The Disney Junior series Fancy Nancy is taking strides in representation when it comes to children’s programming with an upcoming episode titled “Nancy’s New Friend” which will feature a character who is autistic. The episode will debut on April 2 which is timed to World Autism Awareness Day.
The idea for the episode came from a video of an 11-year-old autistic boy named George Yionoulis discovered by series writer Matt Hoverman. Yionoulis and his mother created the video for his fourth-grade class to explain to them how it is to be autistic.
In this episode, Nancy tries to make a new friend in Lionel's cousin, Sean, who is voiced by Yionoulis. “Nancy gets confused when Sean doesn't respond to her in the way she expects,” Fancy Nancy co-producer/head writer, Krista Tucker told Deadline. “Lionel explains that Sean is autistic and this means his brain works differently than others.” The episode features Lionel giving Nancy tips on how to better approach Sean and the two slowly begin to connect.
“We hope this episode will help our viewers understand that there are sensitivities to be mindful of when engaging with someone who has autism,” said Tucker. “People with autism may act in ways we feel are different, and that's okay—they're just being who they are. In a world where so many children interact with kids who have autism, this kind of understanding creates compassion, tolerance and friendship. Most importantly, it creates a world that is kind and accepting of all of us.”
To bring even more authenticity to the episode, Autism Speaks and RespectABILITY consulted on the story.
RespectABILITY’s Elaine Hall adds, “My hope is that this episode of ‘Nancy’s New Friend’ will help children and their parents understand autism as a different way of being, rather than as something weird, or wrong or to be afraid of.”
Hall, who is also the founder and director of The Miracle Project, continued to say that “Nancy’s New Friend” demonstrates true compassion and empathy in that by understanding another’s experience and point of view we can create true connection.
Lisa Goring, Chief Strategic Initiatives and Innovation Officer For Autism Speaks, adds “Characters like Sean show that all children are incredible in their own ways and with the support of their community, each child can reach their full potential.”
EXCLUSIVE: Spotlight production co Topic Studios is teaming with journalism outfit Field of Vision to offer $250,000 in emergency financial help for struggling documentary freelancers during the coronavirus lockdown.
The two companies are divisions of First Look Media, the org set up by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar with doc heavyweights Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras.
Industry freelancers have been particularly hard hit by the economic aspects of the crisis, with film and TV production halted around the world. As such, the fund is aiming to support the most vulnerable by providing life assistance grants, such as for rent, healthcare, bills, groceries, for those who have experienced financial hardship from loss of income or opportunity. The money comes from the operating budgets of the two companies.
Field of Vision / Topic Studios
The fund will offer individual grants of up to $2,000 in two chunks, initially in April and then again in May, as the situation evolves. It will open for applications between April 8 and April 10 or until the companies receive 750 applications and then again between May 6 and May 8 or until a further 750 applications are received.
Co-Founder and Executive Producer of Field of Vision, Charlotte Cook said, “This is an incredibly hard time for the documentary field and we're hoping the fund is able to offer some relief. We started with our virtual mentorship and consultation service to try and be as available to filmmakers as possible, but felt it was vitally important to also provide financial assistance. We want to support the artists working in the documentary field every day, but especially now, and will continue to build and add more resources as we can over the next few weeks and months.”
Executive Vice President of Topic Studios, Maria Zuckerman added, “We at Topic Studios are proud to launch this initiative in partnership with our close colleagues at Field of Vision. We hope to respond to the needs of our collaborators in the documentary community and look forward to a time, hopefully soon, when our main focus will again be on making great work together.”
Disney+ may benefit from further delays with the studio's theatrical releases as more movies may be going directly to the streaming service in the future. This, according to former Disney CEO and current Executive Chairman Bob Iger. It was recently revealed that Artemis Fowl will debut on Disney+ sometime this year, skipping a theatrical release. As Iger explains, that may not be the only title to make the move from theatrical to streaming, but don't expect to see it happen with the studio's upcoming tentpole releases.
Given what's going on in the world right now, most movie theaters are shut down entirely and virtually all major releases through June have been delayed. Some have wondered if Disney might put movies like Black Widow or Mulan on Disney+ instead. While that won't be happening, Bob Iger isn't ruling out other movies making the shift. Here's what Iger had to say about it in a recent interview.
'There are some we've decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we've simply delayed. In some cases we've moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have. Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened.'
'We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy it and own it. And then we ended up putting it on Disney+. In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we'll simply wait for slots. In some cases we've announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.'
There is a lot to unpack here. Black Widow and several other delayed movies were recently given new release dates as Disney reshuffled its 2020/2021 calendar. Black Widow and other big-budget tentpoles stand to make far more money in theaters, even with a relatively uncertain future ahead, than they could possibly generate via streaming. So putting movies like them directly on Disney+ doesn't make that much business sense.
In the meantime, taking riskier projects such as Artemis Fowl and giving Disney+ subscribers something flashy and exclusive is helpful. But what other movies might fit the bill for streaming debuts? The New Mutants perhaps? Whatever the case, as Bob Iger points out, the studio is content to wait until things return to normal. Disney, more than any other studio in Hollywood, is capable of raking in big dollars at the box office. So this truly isn't that surprising.
Other studios, on the other hand, may see value in doing a VOD/Digital release. Universal kicked that door wide open a couple of weeks back by putting recent releases such as The Invisible Man and The Hunt online. Trolls: World Tour, which was destined for theaters, will arrive digitally this month. Disney has not yet set a premiere date for Artemis Fowl, but it's...