By Emily Hewitt
Season 2 of Launchpad, the Disney+ short film collection, continues to address human connection through compelling stories that address the integral union of people and ideas. The season’s six episodes premiere September 29 on Disney+.
“The theme of connection just seemed very truthful to the moment,” said Phillip Domfeh, producer of Disney’s Launchpad. “We started in 2021, and at that time people were starting to reconnect with people that they had been distanced from during the pandemic.”
Each episode has something special in store for audiences. One episode, titled “Black Belts,” explores the connections between the African American and Asian American communities through the world of martial arts.
Family is at the heart of most of the short films as well, as in the episode “Project CC,” which tells the story of a child scientist who joins forces with her sister when a cloning experiment goes awry. Another episode, titled “The Ghost,” features two sisters working together to stop a powerful spirit from tearing apart their family. (A ghost story is also featured in “The Roof.”)
“Family is more important than ever before, as we are continuing in the pandemic,” said executive producer Mahin Ibrahim.
The series is the product of experienced writers and directors from underrepresented backgrounds who submitted material to the Launchpad program. This year, there were 2,000 script submissions—double the number for Season 1.
“There’s a hunger and an excitement around Disney and the opportunity to get to learn how to make stories in our world,” Domfeh said. “The ethos is really to match the Disney kind of storytelling world with younger storytellers. We really try to let the application process illuminate to us things that start to feel really true to that idea. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the incredible filmmakers that we discover.”
The selected writers and directors are paired up with creative executives who mentor them throughout the filmmaking process. The program tries to align the writers and directors with mentors who share a common vision with them.
“It takes everyone—it takes the writers, it takes the directors, it takes the mentors. They really help to shape where the story goes. As we like to say, [the goal is to] ‘take it from good to great,’” Domfeh said.
Also vital to the films are the experienced actors—such as this season’s Margaret Cho, Wes Studi, and Wendi McLendon-Covey—who contribute their talents. “These are really, really special actors who have really big hearts and who are anxious to find the next exciting story, to take risks, and to work with young filmmakers,” Domfeh said.
Up-and-coming actors are also vital to the shorts, providing a spotlight that may open up new paths to success. Launchpad Season 1 fostered breakout star Keyla Monterroso Mejia, who went on to appear in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Abbott Elementary.
With the pool of talent in Season 2, one can only imagine what opportunities will come to the talented filmmakers involved in these six new episodes.
“These guys are really incredible filmmakers,” Domfeh said. “They’re the real deal, and it’s really our honor to be able to showcase their talent and to be able to have them put their fingerprints on Disney’s storytelling canon.”