In a little-known gem from Pixar’s Sparkshorts program, Loop, directed by Erica Milsom, we get to look at the world from an autistic child’s eyes. It follows a non-verbal autistic teenage girl Renee and a neurotypical teenage boy Marcus, on a short canoeing trip across the lake. But when they marooned on the other end of the lake, they learn the importance of seeing the world through each other’s perspective.
Pixar Animation Studios has produced a series of independent animated American short films with the Sparkshorts program. In it, Pixar employees are allotted six months’ time and a limited budget in which they are tasked with developing animated short films which were originally hosted on Pixar’s YouTube channel.
What makes Loop groundbreaking, however, is the authentic representation of the autism community in the mainstream media. Madison Bandy, who voices Renee, is an autistic young woman who is mostly non-verbal. The makers of the short film found the actor through an art center in California that serves artists with physical, developmental, and intellectual disabilities called Creative Growth.
Speaking about Madison, director Erica Milsom said, “The way that she uses her voice is so expressive. If you are a person who doesn’t know Madison and she starts vocalizing next to you, it’s actually very hard to understand what she is saying, which is the point of the film.” Renee’s character gets all the small details right, from her obsession with a ringtone that she finds comforting, to her hand gestures and little noises. Madison lends an authentic tone to the character, inspiring countless other people with learning disabilities like autism.
Loop is also visually stunning. The animation captures the surroundings of the characters in vivid details and the visuals come to life on screen. It is a heartwarming story of friendship, inclusivity, and empathy, told beautifully.
Loop is available on the streaming platform Disney+.