Talking about complex topics with children requires parental care and delicacy and is not always free from butterflies in the stomach. But this task doesn’t have to be lonely, as children’s productions are proving to be good allies when it comes to bringing relevant social agendas and important values to the formation of the little ones to the small screens.
The series “LAUNCHPAD” (see all shorts here), released on May 28 at Disney+ is the perfect example of this. The collection of six short films seeks to diversify the tone of the stories usually told and give voice to groups that historically have not had access – that’s why most of the plots are inspired by the creators’ own life trajectory, which leaves the final result still more exciting.
Well-constructed productions are worth the marathon, but if you have to choose which to spend 15 minutes of your day to go out with a warm heart, our advice is to choose “The Little Prince(ss)”. The title’s main character is Gabriel, a seven-year-old Chinese boy in love with ballet. His tastes are validated by his family, but viewed with suspicion by the father of his best friend Rob, who decides to intervene in their friendship.
No more spoilers, the short is about respect ethnic, cultural and gender differences. and about how the fight against prejudice starts at home, encouraging your child to live with different types of people and valuing the qualities that make him unique.
To understand more about what inspired the plot and what is the message behind it, we spoke with the director and writer Moxie Peng. Non-binary and of Chinese nationality, the filmmaker usually portrays themes related to immigrants, the LGBTQIA+ community and other minorities and has already taken his productions to renowned international festivals.
The short shows the genuine friendship between the children, in which Rob does not judge Gabriel’s hobbies and personality. How can this be important to break the cycle of bullying?
I tried to show how pure the friendship between the characters was. Rob was raised by a toxic, macho father – and you might think this will have an impact on him – but in reality he turns out to be a child full of innocence and curiosity, which makes him more open-minded and more accepting of differences. . The idea is that we need to enjoy things without putting labels on them.
How can the short film help families teach their children about respecting differences?
I hope the story makes the parents feel that it’s okay, that being welcoming and supportive will make the child benefit from it. I think the message is very clear: we want to ‘embrace’ the differences, because they are what make us great as humanity.
I read that the short was inspired by situations you lived through as a child…
Like Gabriel, from time to time I received messages from people who detected my femininity – rejection, neglect and a certain homophobia and transphobia. At cfive years ago, I met my neighbor, and his father was uncomfortable when he saw us walking together. One day he came to our house while we were having dinner and told my dad that I was troubled and that I needed to be fixed.
And how did you feel?
I felt like I had let my parents down, like it was a disgrace to Chinese culture. My father was very upset, and told the man that he loved me for who I was. At first I was upset, because I realized that people could be mean; this shocked me. But when my father defended me, I noticed that there was also acceptance, and she was in my own house. I felt so free – like I could take my time to explore and find out who I was, I didn’t have to rush to fit in a box.
What advice would you give to children who are struggling with their identities?
This may not be easy, but it’s not your fault. You are beautiful and be kind to yourself. Find your community, your allies; find acceptance. The world is big, and you will find it.