2023's Lunar New Year spans the weekend — which makes it not just a long weekend, but a super long weekend! But it was less than a month ago that Christmas carols festooned the air, so how do we get in that Lunar New Year mood in time for all the celebrations and gathering?
Here are 8 Disney+ shows that are guaranteed to put you in the mood for Lunar New Year. Watch them over a reunion dinner, when you're visiting someone's house or even when you're having a chill night at home. Chances are, you're going to be in that Lunar New Year mood when you're done. Remember to give us an ang bao (or eight) when you are!
A Chinese mom who's sad when her grown son leaves home gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life. But she finds that nothing stays cute and small forever.
Bao is short — the short film literally spans 7 minutes. Directed by Domee Shi, who would later move on to direct Turning Red, the film revolves around the relationships between the older and younger generation — and how that changes when the younger generation grows up.
For many, the Lunar New Year is the only time in the year when we get to see our extended family. It's often a time of explaining what has happened over the past year, as well as trying to remind older relatives that one is no longer the same kid from ten years ago. But it's not easy for the senior generation to cope with what seems to be such a rapid pace of growth too, for the younger generation. But ultimately, both generations love each other, something that Bao reminds us by its conclusion.
2. Turning Red
Mei Lee is a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying as her mother's dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her daughter — an unfortunately reality for the teenager. As if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren't enough, whenever she gets too excited, she suddenly turns into a giant red panda!
Turning Red is sure to delight those who believe in the auspiciousness of the colour red, because, well, it's got lots of red in it. Just like with Bao, the film is about parent-child relationships and tradition vs modernisation. That's no surprise, since both films were directed by Domee Shi, who excels in bringing to life such themes. And similarly, it's about the love between generations, and how we should all learn to better express it.
The film is a story about the trials and tribulations of a family from 1965 to the early 1970s. Their journey through the years from their humble kampung to a modern HDB flat runs in parallel with Singapore's early growth.
With all the gatherings (thank goodness we have no limits this year!) and visitations, Lunar New Year is about the kampung spirit and the community. What better way to be reminded of what with a movie that literally takes place in a kampung — Long Long Time Ago? It's a poignant reminder of how we all used to be such an open community, and how the Lunar New Year is a chance for us to be like that again.
4. Let's Eat!
A traditionalist chef comes into conflict with the restaurant owner's daughter when she seeks to modernise the cafe and reduce costs.
The other important aspect of Lunar New Year is the eating. After all, that's how Chinese people express their love for each other — by buying each other ice cream, frying chicken wings for each other and just generally making sure that the people we love are fed. Let's Eat is about food and the clash between cuisine perspectives. It's about Chinese food, that it'll whet your appetite for the steamboat gatherings to come.
The film revolves around three brothers from middle-income backgrounds in contemporary Singapore. These are characters who are representative of the business owners and white and blue-collar workers of Singapore.
Nothing evokes the Lunar New Year mood like having a Jack Neo movie playing in the background when you're visiting other relatives. But for me, the problem is that whenever I actually turn to watch the film, it's gone on to the commercial breaks. So playing Money No Enough II in the background is the antidote to that — all the feels of a Lunar New Year movie with none of the commercial break downsides. In fact, you could do this any time of the year!
The movie revolves around a reluctant National Service enlistee who fails to defer his duty. During the boot camp, he meets and befriends other recruits from different backgrounds.
Cinematic merit notwithstanding, Ah Boys To Men isn't quite a Lunar New Year movie — but it somehow gets played with astonishing regularity. Besides, if you're male, it prepares you for the inevitable NS small talk that comes about when you meet other male relatives, because that's what bonds all Singaporean sons.
A fearless young woman risks everything out of love for her family and her country to be come one of the greatest warriors China has ever known.
Mulan opens with the title character being matchmade, which is something that many relatives would do to the younger generation if that was still acceptable in this day and age. So yes, it does conjure the family feels of the Lunar New Year, albeit the slightly awkward parts. Bonus — it's got Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Gong Li in it (some of who are not as recognisable though), so if you want to distract said relatives from the question of when one is getting married, go point out those actors in the film.
This animated movie revolves around a young girl who bravely takes her father's place in the Imperial Army — disguised as a male soldier.
If the live-action Mulan wasn't enough for you, why not go back to the original animated Mulan for a hit of nostalgia? It's also got the whole matchmaking scene that the live-action one has, but funnier, since the characters are all in cartoon proportions. Plus, they break out into song! Also, we needed eight films for good luck.
What other Lunar New Year films do you watch to get in the mood?
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