What is the meaning of Turning Red’s Chinese chanting and how did Pixar do it

Viewers follow Animated movies by Pixar Turn red may end up wondering what exactly the characters are saying in the two main sequences where they begin chanting in Cantonese. In a scene from the animated film, 13-year-old protagonist Mei, who begins to transform into a giant red panda whenever she gets emotional, sits down to perform a family ritual aimed at controlling her inner panda. Parents, grandmothers and other family members chant rhythmically to initiate that ritual. In the later part of the film, the story is re-enacted in a different setting. The words have no subtitles, even in the various Chinese translations of the film.

“What are they saying?” Mei asks Mr. Gao (voiced by James Hong), who leads the ceremony. It didn’t really matter, he told her – the ceremony only required the participants to sing from the heart. “It doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Gao. “I like Tony Bennett. But your grandma, she’s from alma mater. ”

But Directed by Domee Shi and producer Lindsey Collins couldn’t just let the cast sing anything random – they had to develop their own songs for the movie. The couple told Polygon that a lot of work was done to get the ceremony right.

“We were really inspired by the Taoist suttas that monks would do in Taoist temples,” Shi said. “At first, we wanted to see if there was an existing Taoist chant that we could use. But then we thought, because this family is so special, the situation is so unique – this clan has a magical panda curse running through them! – we should come up with our own song for it. “

Shi wanted to ensure that a native speaker was involved in the development of the lyrics, so she and her team contacted Herman Wong, Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific operations manager. for Disney Character Voices International, the Disney division handling the translation and dubbing services. She said she didn’t remember the exact wording of the ritual, because it was a translation of a passage Wong helped them find.

“We knew it had to be in Cantonese, because the family is Cantonese,” she said. “He helped us translate a poem, a hymn of protection, with lyrics about looking out for this girl, guiding her on her journey. He helped us create this rhyming hymn.”

Aerial view of the panda control ritual in Pixar's Turning Red

Image: Pixar Animation Studios

The next step is to make sure the voice cast – which includes Sandra Oh and Ho-Wai Ching as Mei’s mother and grandmother – is comfortable with the poem and makes it sound like something of an antiquated family. family passed down for centuries.

“We worked with a Cantonese speaking coach, Andy. We love him,” Shi said. “He worked very closely with each actor and actress when it came time to record the song.”

At the film’s climax (vandals ahead!), the family repeats the song, this time to take control of Mei’s mother panda after she hurt herself, rebelling against the rebellion. in Mei’s adolescence. In the final climax, the hymn incorporates scores by Ludwig Göransson and “Nobody Like U,” one of the songs siblings Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell wrote for Turn redmost popular boy band 4 * Town.

Shi said: “It was funny, we had the idea of ​​combining the hymn with the 4* Town music and the orchestra, and hopefully it all came together. “But it was still a shot in the dark. That’s a lot, like, ‘I don’t know, maybe this will work?’ “

“And then Ludwig was great,” Collins said. “He said, ‘Okay, so if the 4*Town song is on this pivotal song, let’s do this -‘ He worked with us to make sure it was on a rhythm. Well, we’re doing what needs to be done so he can produce the remix. You know, he’s also a pop record producer, in addition to being a composer. So he was able to put the song into his own system, along with the 4* Town song, and do this amazing remix where we were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s like that. work!’ But I think it works because he’s a magician. I’m not sure it works because to be magician. ”

Turn red currently streaming on Disney Plus.

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