When Renee (Madison Bandy) & Marcus (Christiano “Chachi” Delgado) are introduced by their camp counselor, they’re two awkward thirteen-year-olds in a canoe. Marcus, a talkative Black boy with a fondness for canoeing jargon and fitted caps. Renee, a bi-racial kinky-haired brunette with an affinity for dog sounds and multi-color ringtones.
Renee and Marcus are familiar with the daily 3:00 PM canoe ride across the camp lake. The only thing foreign to them is canoeing together. Typically, Renee rides with a counselor. When gifted the opportunity to ride with Renee, Marcus reluctantly asks, “That girl who doesn’t talk?”
Renee is non-verbal and on the autistic spectrum.
Loop is a 12-minute animated short and Pixar Animation’s first film to feature a non-verbal autistic character as their leading lady.
“People were worried because they hadn’t encountered a lot of nonverbal folks in their casting previously, but I was like, “Hey, let us deal with that.” I reached out to different friends in the Bay Area who worked with artists with disabilities and was like, “We’re seeking this. Please pass it around,” and then we found Madison so fast.” shares Loop Director Erica Milsom to Forbes about the casting process.
“We were really aware of the “nothing about us without us” movement, and I was like “there’s no way I’m going to make a film that doesn’t honor that.” What would be the point of that? The greatest challenge I can give Pixar is to take all these artists who are so talented and say, “Let’s focus on this character that we haven’t seen portrayed in film or TV at all.”
Despite the brevity of the short, Renee and Marcus’s canoe ride is uncomfortable. Waves of emotion ripple from their boat, frustration and fear, anger and delight, and calm and confusion, to name a few.
But amid that discomfort, there is learning and development in both teens. With each paddle across the lake, we witness what happens when we plant seeds in children to be kind and maintain a spirit of curiosity for those different from us.
Loop is a binocular-sized lens for every neurotypical person who’s been unenthusiastic about interacting with someone neurodivergent. It’s a firefly-sized piece of cinematic gold for the folks who have been too worrisome to wave hello, too self-conscious about saying or doing the “wrong thing,” or too embarrassed to be seen with someone society is hesitant to celebrate and eager to erase.
If we can teach our children anything, it’s that you don’t have to speak the same language as someone for them to become your new friend. In fact, you don’t have to speak at all. You just have to be friendly.
Loop is streaming now on Disney Plus.
Woof. Woof. Woof.