Many movies have been filmed in Toronto, but the city usually isn’t playing itself.
You can see glimpses of Yonge Street and Lakeshore Boulevard in 2016’s Suicide Squad, as the setting for the gritty Midway City; Sherway Gardens stood in for a suburban Chicago mall in Mean Girls; and Toronto’s Greektown in The Danforth neighbourhood also stood in for Chicago.
In Disney Pixar’s new animated film Turning Red, the city finally gets a starring role, and the mostly Canadian cast is ecstatic.
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In a press conference on Tuesday, Sandra Oh, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Hyein Park gushed about spotting Toronto Easter eggs in the film.
The movie follows Meilin Lee, a confident and dorky Chinese Canadian teenager experiencing the ups and downs of adolescence. Her protective mother, Ming, is always on her tail — quite literally. As if changes to her interests, relationships, and body weren’t enough, whenever Meilin gets too excited, she “poofs” into a giant red panda.
All of this chaos ensues on the vibrant streets of Toronto in the early 2000s.
“For me, it was really cool to just see…the good old Skydome instead of the Rogers Centre,” said Ramakrishnan, who voices Priya, one of Meilin’s best friends. “That’s a throwback.”
Ramakrishnan, who also stars in the hit Netflix comedy series Never Have I Ever, is from Mississauga.
“It was really cool to see, like, okay, this is where I grew up,” she added.
The new Pixar movie Turning Red is set in 2003 Toronto and it is my pleasure to announce the name SKYDOME is part of the Disney canon pic.twitter.com/UvyBOjQ05R
— ℳatt (@matttomic) February 20, 2022
Golden Globe Award Winner Oh, who voices Meilin’s protective and slightly overbearing mother, excitedly chimed in. The Killing Eve star grew up in Nepean, Ontario, a city just outside of Ottawa.
“I saw [Meilin’s] opening montage and I was like, ‘That is the corner of Spadina and Dundas!'” exclaimed Oh. “I know what that corner is!”
When asked what the Canadian actors were most excited to see of the animated version of the city they grew up in, Park, who plays Meilin’s friend Abby, immediately pointed to an iconic Toronto landmark.
“The first thing I noticed was the CN Tower,” she said. Park says she immigrated to Canada as a teenager. Not only is she a voice actor for Pixar, but she’s also a story artist, having worked on films like Soul, Toy Story 4, and Bao.
Ramakrishnan adds that she enjoys the subtle references to Toronto in the movie like seeing a blue jay to represent the city’s baseball team.
She even caught a small detail alluding to the city’s NBA team.
“Or even like the young boys wearing like a purple basketball jersey. It’s like, ‘Oh, okay, I see what you’re doing.’ Not the red and black we have now for the Raptors, it’s the purple,” she said.
Other Toronto features include the old TTC streetcars, the colourful storefronts in Kensington Market, Daisy Mart convenience stores, a box of Tim Hortons Timbits and one of the world’s most photographed skylines.
Director Domee Shi, who won an Oscar for her Disney Pixar short film Bao, says these Easter eggs come from her memories growing up in the city. She said they talked to a lot of cultural consultants, some of whom are from Toronto’s Chinatown, which is the main neighbourhood the film is set in.
The filmmaker added that she was delighted to stump her team with Canadian trivia, adding loonies and toonies into the script and having Meilin wear a toque (a word that her American counterparts are unfamiliar with) with maple leaves on it.
You’ll have the opportunity to comb through the movie for more fun Easter eggs on March 11, when Turning Red releases on Disney+.
In the meantime, you can watch the trailer here for a sneak peek.