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Disney Launchpad – Movie Review

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Disney Launchpad – Movie Review

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

As part of an effort to promote up-and-coming directors, Disney+ has started a program titled Disney Launchpad and if the first batch of shorts is any indication, this has the makings of something special. The first season consists of six shorts of varying length with each tackling a different subject. However, the common theme in all of these shorts is a promotion of diversity and the importance of respecting others, regardless of their backgrounds. These messages are nicely conveyed through the films and the anthology nature of Launchpad means we don’t exactly know what to expect before pressing play. A few of them are fantastical, while others are more grounded. The inclusion of the opening sequence from Steven Spielberg’s ‘80s anthology series Amazing Stories wouldn’t be out of place.

The first short, American Eid, is probably the strongest entry in this inaugural season. Directed by Aqsa Altaf, this is a heartfelt story of a young Muslim girl who wants to celebrate her favourite holiday at school. It nicely develops her arc as well as that of her older sister and the film becomes not only a celebration of another culture’s traditions, but also a tale about the bond between siblings. It packs the needed emotional sweet spot, alongside a lovely message. Dinner is Served takes us to a boarding school and a Chinese immigrant student trying to rise up the ranks. Hao Zheng crafts an intriguing premise and there is a sympathetic and rooting interest in seeing this young man succeed. Through the short, Zheng comments on class, although one wishes it packed a bigger punch and explored the characters a little more.

Growing Fangs creates some good laughs out of a vampire girl going to a school full of other monsters. Ann Marie Pace has fun with our knowledge of vampire mythos, mixing it with the on-screen family’s Latino background. She plays with the typical school dynamics in addition to topics of prejudice. The actors work really well and the plot takes some intriguing turns that help test the lead protagonist. It has the expected message about fitting in, but there is a reason filmmakers and writers continually explore this theme in stories about teenagers. Let’s Be Tigers is the most grounded of all of the Launchpad shorts. Focusing on a babysitter trying to cope with the death of her mother, we see the sweet relationship she has with the boy she’s hired to take care of. Stefanie Abel Horowitz opts for a beautifully subtle approach in her direction and the bond between the two is wonderfully portrayed. It’s a short that shows the power of childhood to help us see the positive side of life.

The Last of the Chupacabras is an amusing short, although it takes a little while to find its footing. There is some imagination in a wood carved puppet that comes to life and befriends an elderly woman, although it’s the pay-off at the end that ultimately elicits a smile. Launchpad concludes on a high note with The Little Prince(ss). Directed by Moxie Peng, the short tackles gender norms in a way that will hopefully resonate with many viewers. Part of the sweetness of the film comes from the friendship between two children and the way they accept the other for who they are. Peng really taps into the way children can form an immediate bond. There is also a strong message about the importance of good parenting skills and not being fearful of someone who doesn’t conform to one’s own views. Launchpad is a solid collection of short films and a nice way for Disney+ to inspire future filmmakers. It’s great to see Disney use their popular streaming service to fund short films like these and make them accessible to a wide audience.

Stefan Ellison