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Disney's first actor with Down syndrome

Disney's first actor with Down syndrome

Image source: © Press Release
MAKO,
21.02.2024 11:45

Noah Matthews Matofsky, a British actor, has trisomy 21. He landed a role in a Disney film where he acted alongside Jude Law and other actors.

Disney is becoming more and more dedicated to promoting inclusion and diversity. As a film studio with over a century of history, Disney has had its fair share of controversies. Nevertheless, it is impossible to overlook that the company has produced many animated films featuring characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds, allowing children from all walks of life to identify with them.

Disney and modern standards. Equality above all?

In various Disney movies, we have seen different cultures represented, such as Mulan from China, the Inuit inhabitants of the Tundra (Sitka, Denahi, and Kenai from "My Brother Bear"), Lilo and her sister Nani from Hawaii, Aladdin and Jasmine representing Arab countries, and Kuzco from "The Emperor’s New Groove" representing Latin America. While some might argue that this is enough representation, "The Princess and the Frog" (2009) caused a small revolution by introducing the first black princess, Tiana, who hails from New Orleans.

There are now more films with non-white protagonists, such as "Coco", which draws on Mexican culture, and "Vaiana", which is set on a tropical island. This trend has also made its way into live-action films, such as "The Little Mermaid" with Ariel, which cast a black woman, actress Halle Bailey. However, some critics have responded negatively, accusing Disney of being too politically correct.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid"
Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" (Press Release)

Disney has recognised the need for greater representation and has made efforts to rectify its past mistakes. For instance, in movies such as "Lady and the Tramp" (which features mischievous Siamese cats) and "Peter Pan" (which uses a derogatory term for Native Americans), disclaimers are now displayed informing viewers that certain characters have been portrayed in a hurtful or stereotypical manner.

Disney’s inclusivity

Indeed, issues related to race are not the only concerns regarding Disney. There are also allegations of silencing other minority groups. The company has faced accusations of homophobia, such as the "Don't Say Gay" controversy, and of minimising or ignoring LGBT themes. Currently, there are very few instances of LGBT inclusivity in Disney's productions, including only a kiss in "Buzz Lightyear," a non-binary character in "Elemental" (though they are only a side character), a teenage romance in "Strange World," and a transgender character in the "Baymax" series.

Another group that is often overlooked are people with disabilities. There are only a few examples of disability representation in Disney's productions, such as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and Captain Hook in "Peter Pan." However, recently, British actor Noah Matthews Matofsky, who has Down syndrome, joined the cast as Slightly, one of the Lost Boys in the upcoming film "Peter Pan & Wendy."

The actor with trisomy 21 starred in "Peter Pan & Wendy"

Noah Matthews Matofsky made his acting debut with the role of Slightly in "Peter Pan & Wendy". This was a significant milestone for Disney, as it was the first time they had cast a person with trisomy 21 in such a prominent role in a film. In the movie, Noah portrays one of the Lost Boys and had the privilege of acting alongside Jude Law.

You can stream "Peter Pan & Wendy" on Disney+.

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