Disney's New Plus-Size Protagonist is a 'Breath of Fresh Air': Activists

Disney+ released a new short film featuring a plus-size protagonist, garnering much praise for being a "breath of fresh air" for body positivity and representation in media.

The film, titled Reflect, features a character named Bianca who struggles with body dysmorphia. In the short film, Bianca practices ballet through broken mirrors, symbolizing overcoming her low self-esteem.

Still from Disney's short film "Reflect"
In "Reflect"— the latest original addition to season two of “Short Circuit Experimental Films” from Walt Disney Animation Studios—Bianca is a ballet dancer who overcomes doubt and fear by channeling her inner strength, grace and power. The triumphant short by director Hillary Bradfield premieres exclusively on Disney+ Sept. 14. Disney

The short was created by Walt Disney Animation Studios and sparked some online discourse, as some argued that the film was encouraging "an unhealthy lifestyle even more rather than addressing the issue," one user on Twitter wrote.

"There's an obesity problem in our country which costs our NHS millions of pounds every year," user @leebrianfielder tweeted. "Now we're saying it's ok to be overweight & unhealthy 'cos 'everything will work out fine' in the end. What an awful example for our children. Shame on you Disney."

However, there are more who find the short to be a source of inspiration. Alison Cline-Williams, a model and ambassador for Models of Diversity charity, an organization that campaigns for representation in the media, told Newsweek that the short film "really resonated" with her.

"It really resonates with me and I thought, 'wow, about time.' It was like a breath of fresh air for me," Cline-Williams said. "When you look at society now, society's changing... People know that society's changing, but nobody wants to be the first, so the fact that [Disney] has done that is amazing to me."

For model and activist Nadia Giwa, who also goes by the name Godessdiamonds, the film is "an amazing opportunity for a body that's not altered, that's not defined."

"I think that it shows originality and honesty," Giwa told Newsweek. "I think that it gives a sense of hope for young girls and little girls who are [a] similar shape, and grown women as well, to feel represented because when you think of princesses in particular Disney films, everything is based on the appearance of beauty, and the concept of how narrow-minded the beauty can be. It's always someone who's originally quite petite and more curvy, but not necessarily plus size."

Giwa said that Reflect shows "a sense of reality and originality" which she hopes will inspire creators to create more diverse characters, including ones with disabilities as well.

"There's a sense of absence in how we're represented as individuals and as a collective," said Giwa, "And we're all trying to grow and strive towards treating each other better in a mixed cultural society."

Giwa said that we are all learning how to "respect and take care and love and provide equal opportunities for each other, [to] be attentive and sensitive. So I think that this is a great way of showing huge progression in the industry. I think that this is a great way of inspiring people to know that they can be shown on TV."

Newsweek reached out to Disney for additional comment.