As we have frequently discussed here, disability representation in the media is a critical part of encouraging inclusion and changing the inaccurate and sometimes negative perceptions of people with disabilities. While 26% of Americans live with disabilities, just 3.1% of on-screen characters are disabled.
When children are exposed to disability early in life, either by getting to know their disabled peers, reading books or watching television programs with disabled characters, inclusion comes more naturally. That’s why we were particularly excited to learn about “Hop,” a new show for preschoolers recently greenlighted by Max (formerly HBO Max) and currently in development.
Created by Marc Brown, best known for the beloved PBS children’s television show “Arthur,” which concluded recently after 25 years on the air, “Hop” joins a growing number of animated shows for young children that present positive depictions of disabled characters and normalize inclusion.
“Hop” features a group of young friends that includes characters with disabilities. The show’s main protagonist—Hop—is a frog with a limb length discrepancy, played by actor David Connolly, the first amputee to perform in a Broadway production. Filipa the squirrel, another character on the show, is neurodivergent and dislikes loud noises and crowded environments. The young animal pals live in a fictional town called “Fair Village” where everyone is equal and valued for their unique qualities.
In a press release Brown said, “Even before Arthur ended, I was nurturing a new project about a little frog named Hop for a younger audience. As Hop’s world grew in my imagination, I drew inspiration from the great work my friend Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) had done.
With Arthur, we occasionally introduced characters with disabilities but they never became part of the ensemble cast in any meaningful way,” added Brown. “But the characters in Hop reflect many kids who are underrepresented in the media. Some of our characters have disabilities but they never define who they are or what they can achieve. Kids are kids and each one is unique and filled with potential. And kids love to have fun, that’s what Hop is all about!”
To ensure realistic and unbiased media portrayals, the show’s producer Epic Media is consulting with RespectAbility, a nonprofit that fights stigma and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of its mission “to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities,” RespectAbility partners “with studios, production companies, writers’ rooms, and news organizations, to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the entire media ecosystem.”
“Hop” is scheduled to make it debut in early 2024.