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‘Mickey Mouse Funhouse’ Brings Welcome Inclusion to the Deaf Community

In the new episode premiering May 13 on Disney Junior, the gang meets Fig, a gnome friend who is deaf; the show joins other series, including ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘DreamWorks Madagascar: A Little Wild,’ and Apple TV’s ‘El Deafo,’ breaking ground for deaf representation, expanding inclusivity and promoting awareness.

Disney Junior’s popular animated series, Mickey Mouse Funhouse is introducing a brand-new character on the upcoming episode “The Music of the Seasons” debuting Friday May 13. The series’ iconic characters, Mickey and friends, meet Fig, a new gnome friend who is deaf. A drummer and music enthusiast, Fig and his sister Olive help Minnie and Daisy understand how he communicates.

"The Music of the Seasons" will re-air throughout the month of May and beyond and Fig will appear in additional upcoming episodes alongside Mickey and his friends.

The episode was written by Kate Moran, who has close family members who are deaf and strives to bring more inclusion to the deaf community with her work.

“It was really important to me to write a character like Fig who was fun and clever and talented, who just happened to be deaf,” shared Moran. “His deafness does not define him, nor is it the most important thing about him. It is one aspect of Fig, among many other awesome attributes.”

Disney Junior has jumped on the bandwagon, marking what is hopefully a milestone for deaf representation in the industry. Recently, a number of popular animated series have added characters that use ASL to communicate, expanding inclusivity and promoting awareness.

Last month, The Simpsons aired the episode, “The Sound of Bleeding Gums,” marking two firsts for the series: not only did it depict American Sign Language for the first time on the show, but it also showcased the talents of its first-ever deaf voice actors.

And in January of this year, it was announced that deaf actress Shaylee Mansfield would do a “sign over” performance in Season 6 of DreamWorks Madagascar: A Little Wild. The character is named and modeled after Mansfield and was animated by using a video reference of the actress performing for animators to model from, building upon the previous five seasons featuring ASL and deaf characters.

Apple TV+ debuted its kids animated show El Deafo in 2022. The 3-part animated series is about a young girl who finds her in superhero when she copes with losing her hearing.

Sounding a positive note about these milestones, Moran added, “My hope for the future of diversity and representation in media is that we truly represent the broad beauty of humanity. We have to show that ‘normal’ is actually a wide spectrum.”

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is assistant news editor at Animation World Network.