Pixar film ‘Turning Red’ gains inspiration from Marysville temple

MARYSVILLE, Calif (KTXL) — In the new Pixar film, “Turning Red,” the movie takes some inspiration from a Chinese temple in Yuba County. 

The design of the temple in the animated movie is inspired by the Bok Kai Temple in Marysville. According to the temple’s website, the Bok Kai Temple has drawn countless worshipers and tourists throughout the years. 

“It’s Pixar. It’s awesome man,” an enthusiastic Jon Lim said. “Arguably one of the biggest, best, brightest animation companies in the world gave us a shout. It’s huge.”

“Millions upon millions of people will watch the film,” he continued. 

Lim is the president of the Marysville Chinese Community and has watched the film with his two kids. While watching the film with his 7-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, he saw the elements of the temple animators used for the movie. 

“In the beginning where she goes into the temple and she rubs the belly of one and pats the head of the other, that’s like our gateway,” Lim said. 

“Turning Red” follows 13-year-old protagonist Mei Lee, a Chinese Canadian student in Toronto, who helps take care of her family’s temple. She transforms into a giant red panda whenever she expresses strong emotion. 

Pixar’s trip and research of the Bok Kai Temple is featured in the “Embrace the Panda: Making Turning Red” documentary on Disney Plus. According to Lim, Pixar toured other Northern California temples in Oroville and San Francisco. 

“It’s pretty cool that they decided to visit our temple and actually use it in the movie,” Lim said. “It’s Pixar man, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.”

The Bok Kai Temple is one of the oldest active temples in Northern California. The temple was built in the 1880s and is also one of the few that are still privately owned, Lim said.

The temple is currently preserved as both a California Historical Landmark and as a protective property in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  

To Lim’s knowledge, the Pixar film is the first time the temple is referenced in pop culture. 

“You could definitely see elements of our temple that they use,” Lim said. “Some of the things were obviously for artistic, licensing, imagery and whatnot, but for me, I could pick it out really easily because I grew up with the temple. I have seen it for many years now.”

“Turning Red” is currently streaming on Disney Plus. 


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