Yesterday's news about Splash Mountain getting a Princess and the Frog overlay was fantastic and I am so happy so many of you are just as excited as I am over some of the changes coming to our parks that focus on inclusion. But in the process of yesterday's news I was reminded of something. Seeing more diverse characters in the parks is really down to more diverse characters in Disney movies. Princess and the Frog, Black Panther and Coco are great additions to the Disney catalog, but it's not enough. Disney has only hit the surface of more diverse characters. (For example I am still waiting for any LGBTQ+ character at the center of a film.) I know that day will come.
A few months ago at the start of the pandemic, I shared with you guys some fun movie lists inspired by the stories found in the parks so that you can enjoy a movie marathon at home. Today, I'd like to provide a list of short films that I think some of you were probably unaware about. While Disney has a long way to go with more diverse characters in the feature length films, Pixar has been releasing some fantastic short films that specifically focus on more diverse characters and more complex and contemporary themes and stories. It's part of their Sparkshorts collection. So allow me to provide yet another movie list that you can enjoy with your families this weekend that tackle some mature themes in a way that is completely accessible to children.
This short film breaks ground as Pixar's first film of any length to focus on a person with autism who is non-verbal and uses a communication device. The two main characters are people of color and shows how the boy, who does not have autism, learns to communicate with her and respects her for her differences in the end.
This short film was directed by Bobby Rubio and it was a reflection of his own struggles when discovering his child has autism. Unlike Loop, this film's main character is not overtly autistic but posses the ability to fly. The story really is about the child's father grappling with how his child is different and how others will perceive him. An interesting side note on this one is that in initial development, Rubio designed the characters to all be white. However, a colleague commented on how the story is so personal and that Rubio should draw the characters to look like him more in that he is Filipino.
This short tells the story of how a pink ball of yarn starts her new job in an intimidating office. What makes this ball of yarn different is that she is surrounded by a team of men who don't quite understand her feminine qualities. The film tackles the subject of sexism in the work place and gender roles.
While LGBTQ+ characters have started to pop up in the sidelines of some recent Disney films, Out is the first time a gay character is at the center. The film focuses on a gay couple and their pet dog, who are moving to the big city. The parents of one of the men does not know of their relationship and when they show up unannounced to help him move, he is forced to come out to them. The result will touch your heart.
This is just a small sampling, there are tons of great short films produced by Pixar on Disney+. But given recent events I wanted to highlight these specific four. I've had many friends and viewers ask me what Disney and/or Pixar films can I show my kids to teach them about more diverse characters and this has become my starting list for them as we hope and wait for more.