Disney petitioned to produce a film hero with Down's syndrome

Keston Ott-Dahl and her wife have almost reached goal of 57,000 signatures

Disney’s heroes and heroines have come in many shapes and forms; from traditional sleeping beauties to mermaids, jungle boys to clown fish, foxes and dogs to lions, the company has produced a diverse range of protagonists, but it has never had a hero with Down’s syndrome.

A petition has been created Keston Ott-Dahl and her wife Andrea, the mothers of Delaney Skye, a 15-month-old girl with Down’s syndrome, in an attempt to change this.

Ms Keston, who lives in San Francisco, US, said Disney “does a great job of depicting right from wrong” in its films, but is calling for the company to better represent disabled people.

“Our daughter has Down’s syndrome. Like other children, she adores animated movies, so when I see her mesmerised by Disney princesses, I breaks my heart to know she has no role models like herself,” Ms Keston states in the petition.

Ms Keston said Disney “comes up short” by having almost no representation of disabled people, who are “often bullied and looked down upon by their fellow children”.

“What wonderful lessons of diversity, compassion and acceptance Disney could teach our kids if they promoted disabled characters as heroes and heroines in their beloved movies,” she said.

The petition was launched in time for October, which in the US is Down’s syndrome awareness month, and has amassed over 56,400 signatures so far.

 

While Disney has included characters with disabilities in its feature films, from Dory the fish who suffers from memory loss in Finding Nemo, to Gabriella in The Little Mermaid who is unable to speak, and Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it has not addressed the issue of Down's syndrome.

But Kellie Perez, senior director of the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, US, and mother of a 22-year-old with Down’s, said Disney touches on cultural differences and acceptance of diversity, but believes it misses the mark by not representing individuals with Down’s syndrome or other disabilities.

Speaking to the Orange County Register, Perez said: “My daughter couldn’t verbalise it, but I can sense her excitement when she saw someone like her on television.

“Because of Disney’s popularity and in our kid’s lives, they have a perfect opportunity to give these special-needs kids someone to relate and look up to,” Perez said.

Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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