for you adding the emotions and movement to the characters?

Bruce Kuei (BK): I was able to add a little bit of my own mother’s mannerisms into certain expressions, the aunties I grew up with, my grandma, because all these characters are doing similar things to what they would do and behaving how they would behave. I was able to put in a lot of my own experiences of what I see my relatives do, of how they act, into these characters.

NB: That’s amazing that you got to really bring reality into fiction in that way. I’m curious for both of you, what aspects of the film, the characters, or themes do you find yourselves relating to or identifying with?

BS: For me, it’s Mei’s relationship with her mother. I also had a very strict mom growing up, so I can totally relate. Especially at that age, your parents always think you know that they know what’s best for you. And it’s really hard to get your voice and opinions to matter in those conversations. There’s that struggle of what’s more important, your parents or your friends. There’s always that balance, so I really related to that aspect of the film.

BK: For me, it’s seeing how some things are just passed down from generation to generation, especially seeing how a lot of Ming raises Mei came from how she was raised by grandma, and seeing how there some things that are not applicable anymore, that don’t work anymore, and she really needs to raise Mei in her own way and kind of break that cycle, if you will. That really resonated with me, just seeing how everybody has their best intentions, but you do need to realize that there are still [things] I need to learn and grow.

NB: I’m curious in your opinions, who or what audiences do you see really enjoying seeing  Turning Red?

BS: I feel like this is such a universal film, there’s so many themes that everyone can enjoy, but I definitely feel like the Asian community will definitely relate to this more because there’s a lot of moments where we try to stay true to the culture. There’s so many moments like making the dumplings together as a family, the mother daughter relationship, the struggles with friendships as well when you’re growing around that 13-year-old age. There’s an added layer of enjoyment if you’re coming from the Asian culture.

BK: For me, I think teengers especially, like this is the one film that I can honestly say that we didn’t really shy away from what it means to be a teenager, like all of the trial and tribulations of being attracted to the opposite sex and trying to find your independence from your parents. It’s kind of messy, that time period. And this film doesn’t really shy away from just how crazy and messy that process can be. So I hope that teeenagers can watch this movie and feel like it’s really relatable. 

NB: My last question, a little bit similar, but who will each of you be taking to go see Turning Red in theaters?

BS: Unfortunately, it’s not out in theaters, it’ll be on Disney+. We will be watching this on Disney+, we’ll be watching with the entire family, including my parents as well.

BK: Definitely can’t wait to watch it with my mom, especially because I put some of her mannerisms into the shots I’ve animated. And when those shots go on screen, I kind of want to peek over at her to see if she’ll be able to recognize herself, or if she’ll be like ‘who would do something like that?’

NB: I imagine that’s going to be really funny. Thank you so much, Benjamin, Bruce. Really appreciate your time today!

Turning Red will be available on Disney+ on March 11.

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