Disney Junior Series Tells Inspiring Story About Girl With Spina Bifida In New Episode
Firebuds is highlighting the power of disability representation in a series of new episodes.
“If you can see it you can be it!” That’s the message of a new episode of Firebuds, a comedy adventure series about first responders on Disney Junior, that highlights the power of disability representation. “All That Jazzy” will debut on March 15, and Romper has an exclusive sneak peek!
Firebuds premiered in September 2022 and is produced by Emmy Award-winning creator and executive producer Craig Gerber (Disney’s Elena of Avalor and Sofia the First). It features a cast of energetic, civic-minded kids and their rescue vehicle pals who work together to keep their community safe. Each episode is comprised of two 11-minute stories and focus on the importance of teamwork and volunteerism.
The character Jazzy has spina bifida and drives a wheelchair/car/“vroom-mate” named Piper Porter. Her older brother Jayden is on a team of first responders and Jazzy loves helping out. The character is voiced by Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, who has muscular dystrophy. In “All That Jazzy” a professional dancer named Ayanna comes to town with her wheelchair vehicle, Gliderbella (voiced by Ali Stroker). Like Jazzy, Ayanna also has spina bifida, who encourages Jazzy to join in a fun performance — something Jazzy had never even imagined before.
But in the clip below, we see Jazzy recognize herself — and what she can do — when Ayanna and Gliderbella encourage her to take the stage...
RespectAbility, a disability-led nonprofit committed to ending stigma and advancing opportunities for disabled folks, advised on scripts, storyboards, and animatics for both “All That Jazzy” and “Cleft Hood,” which was inspired by writer Jeremy Shipp’s son Henry, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. It’s the kind of stories that, sadly, don’t come along every day.
A 2019 report from the UK, Is TV Making Your Child Prejudiced: A report into pre-school programming found that not only was disability representation (predictably) lacking in both the UK and North America, but characters with disabilities were often portrayed as villains. “A character who’s lost a limb is sinister [LEGO Ninjago] or has Tourette’s Syndrome is one of the baddies [Dinotrux],” Nick Walters, Hopster founder and CEO, said in a blog post. “And you start thinking: ‘Well, if that’s a child with a disability, how do [viewers with disabilities] grow up feeling about themselves?'”
Jazzy and Ayanna may only be two characters, but they can go a long way in helping children with disabilities feel seen.
This new Firebuds episode, “All That Jazzy,” will premiere on Disney Junior and Disney+ on March 15.