Blue Tang

Fun Fact Friday presents: A Film Review of “Finding Dory” by Abbie Volkmann

Disability in Disney Part 2

I believe it’s important for individuals with disabilities to be represented in the media, especially in films, and a few months ago, I wrote about how Disney portrays individuals with disabilities in a positive light through films like Finding Nemo (2003). Last month, I saw the sequel to this highly acclaimed film, Finding Dory (2016). Here are some thoughts I have after seeing the film as well as my opinion on its depiction of individuals with disabilities.

The storyline is similar to the first film, but this time, as the title suggests, Dory is the protagonist. Throughout the film we follow our favorite forgetful blue tang as she, along with her friend Marlin and his son Nemo, goes on a journey to find her parents, from whom she had become separated at a young age. As with the first film, the trio encounter many adventures and surprises along the way.
There were many aspects of the film I liked, but one in particular that stood out to me was the inclusion of characters with disabilities. Much like the first film, many characters in Finding Dory have some kind of disability. What sets this film apart from its predecessor, however, is the representations themselves. Unlike the first film, where the characters’ disabilities seemed to be a minor issue that was oftentimes 4072983483_72d701769a_zeither shrugged off and pretty much ignored (with the exception of Dory and Nemo) or were used for comedic purposes, in the sequel, disability plays a bigger and more serious role. The characters aid each other in overcoming their disabilities, and even use each other’s strengths to help those that struggle in the same area. For instance, one of the characters, Destiny, is a whale shark who is visually impaired. This impacts her ability to navigate through her surroundings. During a scene that is very significant to the plot of the film, she is assisted by her neighbor, a beluga named Bailey. During this scene, both animals are trying to locate Dory so they can help her. Because Destiny has trouble
with her orientation, Bailey helps her navigate using his echolocation skills, which he himself was previously struggling with until he learned how to improve the skills. This is just one of the many examples of how characters in the film with disabilities assist each other.

As with most sequels, there were a few flaws and inconsistencies that bothered me. O8391696279_cfce3f1b28_one huge issue I had with this film is the character of Marlin, Nemo’s father. Throughout  Finding Nemo, he learns to be more accepting of and patient with others who are different as well as to be more relaxed and less high-strung in general. In Finding Dory, however, he seems to have returned to his former self, and needs constant reminders from his son that he should trust Dory more and be more accepting of her.
Overall, I enjoyed Finding Dory very much, but it wasn’t as good as Finding Nemo. The portrayal of disability within this film was fantastic, even better than the first one. I would definitely recommend seeing this film, whether you’ve been a Finding Nemo fan since it first came out, or you’re just curious about its portrayal of disability.

– Abbie is a recent graduate of Loras College with a degree in Media Studies and has recently become a Digital Marketing Intern at

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at


Fun Fact Friday presents: Disability Through The Lens of Disney

For one of my senior research projects in college, I researched the representation of people with disabilities in Disney movies, as well as how they are portrayed.  As I describe in my paper, Disney has created very few characters with disabilities so far, and the ones that have been portrayed are not entirely accurate.

They also do not go beyond the typical “You can do anything no matter what” statement, and sometimes portray characters with disabilities as comical and less realistic.

5460472336_9fa0847295_zHowever, Disney has produced two films in particular that portray disabilities in a positive and somewhat realistic way, which are Dumbo (1941) and Finding Nemo (2003).  The latter film does a better job of portraying disabilities than the former, mostly due to the time periods in which the films were released. In the 1940s, when Dumbo was released, people didn’t know as much about disabilities than they do in today’s society.

Our increasing knowledge and awareness of individuals with disabilities, as well as the disabilities themselves, has led us to be more accepting of them.  This is very similar to what we do in our Disability Awareness Trainings!

1484830339_9d64f2cbfc_zThese differences in views of disabilities can be seen at the end of each film.  At the end of Dumbo, although the titular character becomes more accepted by others, his disability is still viewed as a “spectacle,” and that is what eventually leads to his fame.  On the other hand, at the end of Finding Nemo, the titular fish does not become famous for his disability, rather, he simply is accepted into society for who he is.

In Finding Nemo, Nemo is accepted earlier in the film than Dumbo is and he is accepted by more individuals, not to mention others his own age. The other kids even have disabilities of their own and they proudly share their differences with Nemo, thereby allowing him to fit in more.

His acceptance is further established later in the film, when he meets a group of fish in a fish tank. Each fish has a disability of their own as well, and Nemo can identify with them because of this. Finding Nemo is perhaps the closest Disney has come so far to not only accurately portraying individuals with disabilities, but creating characters individuals with disabilities can relate to.

3335593411_5bf0c34274_zBesides Nemo, there is one other character with a disability that plays an important part in the storyline and that is Dory, who has a disability that affects her short term memory.

Despite her frustrations with this, she always has a positive outlook on life, and is very determined to help those in need.  These are both traits in which the audience can be inspired by as well as relate to.

Later this month, Dory’s story will be continued and expanded in the upcoming film Finding Dory (2016).  Let’s hope Disney and Pixar will continue to portray Dory in a positive light and maybe even explore some characteristics of her that we have yet to discover.  We’re looking forward to seeing what Pixar can come up with.

– Abbie is a recent graduate of Loras College with a degree in Media Studies and has recently become a Digital Marketing Intern at

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at


Fun Fact Friday presents: “Children Of A Lesser God”

Marlee Matlin in "Children Of A Lesser God"

Marlee Matlin in “Children Of A Lesser God”

Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God (1986) introduced Marlee Matlin to the world. The film is seen as extremely important as well, having a deaf individual in the lead role (Matlin) using American Sign Language (ASL) throughout the film and showing a community of deaf people interacting with each other (Through). At the same time, the deaf community considers the film problematic. The lighting and framing of the film causes some of the ASL to be obscured, making it hard for deaf audience members to understand the “signed dialogue” (Schuchman 85). Furthermore, hearing characters do not always sign when they talk (Norden 288). There was also the problem of movie theaters lacking versions of the film with subtitles, as only ten of the 215 theaters showing the film in late 1986 “had captioned versions, often [showing the film] only on early Saturday and Sunday mornings” (288). This illustrates the accessibility issues that existed at the time pertaining to this film. As a result of these factors, the deaf community also regards this film as being geared toward a hearing audience (289). 

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at


Works Cited


Norden, Martin F. The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies.

New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1994.

Schuchman, John S. Hollywood Speaks: Deafness and the Film Entertainment Industry. Urbana:

University of Illinois Press, 1988.

Through Deaf Eyes. Dir. Diane Garey and Lawrence R. Hott. Perf. Marlee Matlin and CJ Jones.

DVD. PBS Home Video, 2007.

H. Lloyd

Fun Fact Friday presents: Harold Lloyd, a silent film comedian and impaired stuntman

H. Lloyd

Harold Lloyd (middle)

While Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton may receive more name recognition as silent film comedians, another person that is closely associated with them is Harold Lloyd. Lloyd’s film career lasted over 30 years, from 1913 to 1947 (“Filmography”). He is best known for comedies that put his character in precarious positions, (such as Safety Last! (1923)) performing stunts that captivated audiences. Perhaps the most interesting part of his story is his experience of impairment and the solution that allowed him to continue his career. On August 24, 1919, while posing for publicity photos, he used what he thought to be a “prop bomb” in his right hand to light a cigarette, lowering it away from his face. This prop bomb was an actual bomb, and exploded, causing him to temporarily lose his vision. The blast also caused the loss of his forefinger, thumb, and part of his palm on his right hand. He eventually decided to continue his career, regaining his sight and using a prosthetic glove on his right hand to conceal any impairment (Leonard; “Part 2”). Lloyd used a number of different gloves over the years. The gloves were made to look like skin and match the color of the make-up that was worn at the time. Since the films were in black-and-white, the audience members who watched his films could not really see any difference (Memories).


Some thoughts:

Even as I post this fun fact concerning Harold Lloyd, I do not want this to be strictly seen as a type of “overcomer” story, focused on his own perseverance through an experience of disability. I have seen enough of those stories. Paul Longmore writes how “disability is primarily a problem of the emotional coping, of personal acceptance” when examining disability in film and television (139). These ideas surrounding disability still permeate society, perpetuated by media stories. With Lloyd, this type of framing is used by those who knew him when talking about how the issue was handled. Even with Lloyd’s characters,’ while there was no use of disability, there was a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, with a focus on overcoming the odds.

