Films play a huge role in pop culture. It also wields the power to influence change, and make people feel seen and validated. Case in point: Crazy Rich Asians (2018). The movie—based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same title—represented Asians in a manner that wasn’t caricatured or diminutive. It also prompted the film industry to rethink how it typifies Asians, and the fact that underrepresented communities’ stories need to be told. And that’s exactly what Disney’s Launchpad programme is all about.
Disney’s Launchpad is a collection of short films by six enterprising storytellers from underrepresented communities; these filmmakers were chosen from a pool of more than a thousand applicants. They were given a budget, equipment and paired with mentors from various Disney divisions and most importantly, a platform to share their worldview and creative visions. The filmmakers also had to work off the theme ‘Discover.’ Season 1 of the series comprises heartwarming screenplays that explore non-American traditions and LGBTQ themes.
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In American Eid by Aqsa Altaf, the story follows a young Pakistani girl named Ameena who becomes disheartened to learn that her American school doesn’t observe the Muslim holiday Eid. Her sister, however, brushed it off in favour of assimilation. Not one to give up, Ameena sets off on a mission to make Eid a public-school holiday and reconnects with her older sister in the process. It’s a charming short that’s all about family and embracing one’s heritage.
The Little Prince(ss)
Moxie Peng’s short film, The Little Prince(ss), delicately explores the concept of gender through two seven year-old boys Gabriel and Rob. Gabriel comes from a family supportive of his ballet pursuits, while Rob’s conservative Chinese father struggles to accept anything less than his ideals of masculinity.
Let’s Be Tigers
Let’s Be Tigers by Stefanie Abel Horowitz is a little more somber, a contrast to Asqa’s film. It shows a babysitter grieving over losing her mother, and learning how to deal with that sadness—and death—through conversations with the young boy she’s caring for that evening.
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Dinner is Served
Then there’s Dinner is Served by Chinese American director Hao Zheng, which follows a young man (Qi Sun) finding his way in a very white, upper-class world of being a maître d’ at his boarding school. This story is based on Hao’s personal experience.
The Last of the Chupacabras
There’s also The Last of the Chupacabras by Jessica Mendez Siqueiros, which is a contemporary rendition of Mexican folklore. In an imaginary town where anything apart from White American culture is frowned upon, an elderly lady summons a mythical creature called the chupacabra.
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And last but not least, there’s Growing Fangs by Ann Marie Pace. It’s a coming-of-age film that depicts the struggles of a Mexican American through a comedy about a teenager learning how to balance her human side with her vampire one.
These six filmmakers from Disney’s Launchpad are reimagining the way minorities’ stories get told and are paving the way to do so in an unconventional manner—especially Growing Fangs. It’ll be exciting to watch what the second season brings.
Watch all six live-action short films on Disney+.