With the intent to grant equipment access and assistance to those who have not historically had it and to diversify the types of stories being told, Disney has created the Launchpad program. A collection of live-action shorts based on the theme "Discover" are now streaming on Disney+ as a result of Launchpad, and the stories speak for themselves. Launchpad Senior Manager Phillip Domfeh and Disney’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion Mahin Ibrahim shared what makes the program so successful.
Selected from over 1,100 applications across the United States, six filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds were given the opportunity to share their perspectives and create visions that show audiences what it means to be seen. Each filmmaker in the Launchpad program was assigned an executive mentor from one of Disney’s various studio brand units, including Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Production, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney+, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and Pixar. Here is what Launchpad Senior Manager Phillip Domfeh told CinemaBlend about the program’s success:
I think so much of the success of this program really starts with the fact that we're not lecturing out towards an audience that we don't understand. We are underrepresented filmmakers, storytellers ourselves. And so I think the program is really rooted in personal experience and reality. And I think that's just like when you're like laying that first brick, bring in people who can really authentically speak to it.
Every film in Season 1 of Launchpad on Disney+ is rooted in personal experience and reality as Phillip Domfeh said, and every film also contains the magic and emotion we expect from Disney. The collection covers everything from finding identity and coming of age to exploring grief, and even the supernatural. These stories are so powerful; many of them drove me to tears.
With a company as large as Disney, it seems like a daunting task to pull together something like the Launchpad program, especially with the mentorship element. I spoke with Mahin Ibrahim, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Disney, for an interview with CinemaBlend as well, and she explained how they went about it. In her words:
In terms of the scale and size, I think that's what makes Launchpad so successful that really internally we have over a hundred people working on this across multiple departments and being true collaborators. And so that really would not have been done at this scale if we didn't have so much widespread support and resources internally. That's kind of one example where people really were excited to work on this brand new program. They actually brought in their own expertise across departments, including clearances, for example, in music, also brought their own expertise to this diversity & inclusion initiative. So I think that's where the secret sauce lies, where you bring in your own expertise to something with this inclusion mindset.
The full first season of Launchpad is now streaming on Disney+, featuring six dynamic live-action shorts. Disney is already accepting applications for Launchpad Season 2, and the company has also expanded the program to include writers this time around. I can’t wait to see what the next generation of filmmakers delivers for next season!