Disney Made an Animated Short About Body Image — Why That's So Important

A psychologist weighs in on the much-buzzed about short film.

Charcter from 'Reflect' on Disney+ Looks In the Mirror

Disney+ just released season two of its series of short films called Short Circuit in September, and there's an episode people can't stop talking about. It's called Reflect, and it tells the story of a young girl named Bianca, who is being called Disney's first plus-size heroine. 

In the short, Bianca looks confident as she practices ballet by herself in an empty dance studio. But then her class starts and things change.

Bianca becomes visibly uncomfortable by the fact that she doesn't look like the other dancers, and her teacher's advice for the students to have a "tight tummy, long neck" doesn't help. The room disappears at one point, and Bianca is left looking at a broken mirror with hundreds of reflections of herself.

Bianca is self-conscious at first, but she starts dancing. Suddenly, the broken mirrors dance with her. Eventually, she breaks through the mirror and is back in the class with the other students, confident again.

The short has gotten a lot of praise online from people who applaud its message of body acceptance. One called the short "very encouraging," on Twitter. "I am glad Disney decided to include a 'plus-sized' heroine," they wrote. "Plus-size Disney character who isn't a villain," added another, along with a string of teary-eyed emoji.

However, the short isn't without its critics. "I'm not against Disney having a plus-size heroine, but I think I'd prefer a story about one that isn't focused on her body," shared one person on Twitter. Others claimed the story glorified or normalized having obesity.

The message of the short is "so important" for kids and adults alike, says Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychology at NYU Langone Health and cohost of the Mind in View podcast.

"We know body image is so much shaped by culture and the zeitgeist," she says. "People feel very negative about their bodies when they're only shown the same [thin] bodies. Societally, we have a lot of baggage when it comes to shape."

Gallagher praises the short for showcasing that people can struggle with body image but still appreciate what their bodies can do. "That's what I work with patients on — body neutrality," she says. "It's looking for ways to say, 'I appreciate my body for the things it can do other than the way it looks in society and culture.'"

The expert also doesn't agree with those who say the short promotes obesity. "Just because someone is larger than what someone else deems 'appropriate' doesn't mean it's promoting obesity," she says.

For many, the short is a small step in the right direction toward showing a more diverse array of body types and people in media, and that's worth celebrating. (Next up: The Abercrombie & Fitch Documentary Highlights the Importance of Size Inclusivity In Fashion)

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles