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:

Tangled's Rapunzel intimidated by Hook Hand Thug

One has six toes and a goiter:

Big Nose Thug shows Rapunzel his six-toed foot.

And one elderly man is of short stature and appears to be wearing a diaper.

Tangled Short Thug

Short Thug, inadvisedly, hits on Rapunzel's Mother Gothel. This is why you should always bring a wing man.

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.

Hook Hand on the piano

Hook Hand does a bang-up job on the piano.

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.

Hook Hand on the piano in the finale

Hook Hand, now with a golden hook, has trouble turning the pages of his sheet music, but manages without it instead.

Legend of the Guardians

Based on the popular children’s book series Guardians of Ga’hoole, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole primarily revolves around fledgeling owl Soren, who is carried off by bigger, stronger owls when he falls to the forest floor one day. The owls call themselves the Pure Ones and are ruled by an owl with a facial disfigurement, Metal Beak, who wears an ornate metal helmet and mask to hide his missing beak. (It seems even the owl kingdom can’t escape the Disability Movie Cliche of the villain being hideously deformed to match the ugliness of his soul.)

The Pure Ones have an unusual tactic at their disposal; they mystically reduce their new young captives to a zombielike state using the power of the moon. “Moon blinked” owls appear as if blind from cataracts, and in a catatonic state until their masters order them to work in a mine of sorts; the moon blinked owls peck through regurgitated owl pellets to find flecks of magnetic material that the mice have eaten.

Soren and Eg

Soren, and his moon blinked little sister, Eg.

Soren escapes with the help of an older, disgruntled soldier, and finds his way to a giant hollow tree with new companions. The tree serves as base for the legendary Guardians that Soren’s parents have told stories about, and Soren is questioned by their leaders. One grizzled veteran owl speaks up for Soren, though later his new young friends joke that Ezylryb is “missing a few talons”, as code for not being “all there”.

Soren begins training to become a Guardian himself, and Ezylryb takes him under his wing. The eager young Soren is ready to charge off to battle to rescue his sister, but the wise Ezylryb dissuades him from entering the fray without proper training. “Well, this is what it looks like when you’ve actually fought in battle. Its not glorious, it’s not beautiful. And it’s not even heroic. It’s merely doing what’s right. And doing it again and again, even if someday you look like this.” he says, referring to his missing talons and blind eye.


Wise old owl Ezylryb tells Soren of the folly of rushing off to war.

Soren is dragged into battle anyway, and acquits himself nobly. Metal Beak is defeated, as symbolized by his empty mask. (The audience never actually sees his deformity, and how he’s able to speak intelligibly without a beak is never explained.)