Surprise! We Made a LEGO Short Film for May the Fourth

A LEGO figure dressed as a Rebel pilot, seated in a snowspeeder from the Star Wars universe. He's wearing an orange flight suit with a detailed harness and a helmet marked with white, red, and gray. The setting is the ice planet Hoth, indicated by the mechanical and industrial design of the snowspeeder, which features gray and white elements. The pilot has a confident expression, complete with a smile and goggles. A laurel logo in the corner states "25-Second Film Festival: Official Selection"

We’ve been quiet here at RS for a while, dealing with the usual challenges and tribulations of disability and chronic illness. We’ve struggled,  lost limbs. And while we’re working on plans for a ramp up in content and podcast episodes, we don’t want to commit to anything yet. We’ll have content when we have it, but it should be soon.

BUT – we always try to show up for May the Fourth. And here we are.

Besides the big Phantom Menace anniversary and re-release, this year also happens to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the debut of LEGO’s Star Wars line. To celebrate, LEGO asked fans to submit their own animated shorts for its 25-Second Film Festival.

Funny thing – Jack and I studied animation together in college, and we both have an obsession with all things animated. This kind of thing is right up our alley. We’ve dreamed of the idea of eventually expanding beyond covering the themes of disability and representation in Star Wars to actually producing original stories that do the same.

So given the chance to highlight some accessibility concepts, I entered a submission and got accepted.

 

The 25-Second Film Festival: Official Selection


And so we present –

Adapted for the Cold: A Resilience Squadron LEGO Short Film

Official Selection. The 25-Second Film Festival. 2024

You can view the entire Film Festival playlist (347 entries!) on LEGO’s YouTube channel.

Although short, the film represents a lot of work over a single weekend, and it was a challenge to convey the story and message, so we hope its clear. Eventually I’d like to take a stab at a longer version that’s not so compressed into this challenge’s time limit, and features more of the story of our determined pilot and his accommodating allies.

But besides happening to have a conveniently complete LEGO Hoth diorama sitting on my office shelf, I was also inspired by the LEGO Group itself and the recent release of the City Space Lab set, which featured not just a minifig astronaut using a wheelchair, but also an adapted speeder they’re able to use with it.

This image shows a LEGO space-themed playset featuring a futuristic base with a large transparent dome, built in gray and white with orange accents. In the foreground, there are three LEGO figures: one in a green suit with a helmet in a wheelchair, another in a blue spacesuit standing by the base, and a small green alien-like figure in a white lab coat. The set includes accessories like crystals and machines, adding to the playful, exploratory theme.

And it felt especially appropriate to tell a story like this in this format, because seriously – LEGO is killing it with disability representation lately.

LEGO Leads the Way Towards Representation

For a while now that LEGO has been quietly slipping more and more disability rep into its minifigures and sets, but the extent to which they’re really normalizing it all is amazing.

For the most part these characters aren’t called out or commented on. They’re never included in some kind of special “Office with Wheelchair User” set. They’re just there.

That’s how we get this accessible tram set that’s coming soon, with a wheelchair user, a ramp, an extendable boarding platform, and a blind user and their service dog (even if someone has pointed out that the platform itself could work more logically).

This image shows a LEGO city scene with a red and black tram stopped at a station. A LEGO figure in a wheelchair is on the tram's accessible platform. Another LEGO figure who is blind or low vision walks in the front with their service dog.

In fact, LEGO has had a long history of disability representation, but they’ve really stepped up in the past few years. They’ve included wheelchair users in random settings, multiple disabled athletes, diabetics with glucose monitors and insulin apps, burger lovers with cochlear implants.

Even dogs have wheelchairs.

This image depicts a LEGO playset camping scene featuring a young female figure with curly blonde hair, wearing a blue tank top with a fish design, green shorts, and yellow sandals. She is holding a flashlight in one hand and a cookie in the other. A brown LEGO dog with a yellow harness and wheels instead of back legs is positioned next to her.

Having characters and accommodations like these in so many varied settings really shows how common and normal the presence of disabled individuals can be when you accept and accommodate them. Just like in real life.

But even in fantastical settings, mobility aids and accommodations can help make it completely normal and expected for disabled people to be present in whatever way they’re able to function and fit in best.

