All the Toronto References We Could Spot in Pixar’s 'Turning Red'

From the TTC to Kensington Market to the SkyDome, here are all the Toronto references we could spot in Pixar's new animated film 'Turning Red.'

Turning Red poster
Pixar Studios

Image via Pixar Studios

Turning Red poster

Toronto is ready to turn out for Turning Red

Ever since the movie’s first trailer dropped and audiences learned that Pixar’s latest would be set in the 6ix—making it the beloved animation studio’s first feature set in Canada (not to mention, the first to be directed by an Asian woman)—Canadians have been eagerly anticipating the new film, premiering on Disney+ this Friday. After years of doubling for other cities, both real and fictional, Toronto was getting a chance to play itself in a major Hollywood release.

From director/co-writer/Toronto native Domee Shi, whose Oscar-winning animated short Bao was similarly set in and around Toronto’s Chinatown, Turning Red turns back the clock to 2002, following a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian named Mei (Rosalie Chiang) as she navigates all the messy emotions and changes that come with growing up—only, in her case, that means “poofing” into a giant red panda when she gets over-excited. 

The result’s another thoroughly-charming Pixar coming-of-age tale, with the added bonus of functioning as an animated time capsule for anyone who grew up in the GTA during the early 2000s, featuring plenty of IYKYK references to go with the more instantly-identifiable landmarks. (The one silver lining of Turning Red getting pushed from a theatrical release to a Disney+ premiere? It’s way easier to go Easter egg hunting.) 

Here are all the Toronto references we were able to find in Pixar’s latest animated adventure.

The CN Tower is everywhere

A still from Disney's 'Turning Red'

Chinatown has a starring role

A still from Disney's 'Turning Red'

Mei rides the Rocket

A still from Disney's 'Turning Red'

Mei attends Lester B. Pearson Middle School

A still from Disney's 'Turning Red'

Mei’s bucket hat and puka shell necklace-wearing crush has the ultimate gig for any GTA slacker circa 2002: holding down the counter at the Daisy Mart, which turns out to be the site of the humiliation that ultimately brings out Mei’s panda for the first time. And yes, this fictional Daisy Mart sells bags of milk—a concept which will likely prove to be more of a stretch for American audiences’ collective suspension of disbelief than the idea of a tween that transforms into a 10-foot-tall panda.

For starters, the school bully rocks a purple pinstripe #15 jersey in honour of former Raps high-flyer Vince Carter (but unfortunately, no Nike Shox to go with it). Then there’s the Toronto hockey poster behind the counter at the Daisy Mart, plus the kid wearing a Maple Leafs-coloured hockey sweater with the number 6 on it… which I’m assuming is an anachronistic reference to Toronto’s “6ix” nickname and not Depression-era Leafs legend Ace Bailey who became the first-ever professional athlete to have his number retired back in 1934. And while no one sports any Jays gear as far as I could tell, there is a friendly blue jay shown flitting around outside the SkyDome near the end of the movie.

At one point, as Mei’s racing through downtown Toronto after going full panda mode, she squeezes through an impossibly-tight alley and out into a row of cafes and vintage shops with racks of clothes hanging outside and pastel picket fences that looks an awful lot like Kensington Market to me. (And to Turning Red’s Maitreyi Ramakrishnan!)


Not only does Turning Red set its third act climax inside Toronto’s beloved SkyDome, it also calls the stadium by its one true name, giving fans one last nostalgia-inducing look at the classic SkyDome logo—which has been turned red for the movie, naturally.


Maybe you’ve heard that Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas wrote the songs for 4*Town, Turning Red’s lovingly period-accurate mashup of late ’90s/early ’00s boy bands like the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, O-Town… and, based off the fact that the band is called 4*Town even though it has five members, I’m guessing (hoping?) they might also be a more deep-cut reference to Toronto’s own short-lived early-2000s boy band trio b4-4, probably best known for their supremely corny/horny single “Get Down.” (Also: don’t miss the vintage MuchMusic logo-inspired Easter egg on the TV spot announcing 4*Town’s North American tour.)

Assorted Canadiana

Tim Horton's in Turning Red trailer

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