In an email interview, Italian artist Alexsandro Palombo tells us, with brutal honesty, why he chose to focus on a topic like discrimination against disability, what needs to change and the importance of teaching children the right things.
What inspired the Disney princess project?
I wanted to give visibility to a problem that affects a great amount of people all over the world. It's a message against discrimination. A message to redefine the current standards of beauty. My interest in this topic is purely social, partly because this is an issue I've personally had to deal with. Two years ago, I had a rare form of cancer. After the surgery to remove it, parts of my own body remained paralysed and I'm disabled now. We must be able to break down the differences. Disability is part of our world but unfortunately too many people think that it is something ugly that you have to hide. The disabled people, just like me, have to deal every day with all forms of discrimination and humiliation. It is important for me to create a reaction to fight indifference.
What has Disney's response been to your characters and your claim that what you've created them against Disney's beauty standard"?
I haven't heard from them yet but I hope that they will take all this in consideration. When you are Disney World Company, you have a great responsibility towards the children that watch and learn from the messages you give out. Including, for example, a disabled protagonist who can surely create acceptance in a world where even disabled children have to suffer all forms of discrimination and humiliation.
Has there been any criticism towards the project at all?
Unfortunately this is a cultural issue. I've read things like "Why do I have to watch those ugly princesses?" and other more violent reactions against disability. But I already knew that some people would react this way. I decided to do this series because I know that such people exist.
How have the children you personally know reacted to such a dramatic change in such immensely loved characters?
With great happiness! We get so much positive feedback from children and their parents. They say they'd like to see disabled protagonists in Disney movies because it could create acceptance for disabled children and help reduce the marginalisation.
What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
First of all I wanted to make strong and clear the message: if Disney World Company would take a positive stand, it could be a historic event because it would affect the imagery of children globally. And I believe that it is through the eyes of children that you can change the world.
But why the focus on female characters alone? Why are there no wheelchair-bound princes that are being helped by princesses? That would break a gender stereotype of its own…
I focused on the princesses because they are the protagonists. Someone also asked me why I didn't made them deaf or blind... Can you tell that Cinderella is not blind by looking at my artwork? And can you say that Snow White isn't deaf? I wanted my artwork to be as direct as possible and easy to read.