When I think about Lloyd’s situation, I am more drawn to his effort to “pass” as a nondisabled individual with his prosthetic glove. I know it has been 70 years since his last film and that ideas about disability, inclusion, and many other issues have changed. Still, I think about the stigma attached to disability and the desire to disassociate from it at that time. At the same time, Lloyd was a privileged individual in the sense that he already had an established career. He was able to keep that rolling for almost 30 years. I have no idea how he actually felt about his impairment. It seems that it was rarely talked about, as he “’didn’t want people to feel embarrassed about it’” (“Part 2”) I don’t regard him as a hero or feel sorry for him. I find his films to be funny and his stunts to be brilliant, but I don’t admire him. I do feel it is important to think about his situation and similar ones that are more current, as disability continues to play an increasingly vital part in how society develops.

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at


Works Cited

“Filmography.” haroldlloyd, Accessed 15 May 2017.

Leonard Maltin’s Segments: Ring Up the Curtain!: 1893 – 1919: I’m On My Way 1917 – 1919.

Perf. Leonard Maltin.  DVD. The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Bonus Disc. New

Line Home Entertainment, 2005.

Longmore, Paul K. Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability. Philadelphia:

Temple University Press, 2003.

Memories, Secrets and Gags: Ring Up the Curtain!: 1893 – 1919: Harold’s Glove. Perf. Richard

Correll and David Nowell.  DVD. The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Bonus Disc.

New Line Home Entertainment, 2005.

“Part 2 Susanne Llyod ‘the horrible accident’ interview with host Frankie Verroca.” Youtube,

uploaded by frankietalk, 1 October 2011,

Movie Still

Fun Fact Friday presents: Harold Russell, bilateral hand amputee and unexpected movie star

Movie Still

Harold Russel (left), Dana Andrews (middle), and Fredric March (right)

William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) follows three serviceman who meet while flying back to their hometown of Boone City after World War II.  Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is an older Army Sergeant who has difficulty adjusting to home life with his family and resuming his career as a banker. Air Force Captain Fred Dery (Dana Andrews) is younger, coming home to wartime marriage after a short courtship, trying to find a job, and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is a Navy Officer nervous about reconnecting with his family and girlfriend Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell) after losing his hands and having to use prosthetic hooks in their place. All three men are interconnected in their efforts to readjust to civilian life.


Harold Russell was “discovered” by director William Wyler and playwright Robert Sherwood (who was hired to work with Wyler on concepts for the film) when they viewed the army training film Diary of a Sergeant. This film was meant to “offer encouragement to the 15,000 men who had lost hands or arms” (Gerber 77, 79). Russell was a bilateral hand amputee due to a training accident (80). The 22 minute film depicts Russell as a person who lost his hands on D-Day, eventually going from a self-pitying state to watching a film about a man using prosthetics and being inspired, learning how to use his own prosthetics and eventually reintegrating into society. The action on the screen is coupled with a narrator who tells the story (“Diary”). Russell, whose own experiences of dealing with disability and rehabilitation were similar, impressed Wyler and Sherwood and he was eventually cast in the film (Gerber 80).

When I watch The Best Years of Our Lives, I try to prepare myself for it. First of all, it’s a long film, running almost three hours. I want to make sure I can watch the entire thing in a single sitting. I don’t like to start and stop a film, as it takes me out of the moment. Sometimes, it’s just hard to get back “in” to the moment and I have to move on, reserving plans for another day. Beyond the “length” factor, I also have mixed emotions about what I am watching on the screen. I enjoy seeing Harold Russell playing the role of a character with a disability. I realize that Russell was not a professional actor. He was incredibly lucky and given a chance. The disability is not “created” with the assistance of special effects. At the same time, while I connect to some of the emotions that the character Homer Parrish expresses, I have to remind myself that it is all part of a narrative that plays on the stereotypes surrounding veterans with disabilities. On the one hand, Wyler exploits to the anxiety surrounding the returning veterans with disabilities, working on both the pity and fear that the audience has for the character. On the other hand, there is also an emphasis on the ability to overcome adversity through disability (Gerber 76). These ideas still exist within society and have been perpetuated in films throughout the years in one form or another. Sometimes, the process of watching films that continue to do this is exhausting. So, why do I do it?

