health

An open letter to the Walt Disney Company.

To Whom It May Concern, specifically at Walt Disney/Pixar Animation Studios:

My name is Hannah Diviney and I’m a 16-year-old girl who currently lives in Sydney, Australia. I have a physical disability – Cerebral Palsy which impacts my muscle control and function, causing spasticity (tightness) in my muscles, which leads them to grow at a different rate to my bones. This means I mainly use a wheelchair for mobility in everyday life, which can present many challenges and frustrations.

I want to mention how much I admire the creativity, hard work and vision of Disney as a company. Recently, I went to see Pixar’s latest film Inside Out and I would very much like to applaud the minds behind that concept.

The characterisation of emotions and how they exist within a person is a complicated concept but I think this movie understands and deals with it brilliantly, all the while creating tools for those around the world who may struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety/depression.

Watch the trailer for Inside Out. Post continues after the video.

Video via “CBR

I would now like to challenge Disney to take it one step further by creating a prominent character such as a princess/hero that uses a wheelchair and is still allowed the same hopes, dreams and happy ending. If you created such a character, you would be giving hope and resilience to the thousands of people (not to mention children) that live with a physical disability every day.

Hannah Diviney. Image supplied.

In other forms of film or media, we are woefully under-represented and if we are, it’s often by actors who are completely able-bodied. But I think Disney has the reach and the minds to be the catalyst for change in this world that we need. I have faith that the extremely talented creative teams have skill and imagination enough to work around this challenge, thus educating those who don’t have a disability that just because we might not be as physically able does not mean that’s a boundary for interaction or success in the world.

When I was younger, there were two main Disney characters I could identify with – Belle and Tigger. That might sound like an odd combination but let me explain.

There were two main Disney characters I could identify with. The first was Belle. Image via IMDB.
ADVERTISEMENT

Belle isn’t defined by physical attributes or body image. She doesn’t rely on other people to make her world, symbolising the independence I so craved. The first interaction we have, as an audience with Belle is the fact that she loves to read and sees knowledge as the key to success. Individually, I’m quite a bookish person so I loved the idea of a character leading with her brain rather than her body. The other thing I loved about Belle upon reflection is the fact that even though the Beast looks different and doesn’t seem like he will be worth knowing, Belle focuses on the inside and lets the physical things come as an afterthought.

And the second was Tigger. Image via IMDB.

As for Tigger, it’s quite simple. He was the only one, completely unique and whilst I know that there are many people in similar situations to me, as a child I felt quite isolated and as though I was the only one.

Do you know the impact the creation of a character in a wheelchair would have?

It would change our world forever, giving children the idea that just because they might be in a similar situation, doesn’t mean they can’t reach for the stars. It would decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as showing the power of a corporation to affect global change and send out a message that Disney is accepting of everything, which would then boost the positive image of the company.

Not only that but it would break down the negative stigma and work towards creating an environment where having a disability means nothing.

What do you say? Will you embrace the wheels? Your move, Disney.

Yours faithfully and with great hope,

Hannah Diviney

This originally appeared on Hannah's blog here

TAP on the image below to scroll through the gallery to try and find the hidden Mickey Mouse in your favourite Disney films. We're going to show you the first image, and then give it away in the image after. No cheating, don't peek until you've given it a proper go (thanks to Oh My Disney for helping us find them).

00:00 / ???