Disney Junior’s ‘Firebuds’ Groundbreaking Character Based On Writer’s Son

in Disney, Television

Castor, the car with a cleft hood

Credit: Disney

Disney Junior’s Firebuds (2022-2023) is a show that is all about representation. And in the groundbreaking episode ‘Cleft Hood,’ writer Jeremy Shipp takes inspiration from his own son.

All of the main characters from Firebuds
Credit: Disney

Firebuds is a music-filled show on Disney Junior about a group of young kids, who are the children of first responders, and their talking vehicle sidekicks. In each episode, the Firebuds try to help their town and defeat a group of young thieves called The Riley Gang.

But Firebuds separates itself from the countless other car and rescue shows aimed at young children is the amount of diversity and inclusivity between its characters. It is the first Disney Junior show to have main characters with same-gender parents.

It also features a character who is paraplegic but doesn’t let that stop her from being a wonderful dancer.

Jazzy Jones in a bedazzled outfit talks with her mother
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney+ Continues Downward Spiral, Several Projects Indefinitely Delayed

Recently, Writer Jeremy Shipp took inspiration from his own life to create a groundbreaking new character. Shipp’s son was born with a cleft lip and palate, leading Shipp to create Castor: the car with a cleft hood.

Facial Differences and Casting Castor

Whenever a character is introduced with a facial difference like a scar, they’re usually considered the villain. Shipp doesn’t think that has to be the case.

“Such qualities could just as easily suggest somebody is strong, brave, determined, cherished, and empathetic. Like in the real world, a scar could mean someone can talk or breathe easier, or had a lifesaving procedure. Maybe the condition gave this character a brighter outlook on life. Maybe they’re resilient and loving not despite their differences, or not even necessarily because of them, but because these qualities are within reach of any human.”

Castor from Firebuds (2023), Jeremy Shipp and his son who inspired the character
Credit: Disney, Elizabeth Shipp

Related: Everything We Know About Disney’s Live-Action ‘The Little Mermaid’

When it came to casting Castor, Shipp thought that the answer was obvious.

“When the time came to cast Castor, the car with the cleft, I felt it was important for him to be voiced by a child who actually had a cleft. Naturally, I thought of my son. He’s a terrific young actor, I think, but he also sounds right for the part. Kids with a cleft often have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, and many of them have years of speech therapy.”

However, Shipp didn’t want to just make an episode about the difficulties of having a cleft. Instead, he wanted to make viewers consider what people with differences are feeling and what they’re going through.

“‘Cleft Hood’ is not about clefts, per se. Rather, it is a story about considering the feelings and experiences of others. Using empathy is vital, not just in how we comport ourselves as humans, but in how we represent people in film and television. My hope was to depict someone with a facial difference who was adorable, fun, well-liked, and living a full life. Castor has an extra challenge, but he is just like other kids.”

He continued, “We can let the 1 in 700 kids feel seen, and we can help the other 699 see that their friend ― the one with a small scar on his lip ― has just as much to offer this world as they do.”

Most importantly, it gave Shipp a chance to work with his son.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him and how the episode came out. Working with my son to help tell his story has been a highlight of my career. Of my life.”

It’s wonderful to see these kinds of differences reflected in the programs that our children watch. And if there’s one thing our world could use a bit more of, it’s empathy.

What other differences would you like to see showcased on shows like Firebuds? Let us know in the comments below.

in Disney, Television

Comments Off on Disney Junior’s ‘Firebuds’ Groundbreaking Character Based On Writer’s Son