Ask nearly anybody about their childhood and they will mention fond memories of watching content created one way or another by one company, Disney. Whether you grew up watching Disney films in theatres, in schools or now at home, Disney is still as influential as ever in children’s early years. In January 2020, a series of Pixar ‘SparkShorts’ were released on Disney’s streaming platform. Where Disney’s past films have featured mainly identical characters and storylines, these SparkShorts have a purpose of showing off new storytellers and their individual stories.
Two of these SparkShorts stand out to us at Intercare, Loop and Float. While different in their storytelling process, both shorts convey a message of patience and perseverance that all people should know about.
Loop tells the story of two camp members, Renee who is autistic and non-verbal, and Marcus, a fellow camp member. While canoeing, Marcus struggles to find a way to communicate properly with Renee, and eventually both find themselves with an upturned canoe and Renee in the middle of a breakdown caused by sensory overload. Marcus’ frustrations grow while Renee remains in her overloaded state. Marcus eventually remembers how fond Renee was of the flowers on the canoe path, and picks some up for Renee to hold. Both characters become closer after this interaction, and are able to get back to camp safely and happily. The short ends with a friendship gained for both Renee and Marcus, and a bond that was formed from what began as a tough challenge, but was actually an excellent teaching moment for the audience.
Float is more direct than Loop in getting the primary message across, but the message given is essential for all ages to know. Float takes us on the journey with a father and his son, Alex, where the father must learn the challenges of being an excellent parent in a neighborhood of other families who had recently had children. Simple enough of a premise, except Alex can float whenever he wants to. Horrified, Alex’s dad rushes him and Alex indoors to avoid embarrassment from the neighbors. Years later, Alex’s dad appears to have stopped caring for himself, and in order to keep Alex’s floating ability a secret, keeps Alex on a leash and stuffs Alex’s backpack full of rocks whenever they go outside. While walking by the park however, Alex sees other kids his age running around and having fun. Seemingly jealous, Alex floats into the park so he too can have fun. Horrified, Alex’s dad rushes into the park and in the only moment of words spoken in the short, screams “Why can’t you just be normal?”. Alex’s dad becomes disappointed in himself for scolding his child in front of an audience for just being himself. The film ends with Alex and his dad having fun on the swing set and Alex flying as his dad smiles from below.
Both films tell the story of people with extraordinary abilities, and while we might not know somebody who is non-verbal and autistic (or know somebody who can fly), the basic storytelling elements within these movies speak to all generations and backgrounds. All people deserve to be treated with respect and care. All people should be allowed to shine because of what makes them unique and one-of-a-kind. Disney and Pixar have the chance to tell the stories of those who have not had the spotlight on them before, and if Loop and Float are any indication, the future for telling meaningful stories to younger generations is in great hands.