Even in other media, LEGO is showing just how normal mobility aids can be, like in this Little Golden book where a kid using a wheelchair really just wants… to be a knight. The wheelchair is appropriately wooden, and the book never even seems to mention or address his disability. He’s just Milo, and he wants to be a knight. That’s the story.

This image is the cover of a LEGO-themed "Little Golden Book" titled "How to Be a Knight". It features a LEGO knight, who is smiling and equipped with a helmet and sword, sitting in a wooden wheelchair. Next to the knight is a large, friendly-looking red dragon with black wing tips, staring directly at the viewer. The background suggests a medieval setting with greenery and a distant castle, under a sunny sky. The overall mood is cheerful and adventurous.

And it’s worth noting that LEGO’s accessibility work doesn’t just extend to fictional portrayals, but to playability through braille bricks and support of neurodivergent customers with sensory bags and other accommodations at some certified stores. Hopefully these efforts will continue to expand to all areas of their business, and other toymakers will take note.

(As mentioned in that release, they even published a summary of an inclusivity audit of their magazine as a PDF. Hopefully other Star Wars creators and fans can learn from those insights too.) 

We hope we were able to tap into just a bit of that magic and message.

Representation Matters

As with pretty much any effort towards better representation, even the harmless Space Lab set brought out a slew of haters and skeptics who got overly wound up about the idea of a wheelchair in space. They see something like this and immediately jump into the comments because they are So. Angry. about it.

(It reminds me of the hostile backlash against the disabled Spider-Verse character Sun-Spider, who people just couldn’t comprehend as a super-powered character, but who went on to amaze in Across the Spider-Verse).

And while they’ll try to justify their positions with some kind of logic, they always end up just perpetuating ableism and ignorance:

A blog comment from a user called "Trotter Prime" reads: "Why doesn't he have a motorized wheelchair? Isn't an analog chair on an alien planet rather impractical and kind of unsafe? [Yes, I see the rocket sled the chair rolls onto, but my point still stands] Also, umm... would a space program really send a wheelchair-bound man out on such a mission? Don't astronauts need to be in the best mental and physical shape, so as to minimize the risk fatal errors in outer space?"

Or they’ll try to fit the device into their existing mental model of a setting:

A comment from a user named "Federal-Pay-3150" reads "Why does he need a wheelchair in space? He should have like leg jets or something or an exoskeleton"

And these kinds of responses really show why this kind of representation is so important. Bigotry and hatred (which it is) fail through education and exposure. Ignorance fails when the extreme becomes commonplace. As important as it is for kids to see themselves in these sets – or in worlds like Star Wars – it’s just as important for others to see them too.

Why a wheelchair in space?

Because it helps kids (and adults) feel seen, and to see themselves in amazing settings.

Because others can see them everywhere too, and it becomes normalized.

Because it’s all fictional and doesn’t practically matter or harm anyone.

Because there’s no reason a well-accommodated wheelchair shouldn’t be able to go to fantastical settings. Or to a tram station. Or to anywhere in the real world.

Or as these commenters replied:

A comment from a user named "Reaven" reads: "Really? That's the issue with realism you have here? The alien plants and the manned space botanical garden are fine?"

A comment from a user named "bananabread2137" reads: "its a toy. why are you this pressed over a wheelchair"

Why a wheelchair in a space or fantasy setting? So people will eventually stop asking those questions. So the next time a kid in a wheelchair rolls into a mere classroom, the other kids don’t give it a second thought.

Rolling Forward

This effort from LEGO – whether a specific initiative or just a reflection of general company philosophy – has never included Star Wars sets or figures, but I felt like it was really worth calling out and pointing towards as a model for other toy lines and franchises to follow. Especially one in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Of course, LEGO characters usually follow what’s shown on screen (but thankfully not always), so in a way it’s largely up to Lucasfilm to set the course here.

So as always, that’s our challenge to Lucasfilm and Disney – put more visibly disabled characters across Star Wars media and in roles that not only let people see themselves and others in these settings (and using disabled performers), but also give LEGO more disabled characters that they can create in LEGO form for our displays and stories.

Let disabled kids imagine themselves as astronauts, or knights, or Jedi.

And LEGO? Give us the Cliegg minifig we’ve all been waiting for.

 

The image features Cliegg Lars from "Star Wars," portrayed as an older man with light hair and a beard. He is seated in a hoverchair, dressed in practical desert attire of a beige vest and cream shirt, with trousers to match. His right leg is visibly bandaged, and his expression is serious.