Disney hasn’t always been known for positive portrayals of women, minorities, and the disabled, but in the recent animated film Tangled the company seems to be trying to turn it around . On Princess Rapunzel’s first journey outside of her tower, she visits a dive bar named The Snuggley Duckling full of thugs in Viking clothing. All are odd-looking and menacing, and several have various visible disabilities.
One is missing a hand and, in a clear allusion to Captain Hook, uses a hook as a simple prosthesis:
One has six toes and a goiter:
And one elderly man is of short stature and appears to be wearing a diaper.
Rapunzel is initially intimidated by all the strange men at the Duckling, but as they’re about to drag her guide Flynn away she tells them she needs him to fulfill her dream of seeing the annual floating lantern event, and asks them if they have dreams too. This gives the thugs pause, and they break into a song and dance number, led by Hook Hand Thug who explains that his dream is to be a concert pianist.
Similarly, Big Nose Thug wants a girlfriend. (All the thugs have dreams that someone coming from a perspective of privilege might consider implausible or strange.) In real life many amputees and people with disabilities still follow such dreams; they have relationships, and some do enjoy playing musical instruments to the best of their abilities. Here’s one fellow who plays quite well with stiff, immobile hands:
Since Rapunzel has taken the time to get to know them as fellow human beings, the thugs help her escape from her witch of a mother. Hook Hand is rewarded with a chaste kiss, and though none of the disabled characters have ever been given proper names, they are all shown to have become friends with the princess and attained their dreams at the end of the movie.