Launchpad, which premieres on Disney+ today, is a series of six short films made by young filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds. Each of the shorts is around 20 minutes long and carry a special, personal message that makes them memorable in their own way. You get the feeling that these six films needed to be made, that each of the filmmakers had to tell their stories, and that such a big platform as Disney + has not been taken for granted.
Each film is stand-alone to be watched individually at different times or one after the other. All six are well written, solid films but the standout for me is “Growing Fangs”, from writer/director Ann Marie Pace. The story is about Val, a young Mexican-American girl with a disturbing secret that she desperately tries to hide from her best friend: she’s half-human, half-vampire. The film features some brilliant visual gags, and at 20 minutes long, you feel that the idea behind the story is strong enough to work as a feature film.
The films are all well produced, and surprisingly, they don’t all end with a traditional Disney happy ending. “Dinner is Served”, from co-writer/director Hao Zheng, seems like it will be the typical hero’s journey of Disney storytelling. A Chinese student at an American high school has aspirations of becoming something more than is expected. But the film provides a subtle, very real commentary on racism and concludes in a bittersweet, thoughtful ending that is left to inspire discussion and debate.
“The Little Prince(ss)” shows a harmless relationship between young boys that becomes soured when the overly conservative father of one is bothered by how the other likes ballet and princesses. “Let’s Be Tigers” shows a young woman’s grief through an eventful night of babysitting a local boy. “American Eid”, in which a sibling relationship is explored over the annual Eid celebration as two girls encourage their local neighbourhood to understand the holiday. “The Last of the Chupacabras”, where an elderly woman conjures up a real version of a mythical Mexican creature, are also very strong, cases of shining a light on underrepresented backgrounds.
The idea behind Launchpad is simple, to give these young filmmakers access to the kind of budget, guidance and platform they need to tell their own stories. This kind of content is unique for Disney+, and it’s exciting to see Disney investing in these filmmakers and their stories. With the volume of new content added to Disney+ each week, hopefully, these short films won’t get lost among them. If you only have half an hour to watch something this bank holiday weekend, make it one of these shorts, and I guarantee you’ll end up watching them all.
All six films of season one of Launchpad are available to stream on Disney+ now. Season two has been confirmed.