I’m always happy to promote short films as part of the entertainment landscape. Often the only chance people get to see shorts is at film festivals or during the Academy Awards season. But now Disney has created a program of live action shorts streaming on Disney+ called “Launchpad”. Disney describes the goal of “Launchpad” as “to diversify the types of stories that are being told and to give access to those who have historically not had it.” For their inaugural series they have chosen six filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds. The theme for this set of shorts is “Discovery”. The films included in “Launchpad” range from 14 to 20 minutes.
American Eid, from Aqsa Altaf, tells of a Pakistani family that has recently moved to the US. It is seen through the eyes of the two daughters, one who is trying to fit in, the other seeking to hold on to the traditions that are meaningful to her (like getting out of school for the Eid holiday). This was my favorite of the strong field.
Dinner Is Served, from Hao Zheng, is the story of a Chinese student at a ritzy school who desires to be the dining hall maître d’. He sees it as being recognized for his abilities. But it may not be how others see it.
Growing Fangs, from Ann Marie Pace, is the story of a Mexican-American teen from a mixed marriage—human and vampire. She doesn’t fit in with her human friends and is afraid to let the monsters at her new school know the truth about her parentage. This is the film with the best humor and most imaginative concept.
The Last of the Chupacabras, from Jessica Mendez Siqueiros, is another light-hearted (but not without meaning) story. The last tamales cart vendor in LA discovers a Chupacabra in her yard after an earthquake. It’s not as terrible as legend suggests.
Let’s Be Tigers, from Stefanie Abel Horowitz, is the story of a babysitter who is trying to cover up the grief over the death of her mother. Of course, sometimes it can sneak up on you.
The Little Prince(ss), from Moxie Peng, tells of two Chinese school kids who become friends, but the father of one of the boys is taken aback by his son’s friend’s affinity for dolls, pink, and ballet.
All of these films allow us to see people discovering themselves. Most of them also deal with the tensions of culture and tradition—of holding true to one’s values while trying to fit into a world that may not have those same values. The discoveries that the characters make in these stories show that we can often affirm both worlds if we are willing to be honest with ourselves.
I will confess that I often look at Disney as a behemoth—a cinematic/business empire that takes what it wants and only cares for the bottom line. That allows them to make lots of movies we all love. But it also sometimes makes them seem like they like to throw their weight around. But “Launchpad” certainly does not fit that image. These shorts are a nice gift that Disney has given us. It not only gives us a chance to watch some shorts, it also is giving wonderful opportunities to filmmakers who have a hard time finding ways to tell their stories.
Photos courtesy of Disney