EMERYVILLE, Calif. — It’s a sunny but chilly morning as Dami Shea and Lindsay Collins walk around Pixar’s animation studios in Emeryville, California.
It’s a moment of peace for both women, who have spent the last month receiving awards for their work on the animated film Blush.
This year, the film is nominated for an Oscar.
An Oscar win would be historic for Shea, who became the first woman to helm a Pixar feature film. Collins is nominated as a producer.
They both credit a mostly female lead team for a bold story about a young girl going through puberty.
“It didn’t seem taboo to us because we’ve all been through it. So I think you’re going to start seeing more of these stories that push the boundaries of taboo because the storytellers are so different now,” Shea said.
Collins worked on the Oscar-winning films Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and WALL-E.
But this is its first Oscar nomination because the producers were not included in the Best Animated Feature category until 2013. She sees Shea as the next generation of Pixar storytellers.
“I think this generation has a willingness to talk more openly about other things. We try to be very careful about making sure we’re telling a variety of stories and different types of stories,” Collins said.
“Turning Red” is definitely breaking barriers.
It tells the story of a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl as she navigates the anxieties and emotions of puberty, as well as a family inheritance that transforms her into a giant red panda.
“This is a small step toward normalizing puberty for girls, or just puberty in general,” Shi said. “Growing up is messy, hairy, horny, and weird. But we’ve all been through it, and that’s totally okay and normal.”
Collins said the production staff was able to draw on their own experiences growing up as young girls.
“We had no idea about some of the more daring and radical scenes in the film, which are terrifying. I think we’ve all felt like we’ve had those moments,” Collins explained.
Shea received letters from fans, many of them young girls, thanking her for the film and helping them through a difficult time.
Making the film during the pandemic was a special challenge. The team had to spend a lot of time in isolation at home and communicate via video calls.
The US theatrical release was then canceled in January 2022 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, forcing the film to go straight to broadcast.
Shea and the rest of the team skipped the personal media tour. So now Shea is reveling in award ceremonies.
“It’s just such a surreal and amazing experience to be able to just go there and meet the other nominees,” Shea said. “To talk to people like Cate Blanchett, who watched it with her kids and loved it. I can’t believe this is happening.”
Shea is not new to the red carpet. In 2019, she won an Oscar for an animated short film Baoabout a mother suffering from empty nest syndrome.
Shea used her moment on the Oscar stage to send a message to future storytellers.
“To all the nerdy girls hiding behind their albums, don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world,” Shea said as she picked up her Oscar statuette at the 2019 Academy Awards.
She’s excited that “Turning Red” is nominated in a year when “Everything Everywhere All Once” is getting so much attention.
Essentially, both films are about a mother-daughter relationship in a Chinese immigrant family.
“I look at them as our big sister compared to our film. It could be a really fun double feature,” said Shea, who is working on the new project.
This is not a sequel to Blushing. Shea won’t say what it’s about, but she won’t say another movie about a mother-child relationship.
“After making Bao, I realized that I still have things I want to unpack in my relationship with my mom, but after a short film and a feature film, I think I’m good,” she said with a laugh.
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