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New Pixar short film on Disney Plus has a non-verbal, autistic girl of color as the lead

'Loop' tells the story of a non-verbal, autistic girl and a chatty boy who are partnered on a canoeing trip.

New Pixar short film on Disney Plus has a non-verbal, autistic girl of color as the lead
Image Source: YouTube/Pixar

Pixar's new short film Loop garnered attention when it was announced a couple of months ago. Featuring a non-verbal and autistic girl of color in a lead role, the production house looked set to break barriers in the mostly rosy world of animated films. However, the question still remained if Pixar would be able to deliver an accurate representation of autism or whether the short would be yet another half-assed depiction of those on the autism spectrum. Fortunately, since making its debut on Disney Plus earlier this month, the 9-minute-long film has proven itself to be everything viewers had hoped it would be.


According to Pixar, Loop tells the story of a "non-verbal, autistic girl and a chatty boy" who are partnered on a canoeing trip. "To complete their journey across an urban lake, they must both learn how the other experiences the world," the studio revealed. Directed by Erica Milsom, whose work with people with disabilities inspired the project, Loop tackles the idea of miscommunication by confronting viewers with everything from ableism to the need for human connection, reports Forbes.

Speaking to the publication about the experimental short film that's a part of Pixar's new SparkShorts division, Milsom said, "I was thinking about doing a Spark Short [and] I was trying to challenge myself to think what are worlds we haven't explored at Pixar? You end up in this weird thing where you’re like, 'is it in outer space? Is it inside someone's head?' It becomes strangely exhaustive to re-pass everything we've done. So I rejiggered my thinking and I was like, 'What are worlds you haven't seen explored on-screen yourself, Erica?' and it was this weird little world between us."


"I've had a lot of jobs in my life and also volunteered a year before with organizations that serve people with disabilities, and most often people with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses have been my experience. I always treasured the interactions I had in these spaces because they challenged me in a different way to connect with someone. Oftentimes, I would not know what to do. I'm a very chatty person; I usually know how to do small talk really, really well. But when I would be in this space I would hit this place where I'm like, 'Wow, I don't quite know how to connect with this person. I don't know how to get to know this person' and that's kind of a spicy storytelling topic," she continued.


"It's small, but there's a journey implied in the process of getting to know someone with whom you don't share necessarily the same language, and in the case of someone who is non-speaking there's not a learned language you can go take a class on. You have to find a way that's very individual connecting. It was basically a lot of me trying to think of what are the worlds we haven't explored and I'm like, 'I've been in this world in my life, in many different ways, and I loved it but it presented exciting challenges' and that's the world I want to explore, this world between people who may not use the same form of communication and may not know how to learn each other's language," Milsom concluded.


In a behind-the-scenes clip of Loop, the director revealed that she and the other filmmakers spoke to individuals from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to gain an accurate perspective of what the lead character Renee would be thinking and feeling. Choosing Madison Bandy, a teen girl with autism who is also mostly nonspeaking, to bring Renee to life, the filmmakers took every measure they could to make sure Bandy was comfortable at all times. When they realized that a recording studio wasn't the right environment for Bandy, they brought the studio to her in her own home.


Speaking to ABC 7 News, producer Krissy Cababa, said, "There's so many depictions of autistic people in media on either movies or TV shows or whatever that show the negative side of what that can be. I want people to see 'Loop' and recognize that we are all full human beings with emotions and desires and thoughts and feelings, and to try to understand and bridge that gap with somebody who may not communicate the same way as you or may not look the same way as you." So far, viewers have been more than happy with the film's portrayal of a person with autism as evidenced by the overwhelming number of positive responses on social media.




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