During my time at The University of Toledo, I took a class entitled, “American Myth and Legacy of Vietnam.” I embarked on projects that examined the portrayal of Vietnam veterans in film, first on characters with physical disabilities and then looking at characters with (PTSD). During our final weeks of class, I was presenting my work and explaining why it mattered. After it was all said and done, a classmate chimed in and made the point, “But they’re just movies…” I don’t really remember the exchange (or if there was one, because my nerves were fried from presenting). However, I do remember being surprised with those words. I understand how we can enjoy films and watch them for fun, but I have a hard time thinking about them as “just movies.” They can influence the lives of people in so many ways, impacting societal perceptions, day-to-day interactions, and more. I think this is a major reason why I keep watching, even if it means multiple viewings. I keep learning something new.

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

Works Cited

Gerber, David. “’Heroes and Misfits: The Troubled Social Reintegration of Disabled Veterans in The Best Years of Our Lives.”  Disabled Veterans in History. Ed. Gerber, David.

Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. 96-114.
“Diary of a Sargeant, 1945.” YouTube, uploaded by US National Archives, 27 May 2014,


RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at


Kartemquin partners with ReelAbilities Chicago to offer ReeLabs

Are you a Chicago-area independent filmmaker who has a disability, or who is making a film about disability or inclusion?

Kartemquin has partnered with ReelAbilities Chicago, the largest film festival in the United States dedicated to sharing the human experience of disability through art and film, to offer ReeLabs––an exclusive critique and discussion of works-in-progress by up to six eligible local filmmakers.

The intimate feedback session is open for incomplete projects at any stage of production, and will take place on Tuesday, October 3rd 2017.

Please complete the ReeLabs submission form for consideration into the program.

Have questions or comments? Contact Matt Lauterbach, ReelAbilities Chicago Co-Director at

The KTQ Labs program is a free monthly service at which filmmakers present their demos and rough cuts to the Kartemquin community in return for constructive critique. The program has helped improve over 100 projects in the past decade, including some of the best Midwest-made documentaries in recent years, such as What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Louder Than A Bomb, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, Quest, and many more.

The 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival is coming to Chicago October 4-8! Visit the festival’s official website here.

Follow ReelAbilities Chicago on Twitter.
Like ReelAbilities Chicago on Facebook.

Meet The Team

Meet The Team – Carolee Stanmar, Planning Committee Member

Meet The TeamI’m a techie and trekkie. I love technology and Star Trek (the prime universe not the JJ Abrams universe). I also love most forms of science fiction ( horror is not science fiction). As a child of the eighties, I have a fondness for watching movies like The Princess Bride, Big, and the original Ghostbusters. Thank goodness for Netflix, Hulu, and Chromecast!

As an urban hermit, I prefer watching movies at home rather than going to the movie theater. The only exception of course is when I’m watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster.

I love living in Chicago because in the Spring and Summer I can get my fill of pop culture conventions. Through the conventions, I have met a cornucopia of celebrities from Supergirl to Back To The Future and others.

When I’m not watching movies, I’m a volunteer for Illinois Spina Bifida Association.

– Carolee Stanmar, Planning Committee Member

RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Fatal Attraction

Fun Fact Friday presents: Glenn Close, an offscreen star and activist

Fun Fact Friday brings you, our audience, facts and information sparking discussions related to “inclusion” as it intersects with disability, culture, and society.

Fatal Attraction

“Fatal Attraction” (1987)

Glenn Close

Glenn Close (2012)

Glenn Close’s acting career has spanned over four decades, giving her memorable roles in films, such as Sarah Cooper in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983) and Cruella De Vil in Stephen Herek’s live-action 101 Dalmatians (1996). However, the role that she may be remembered the most for is Alex Forest in Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction. Forest is a woman with mental health issues who has a one-night stand with married man David Gallagher (Michael Douglas). Forest becomes obsessed with him, eventually stalking him and violently attacking him and his family. Close’s family has a history of mental health issues, and in 2010, she and her family founded Bring Change 2 Mind, “a nonprofit organization built to start the conversation about mental health, and to raise awareness, understanding, and empathy” (“Our Mission”). Regarding how films represent mental health issues, Close has subsequently said, “’I think it in many ways represents the kind of way my profession has perpetrated stigma and misunderstanding, by making people with mental illness usually dangerous or violent and scary’” (“Glenn Close”).

