- “"May Sun Yee guide you."”
- ―Grandma Wu
Sun Yee is the ancestor of the protagonist of Disney•Pixar's 2022 animated feature film Turning Red. She is the first of Mei's family to be blessed with the ability to turn into a red panda, and had passed her blessing from the gods down to her female descendants.
Sun Yee was a scholar and poet who had took it upon herself to protect the creatures of the forest, especially the red pandas as their fiery coat and mischievous nature led to her loving them the most. During war time as the men of her home village, including her husband, left to fight the enemy, Sun Yee became worried that their absence would place her two daughters in danger. One night during a red moon, she prays to the gods to turn her into a giant red panda, so she would be able to defend her daughters and village from bandits and other dangers that way come their way. After she turned into a red panda for the first time she found a way to pass her gift down to her daughters, who then passed their mother's blessing down to theirs for when they came of age.
Even though Sun Yee's red panda blessing first started out as a gift to the women of her family, the changing of the world and her family moving to other parts of it had turned the blessing into an inconvenience that they want to free themselves of. Sun Yee is shown to respect their wish to separate themselves from the panda when they call upon her spirit to meet her descendants in the celestial plane during a red moon eclipse. There she creates a mirror-like portal for them to walk through while their red panda spirits leave their bodies to be sealed into a chosen piece of jewelry or an accessory to serve as a talisman for them to always carry around with them.
A red panda themed temple that is dedicated to Sun Yee and the women of their family was at some point build in Toronto Canada, where the current owners Ming and Mei Lee open it up to tourists so they can tell them of Sun Yee's legacy while keeping their family's red panda ability a secret.
At the end of the film however, with Mei keeping her panda, the secret is out and shared with all the visitors to the temple, as Mei assumes her panda form as a means to attract more visitors (and business) to the temple.
Powers and Abilities
Sun Yee always had a mystical connection with red pandas. When the war caused the men of her home village to leave, she prayed to the gods for the strength and form of the red panda so she could protect her daughters and their home from bandits and other threats. Not much of her red panda form's abilities were shown in the film, but her descendants were shown to turn into red pandas in a puff of pink smoke whenever they feel any strong emotions.
Role in the film
Sun Yee was seen in the Lee family temple when Mei returned home to find her mother praying to Sun Yee and then joins her as they thank Sun Yee for watching over them, before they open the temple to the public. Ming tells the visitors to the temple that Sun Yee is their family's most revered ancestor who was a scholar, poet and a defender of animals, as she dedicated her life to protecting the creatures of the forest and how red pandas were her most favorite animal who have blessed their family for years.
After Ming and Jin Lee learn that Mei has become a red panda, they tell her the story of how Sun Yee is the reason for it. Mei's anger had her blaming Sun Yee for cursing her with her so-called blessing, until Ming tells her that there is a way for her to get rid of the panda. On the night of the red moon Grandma Wu reminds the women of their family that Sun Yee was the one who blessed their family with a great challenge and then tells Mei "May Sun Yee guide you and keep you safe", before they begin the ritual to banish her panda. When Mei encounters Sun Yee's spirit in the astral realm she bows to her in respect and then looks up to her ancestor before she walks into the mirror-like portal to banish the panda. At the end of the film, Mei decides to keep her panda spirit, and asks Sun Yee if she'll ever end up regretting her choice. This has Sun Yee smiling at Mei before she turns into her panda form as she and panda Mei fly up to the moon in the astral realm. As she is happy that Mei has accepted her red panda blessing, while many others had sealed it away, despite respecting their decisions. Sun Yee and Mei touch foreheads where Mei leaves the astral realm and keeps her panda form while continuing her life.
- Keeping Sun Yee's legacy and her love for red panda alive allows the elders of their family to secretly prepare the young generation for when they receive their ancestor's blessing. As Mei had no knowledge of her family's red panda abilities until she turned into one, but was well informed of her ancestor's love for the red and white colored animal.
- Judging by her and her daughters' clothing, she must have lived some point during China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
- Despite having female descendants, It’s unknown if Sun Yee has any male descendants.
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