‘Float’ Is Breaking New Ground on Disney+

December 5, 2019, 8:42 PM UTC

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While Disney was busy keeping pundits occupied with its new streaming service, they were also making the business and emotional case for inclusion.

“Float” was one of the new short films released on Disney+, developed as part of the SparkShorts program, which aims to give a meaningful first platform to underrepresented filmmakers.

Float” tells the touching story of a father who struggles to understand and protect his new son after he learns that he’s different than other kids—he can float in the air, a magical-seeming power that alienates others. It was inspired by creator Bobby Rubio’s own experience as the new father of an autistic son, and his own fear that his son would be judged by others is palpable. 

A scene from the short film ‘Float.”
Courtesy of DisneyPlus

“Accepting my son for his autism diagnosis, I have to admit it took me years,” Rubio tells CBR’s Reuben Baron, a journalist with autism. “I know the short lasted only six minutes, but it took me a while before I could accept my son for who he is. I remember in the beginning, much like in the short, I was trying to hide that he has autism. He sometimes would spin and I’d be like ‘Hey Alex, can you stop that? Can you stop spinning?’ And now I accept that that’s Alex. He spins because that’s what calms him down, but it took me a while before I was able to accept that.”

Rubio, who has worked at Pixar as a story artist since 2012, has also broken other new ground by creating the first animated film that centers Filipino-American characters. Ironically, his original pitch and storyboards depicted the father and son as white. “A co-worker saw the cover and said, ‘Bobby, this is your story. The character should be Filipino American.’ I thought, does anyone want to see a Filipino American character? I had this unconscious bias,” Rubio tells Variety.

While “Float” is exclusively on Disney+, you can get a glimpse of it in this short video from KTVU, which includes a brief interview with Rubio.

The SparkShorts program is already delivering on its promise of diversity.

“We can give more people a chance to tell their stories,” says producer Krissy Cababa. “Not only can we give more people here a voice, but we can also get gritty with our stories.” Rubio says he got the encouragement he needed. “I didn’t have to sugarcoat the story. I was allowed to tell the story I wanted to tell,” says Rubio.

Ellen McGirt



On Point

After a “candid and productive” conversation with Gabrielle Union, NBC opens an investigation into her dismissal from AGT Further, the network says, "we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution." Union, along with co-star Julianne Hough, lost her judging job on America’s Got Talent when their contracts were not extended past the first season. Among the allegations that were leaked: Union had received notes for her "too black" hairstyles, and had been ignored when she surfaced complaints about racist jokes and the misgendering of guests. Union posted an optimistic tweet: “I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”
Los Angeles Times

Pinterest and The Knot will no longer allow plantation sites to use words like “elegant” or “charming" I hadn’t considered how important Pinterest had become for couples and wedding planners, but their alliance with The Knot Worldwide makes all the sense in the world. The two are working on new guidelines that will prevent vendors from using words that glamorize Southern plantation history or locations. “We want to make sure we’re serving all our couples and that they don’t feel in any way discriminated against,” says The Knot’s chief marketing officer Dhanusha Sivajee. A Pinterest spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company will restrict plantation wedding content on its website, and plans to de-index Google searches for plantation wedding locales on Pinterest. "Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things," says a Pinterest spokesperson.
Buzzfeed News

How police violence affects the health of Black babies New research published in Science Advances, by Joscha Legewie from the Department of Sociology at Harvard, studies the impact on the health of infants born to Black pregnant people who live in communities where the police have killed an unarmed Black person. Their analysis of 3.9 million birth records from 2007 to 2016 appears unequivocal: “[P]olice killings of unarmed Blacks substantially decrease the birth weight and gestational age of black infants residing nearby.” There was no similar effect on white and Latinx births, which suggests that the stress of perceived injustice and discrimination is to blame.
Science Advances

On Background

Who do we mean when we say "we"? Jenée Desmond-Harris, a staff editor for the Opinion section of the New York Times, weighs in with an opinion of her own: When media says “we” they often mean “white people.” Her opinion piece came in response to a Times podcast advertised as “The Rise of White Wing Extremism and How We Missed It,” which drew immediate and pointed condemnation. A bunch of people did not, in fact, miss it. For her part, Desmond-Harris finds the framing to be a terrible and dangerous habit. “[W]hen we suggest that something is true of everyone—or of a group of people—when it’s really a more accurate description of what’s true of white people in that group, it alienates readers and destroys trust: If you’ve forgotten that people of color exist, what else have you missed?”
Nieman Lab

Recruiters: It’s all about belonging now This piece from the Wall Street Journal makes plain what raceAhead readers have long understood: The companies who will be profitable going forward won’t win the talent race by crowing about foosball and onsite dry cleaning. “It will be whether leaders foster a workplace culture where employees feel a sense of belonging, like their jobs and trust their managers to help them move on to a better one.” And, they’ve got the charts and graphs to back them up. Companies that rank in the top 10% in the company engagement measure posted profit gains of 26% through the last recession, compared with a 14% decline at other companies, according to Gallup.
Wall Street Journal

The beauty of non-binary Guatamalan-American artist Glenda Lissette moved frequently as a child and came to see her clothes and accessories as a fresh start. “I found a sense of comfort and identity in the clothes I wore,” she says. She extended that idea into her latest photography series, The Home We Carry, an exploration of non-binary identity, accompanied by commentary from the subjects. "As a bisexual woman of color, any time I photograph people, I’m always thinking about the complexities of people’s identities and the diversity of our perspectives," she says. The photos are also beautiful. "Ultimately, the goal with the series is to document the homes that we construct on our bodies, but I think the series is also looking at the relationship between body & land."

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.


greta Thunberg web version
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg after disembarking from a catamaran at the Santo Amaro docks in Lisbon, on Dec. 3, 2019.
Carlos Costa—AFP via Getty Images

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And—given the right circumstances—being different is a superpower. #aspiepower

Greta Thunberg

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