When Disney+ launched I was amongst many other Disney fans excited to load it up and check it out on launch day. However, what I did not expect was that the adorable looking “Float” would leave me feeling a million different emotions at once. I had no idea that the second thing I watched on Disney+ that day would leave me reflecting on being the mother of a child with special needs. This is how Float affected me, and I will admit, I’m tearing up as I write this.
Caution: Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen Float yet there will be spoilers in this article.
I’ve always enjoyed Pixar Shorts, so I was so excited to flip on the new app for SparkShorts, and watch beloved favorites, and the newest one Float. First we watched Purl, that ball of yarn really does make me smile. Then the new Float, it seemed whimsical and exciting about a child who could as the title suggests, float. The scene opens on a new father and his child, as the father blows a dandelion for his bouncing baby boy, that child takes flight in excitement. At first the father is instantly amazed and in awe of his child, before realizing others might think it is strange. Sure enough the first people to encounter the child’s new found ability seem disturbed and run off.
This is where I started to realize, maybe this won’t be so “light” hearted after all. We fast forward to the father and son hiding in a darkened home. There is worry, fear, and also a hint of panic. See, I knew these emotions well, and I knew them in the context they were presented. These are some of the emotions that you go through when your child is diagnosed with a disability, or other label.
Just like our strong and resilient children though, our floating star doesn’t realize there is anything different. He smiles brightly and marches on, while dad is afraid of encounters. As they pass a family with a non floating child, the father ducks and hides. I’ve been there, the anxiety of my child interacting with another. The anxiety of the impending questions like, “why does he talk funny”, or “why does he do that?” It’s these little things we don’t like to confront. The relief of this scene though? Is that for the first time in a while, I didn’t feel alone. Yes my husband understands, and I have other parent friends that go through this. However there was something about it being on the screen, that made me feel comforted.
Then comes the pinnacle moment of the film. The child wants to go to the playground with all of the other kids. Dad says no, but he goes anyways. Of course, he also floats. The father rushes to grab him, and pulls him out. While another scene many of us know so well unfolds. A tantrum, he doesn’t want to leave, he doesn’t understand he has done something “wrong”. Because he has NOT done something wrong, unfortunately it is everyone else seeing it that way.
As he cries and shouts, the father grabs him and screams the one line in the entire film. My heart shattered into a million pieces all in one moment. I instantly was hit with every moment I made my son’s disability about my own anxiety and fear, over his. It was a heart wrenching cry, but also cathartic. I realized in this moment I am not alone, and my shame of how situations are sometimes handled is shared. All those moments curled up crying, all those moments of feeling overwhelmed and desperate. All of these moments washed over me like a towering wave. Yet by the end of the film, these moments were washing away, and I didn’t feel so ashamed of them anymore.
Let me be clear, we don’t want our children to be “normal”. We love who they are and everything about them. What we fear, is anyone else making them feel less for not fitting in. It is a fear and anxiety that subconsciously seeps into every aspect of life. When they go to school, will kids make fun of them? While on the playground, while grocery shopping, while out to eat, in all of these moments will my child be safe? In the end the father lets it all go, and simply enjoys his beautiful child. Which we should all do, but we know that is a journey.
The writer and producer of this film Bobby Rubio, knows all these things well. He created Float based on his own personal story of his son. His son Alex was diagnosed with autism at age two, and this short was inspired by the challenge of raising him.
What Float also does is let everyone relate. The extraordinary ability to float can be a stand in for any thing that a parent or child has trouble coming to terms with, not just autism, not just disabilities, anything.
As a mom with a child who has Neurofibromatosis type 1, it was refreshing to see something I could relate to on a core basis. Often times we forget that children with special needs don’t fit into a little bubble we have created for them either.
We all have different experiences, and our journeys are not all the same. What Float does though, is help us realize we are not alone. We have all made mistakes in our parenting, but we can move on, and we are still being the best parents we can be.
What were your takeaways from the Pixar Short, Float?
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