Jonathan Bartholomy, RAFF Chicago Planning Committee Member

Works Cited

“Glenn Close: Mental Illness Shouldn’t Be Old News.” NPR, 17 May 2012, mental-illness- shouldnt-be- old-


“Our Mission.” bringchange2mind, mission/.


RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at

Andrew Weiler

Meet The Team – Andrew Weiler, Planning Committee Member


Andrew WeilerAfter graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Film and Digital Media I was accepted into Kartemquin Films’ internship program in Chicago. My transition to the midwest began in Fall 2016 and has opened up a world of opportunity for storytelling. Storytelling is at the core of community. It illuminates our commonalities and can spark collective action.

Chicago has demonstrated to me that through community action most social, political, or cultural issues can be addressed. Hence, following my internship at Kartemquin I pursued opportunities to tell stories as a means to creating empathy and progressive change. First, I independently produced a short documentary about former President of the United States Barack Obama’s farewell address titled “Liberty Farewell”. Secondly, I joined the ReelAbilities Film Festival planning committee as a marketing and social media coordinator.

Both opportunities have absorbed me into communities which have embraced me for who I am. I will continue to make documentaries and support ReelAbilities because I feel apart of something communal and which inspires me to grow personally, professionally, and creatively.

– Andrew Weiler, Planning Committee Meeting

WATCH: “Liberty Farewell” (World Premiere) Friday April 28, 2017 at 12AM CST via facebook live by following @libertyfarewell (Facebook and Twitter )


RAFF Chicago runs from October 4-8, 2017. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!!!

If you would like to get involved with RAFF Chicago please contact us at (773) 203-5039 or email Matt Lauterbach at



Chicago Joins International I Can’t Keep Quiet Movement Celebrating Empowerment, Unique Identities, Engagement & Voice with Community Chorus


The first performance was in Washington, DC at The Women’s March on January 21, 2017.  The choir rehearsed virtually and sang for unsuspecting strangers with flash mob performance of an a cappella version of the song. Since then, groups have performed various versions of the song all over the world. If you feel the need to use your voice for a cause close to your own heart, this song is for you. If you would like to sing for someone who doesn’t have a voice, this song is for you. If you just want to sing, join us.


Our chorus is comprised of people of all ages, from all walks of life, all faiths, and all backgrounds. Senior citizens, women, children, teens and men are all welcome. You do not need singing experience to join us.  If you are a professional singer, an amateur vocalist or new to singing, join us. If you can feel music, join us.

We will stand up against violence in Chicago and globally. We will sing for equality, respect, civil discourse, self-empowerment and integrity-driven conflict resolution and discourse in Illinois. We’ll sing to celebrate each other.


We will rehearse this song and a few others for one week and perform as a large group together downtown Chicago on May 13. Attend a minimum of one-two rehearsals if you cannot attend every one. The most important rehearsals to attend are May 10 and May 11.


For persons who are hospitalized, unable to travel or have physical limitations, we invite you to sing along with us via your iPads, mobile phones and laptops. On May 10 and May 11 we will live stream rehearsals to a closed group via Google Hang Out or Periscope. Details will be announced the first week of May.

Kindly download the Periscope App and set up Google Hang Out in preparation now. On May 13, we will also live stream the performance to ensure everyone is included and singing together at the same time.


Print the lyrics, watch the video and practice the song with friends, family, colleagues, caregivers, and senior citizens ahead of rehearsals. People are practicing now all across our city.


Follow the Women’s March on Chicago Facebook Page (The FB group with 45,000+ members) for ongoing updates.


Both the rehearsal and performance location are wheel chair accessible. Preston Bradley Center is located two blocks east of the CTA Red Line El at Lawrence. Kindly check for handicap access and safe routes for transportation. Street parking is available in Uptown, as well.


May 8 7-9:00p

May 9 7-9:00p

May 10 7-9:00p

May 11 7-9:00p

May 12 7-8:30p


Preston Bradley Center


941 West Lawrence Avenue

Uptown Neighborhood in Chicago

(Located at the intersection of Sheridan Road & Lawrence Avenue 2 blocks east of the El)


Saturday, May 13



Downtown Chicago – To Be Announced


Follow the Women’s March on Chicago Facebook page – the group with 45,000+ members.


Contact producer Kimberly Soenen at

Rehearse this song in the weeks ahead. Here we go. Together Together.