A Look Behind the Music of Disney-Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’


by Disney Pixar turn red is now streaming on Disney+which means you can also listen to the soundtrack, featuring songs by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, and a score composed by Ludwig Göransson.


  • According to turn red director Domee Shi, if you’re setting a 13-year-old girl’s coming-of-age story in the early 2000s, including a boy band is pretty much mandatory. “We needed our character Mei to be obsessed with something her mother wouldn’t approve of,” Shi said. “Boy bands were the first step into the boy world for a lot of girls that age. The guys were all super handsome, polite, sweet and loving, and they had a way of bringing girls and their best friends together. plus, I thought it would be really cool to create an animated boy band.
  • Join Pixar’s first-ever boy band, 4*Town. GRAMMY-winning music producer and chairman of Walt Disney Music, Tom MacDougall, arranged a meeting with the turn red filmmakers and singer-songwriters Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell. “When we decide which musical artists to feature on our films, we don’t look at who is the most popular, but who is best suited to the creative needs of the project,” MacDougall explains. “In the case of Billie and Finneas, we were lucky to have both.”
  • Producer Lindsey Collins adds, “We sat down with them and pitched them this crazy idea of ​​a boy band, asking them if they’d be interested in writing and producing the songs. They were!”
  • “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be interested in working on a Pixar movie,” says O’Connell, the youngest to win the GRAMMY for Producer of the Year (Non-Classic). Boy band music, he says, “is really like a masterclass in simplicity and memorization. It’s a really catchy melody, harmonies, claps and choreography. It’s so infectious and engaging with these pulsating young teens that kids can’t help but fall in love with.
  • The brother-sister writing team had to channel an era that emerged before they could even speak. “We had to write songs that would be popular in 2000, which at the time I was a year old,” says Eilish, who made history as the youngest artist to win in every major category. at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards, receiving awards. for Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album. “But boy bands have a very specific sound, and that’s the music I grew up listening to and loved. It was really, really fun to just play in that world and write in it. mind of a nerdy boy.
  • The filmmakers wanted three songs, each fulfilling a different purpose and each embracing the style of some of the most popular boy band songs. “The first is the success that everyone knows,” Shi says. “Then there is the serious power ballad and the heart on the sleeve. The third is the showpiece of the party – the fun and energetic song. We knew if we had those three songs, we could use them throughout the movie.

“Nobody Like You”

  • Written to ram through every listener’s head for hours, “Nobody Like U” is an instant hit. O’Connell says, “It’s that song that feels like you’ve heard it a million times before – boy bands are so good at it. It was such a fun challenge to write a song like that. I love playing with all the double negatives – “I’ve never met anyone like you, I never think of you, you’re never by my side.”
  • “Lyrics aren’t always good grammar,” Eilish adds. “And they can be ridiculously cheesy – ‘I’ve had friends and I’ve had buddies, that’s right. But they don’t turn my stomach like you do. But they’re honest, they’re trying to say something sweet, deep.
  • “This song is also really about friendship,” O’Connell says. “The storyboards we were given of the film showed the character’s relationship with his friends. I think the coolest thing about all that music when you’re that age is that you internalize it, right? You pick up a song written and sung by people older than you and say, “That’s my song.” This is my story.'”

Photo: People

“1 True Love”

  • Able to strike a chord, “1 True Love” is the kind of song performed to give members of a boy band a break from choreography. “I love this song,” Eilish says. “I really liked doing this one because we just sat down at the piano and got into the mind of this heartbroken person. It’s raining, very melodramatic. ‘Heavy rain on a Saturday when you have said my name in the saddest way Nothing numbs the pain You are always the light of my life I love how dramatic it is If I heard this song from someone I was in love when I was 13, I’d be—’Oh my God! He’s talking to me!”

“You know what’s going on”

  • Designed to bring a crowd to their feet, “U Know What’s Up” features vocal style. Said Eilish: “It was the last one we wrote and the hardest. We wanted these fans to feel confident and independent: “I’m going all the way, look at me.” I will work every day. Make paper like origami. I only came to win the game. I can not stop.
  • “We did a whole second call-and-response verse,” O’Connell adds. “It’s a motivational song, that’s the point.”

The score:

  • The composer Ludwig Göransson, who wrote the original score of turn red, incorporated 4*Town’s songs into the score to make it all part of the same musical world. “I used a lot of the same sounds and synths that were inspired by the Cheiron studio, the Swedish studio that established the boy band sound of the 90s,” he says. “The boy band is part of Mei’s identity, so it was important to incorporate that sound into the score.”
  • Director Domee Shi has been a fan of the GRAMMY, Oscar, and Emmy-winning composer for some time. “We were drawn to his versatility,” says Shi. “He’s a composer, but he also produces pop music. We knew he would help us create a very unique sound.
  • According to Göransson, the score is eclectic – a musical representation of what it might feel like to be a teenager in the early 2000s. “The score is a clash of cultures as well as a clash between the older generation and the news,” he said. “The clash of musical styles also represents Mei’s internal struggle with her own identity. But these conflicts push her forward on her journey of self-discovery.
  • turn red is, of course, the story of Mei, so the composer wanted the score to reflect the inner turmoil of a teenager entering adolescence. “There are heightened emotions such as fear, confusion and excitement,” says Göransson. “Throughout the score, I changed genres frequently, almost like a mixtape made by a 13-year-old kid. Traditional Chinese instrumentation, a 75-piece orchestra, elements of New Jack Swing, and a band of boys of the 90s all reflect the confusion in Mei’s mind as she struggles to figure out what her parents want for her and what she wants for herself She loves her family’s traditions, but she wants give them a new twist. I tried to encapsulate this idea through the score.
  • Göransson created character-specific themes for Mei, her mother, Ming, and a third for the red panda. “Mei’s theme is represented by the flute,” he says. “At the beginning of the film, Mei’s theme alternates between the western flute and the dizi [a traditional Chinese flute made of bamboo]to reinforce the split in its sense of self.
  • “The Ming theme is represented by the guzheng [Chinese plucked stringed instrument]“, continues Göransson. “Its theme is traditional, nostalgic and always there to remind Mei of her love for her daughter.”
  • The composer had fun with the theme of the red panda, which he describes as “quirky, grotesque and clumsy”. And, like the other themes, the red panda theme incorporates an ancient Chinese instrument, the bianzhong, which is a set of bronze bells to emphasize, according to Göransson, “the heightened uncertainty of Mei’s chaotic and emotional state”. .
  • In addition to the dizi, guzheng, and bianzhong, Göransson incorporated other traditional Chinese instruments, including the pipa, a pear-shaped stringed instrument; the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese fiddle; and Chinese opera percussion. These instruments were used to highlight the legacy of the Lee family and their mystical connection to their ancestor Sun Yee. “Some of these instruments were played in a traditional or often unconventional way,” says Göransson, “to reflect the dichotomy of his cultural identity.”

turn red is available to stream now on Disney+, and you can find the soundtrack on your favorite streaming platform.


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