Open letter to the writers, artists, directors and producers of Zootopia,
We went to see your movie Zootopia with two young girls this Saturday. Before we began, I asked the girls if they would play, 'movie scavenger hunt' with me. They both love games and eagerly agreed. I asked them to try and spot a character who uses a wheelchair or who has some other form of disability. I promised the first to spot one a dollar. Zootopia is a cartoon. That means it's drawn. That means that what's there is there intentionally, not accidentally. I sat back in my chair and the movie began.
Your movie had several themes but one was about difference and one was about inclusion. Inclusion! Now the inclusion here was about the first rabbit on a police force of primarily big animals, many of whom are predators. Not only wasn't there a character with any kind of disability, why would a movie about inclusion need that, there wasn't even the slightest concession to disability. No ramps. No curb cuts. No disabled access symbols.
Does that mean disability was erased?
Not at all.
Though we didn't see a disabled character of any kind. We did see a wheelchair. And where was that wheelchair? It was in a dark and scary place where people were locked away in cages. I shit you not. This means that you who wrote and drew this film about 'inclusion' not only knew about wheelchairs but decided to use them as decorations to heighten the scariness of a place.
When the movie was over we all went for lunch. I asked if they saw a character with a disability. Both kids said that they didn't, but that they saw a wheelchair. They were both surprised that there wasn't at least one person with a disability in the show - they know me, there are kids with disabilities in their school, why wouldn't there be disabled people in Zootopia - the town that prides itself on inclusion? They then both noted that they'd seen the wheelchairs in the scary place and that didn't make sense to them either - they love rolling about in my chair they love rides in the power chair, wheelchairs are fun, not scary.
The message of Zootopia is that people shouldn't give into prejudice and everyone should be respected and admired no matter the difference.
I call you the creators of Zootopia, frauds, and your message, fraudulent.
You claim to want inclusion but you pair disability and wheelchairs with scary music and dark places. Nice. Here's something you need to think about. Your audience for this film, children are a more diverse group than you clearly can imagine. Ruby and Sadie go to school with kids who have disabilities. They are school mates, classmates and friends. To show children, who live in an inclusive world, a world that not only doesn't include disability but eradicates it, is irresponsible.
I sat there as a disabled adult, in a wheelchair, dismayed at the presentation of a wheelchair as a scary thing. Can you imagine the effect that would have on children with disabilities.
So not only did you 'fail' on the inclusion message, you send a very different message. Disability, bad. Disability, scary. Disability needs to disappear.
Thank heaven's we could chat about this with the kids we took to the movie. Thank heaven's they understood what was missing. They are 6 and 9 ... what does that say about you?