Things That Matter

Here’s How Disney Rewarded A Boy Who Gave Up His Disney Trip To Help Hurricane Evacuees

Jermaine Bell might be the best human to ever reside in Jacksonville, Florida. After 6-year-old Bell had spent the last year saving money for a birthday trip to Disney, he decided to give it all away. As the catastrophic Hurricane Dorian approached the east coast of Florida, millions of Floridians were evacuated. Some went south to Miami while many others drove north. While visiting his grandmother in South Carolina, and having felt the threat of Dorian on his own Florida home, he decided he wanted to do something for evacuees fleeing the South Carolina coast.

You know that saying, “No good deed goes unpunished”? Well, that doesn’t apply to Jermaine Bell.

Jermaine Bell emptied his savings to buy hundreds of hot dogs, chips, and water, so evacuees “can enjoy the ride to the place they’re going to stay at.”

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

Bell quickly made a couple of signs and posted them at either end of his street, to let passerby know that they likely had a very cute rest stop in sight. “The people that are traveling to go to other places, I wanted them to have some food to eat, so they can enjoy the ride to the place they’re going to stay at,” Bell told his local news station. “I wanted to be generous and live to give.” 

Bell served nearly 100 evacuees whose days were certainly brightened by his selfless, generous act.

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

When families would tell him that they were worried for their homes, Jermaine would begin praying that their homes would be protected. There’s no question that Bell touched those hundred evacuees lives, but he went on to touch many millions more. Once his good deed went viral, Good Morning America conducted an interview inside his own home on his birthday. He told them that he still wanted to go to Animal Kingdom some day and “see lots of lions and have a Lion King party.”

It was his birthday, and Bell forfeited his party for a good cause, with no clue that an entire Disney crew was waiting outside to make all his birthday wishes come true.

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

When Disney Parks heard the news, they must have coordinated with Good Morning America to make sure America could experience the satisfaction of seeing Bell’s good deed be rewarded. A representative from Disney knocked on Bell’s door once the interview was “over,” and told him they had a surprise for him in the driveway.

Bell was definitely surprised to see Mickey Mouse in his driveway.

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

His jaw remained dropped for at least twenty seconds. The whole time he was interviewing with Good Morning America, Disney staff were setting up a “magical moment” in his very own driveway. A dozen staff stood outside holding Lion King plushies and balloons to yell “Surprise!” In an adorable Disney Parks video, Bell tells us, “When the lady came out and she said come around the corner, when I saw everything, I was just super happy.”

“When Mickey came out, I was just really happy,” Bell gushed.

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

Then, the big announcement: Disney Parks was giving Bell an all-expense paid trip to Disney Resort later this month as a dual birthday and thank you gift for his generosity to Hurricane Dorian evacuees. “I’m really excited, because I wanted to go to Disney for a long time,” Bell said. “Never in a million years would we have imagined anything like this from him,” his mom, Lauren Creech told Disney Parks. “Coming up with an idea to help someone else. So this really does instill in him that when you do good, good comes back to you.” 

Now, Bell wants us all to remember to “be strong and if you do good things, you will be rewarded.”

Credit: Disney Parks / YouTube

To top off an exciting magical moment, the whole Disney crew, including Mickey Mouse, sang him a very special “Happy Birthday” song. Of course, the rest of America is still happy-weeping to know that there are still good people coming up in this world. Hope tweeted “While a grown a** man, “leader of the free world” was playing golf. Jermaine bell. SAY HIS NAME.” Twitter is emphatically naming Bell a hero. @_SJPeace_ tweeted, “HE IS A HERO. HIS NAME IS JERMAINE BELL. KNOW HIS NAME.”

There you have it. Having compassion for victims of natural disaster is well received by Americans and American corporations.

Watch the full surprise video below!

READ: The US Promised Entry To Bahamians Without Visas Following Hurricane Dorian Then Changed Their Mind

Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ Is Getting A New Elsa And Ciara Renée Will Be Playing The Beloved Character

Entertainment

Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ Is Getting A New Elsa And Ciara Renée Will Be Playing The Beloved Character

ciararenee8 / Instagram

What do Idina Menzel, Caissie Levy, and Caroline Bowman have in common? They’re all Broadway actresses that have portrayed Elsa from “Frozen.” They also happen to be all white. Well, that’s all about to change!

Afro-Latina actress Ciara Renée will be playing the role of Elsa in “Frozen” on Broadway.

Credit: ciararenee8 / Instagram

Frozen made its Broadway debut in 2018 and was played by Caissie Levy. Idina Menzel was the voice of Elsa in the animated film. Now, an Afro-Latina has scored the coveted role. 

Renée will be playing Elsa, and McKenzie Kurtz will be making her Broadway debut as Anna. Renée and McKenzie will take over the roles. Caissie Levy and Patti Murin end their run as Elsa and Anna respectively on Feb. 16. Renée was previously in the Broadway show “Big Fish” as the Witch as well as “Pippin.”

“Here it is! It’s official! I’m joining the cast of @frozenbroadway as Elsa alongside this bright new star, @mckenziekurtz! And I am incredibly grateful! This is an opportunity to expand minds, open hearts, and empower folks with the power of LOVE! I can’t wait to get started!”

While we’re still getting to know the 29-year-old, we are learning so much about this extraordinary actress who is pretty amazing at showing her biggest supporters lots of love in return.

Credit: ciararenee8 / Instagram

Renée, who is half Black and half Puerto Rican, thanked her friends, family, and supporters by giving them exact instructions on what to do when they come to see her show on Broadway. 

“I just want to extend my heartfelt gratitude for all the support and love I received yesterday. It was honestly overwhelming. Thank you, thank you,” Renée said in a video on her Insta-story. “I am so thrilled to be playing Elsa.” 

“But I wanted to set down some ground rules about people coming to see the show,” she said. “I am always so grateful when people come to see the show, people I know, people I don’t. But it isn’t my favorite thing to know when you’re coming. So, if you’re someone I know well, and we have each other’s phone number and you live in New York City, please do not tell me when you’re coming. Please come and text me at intermission or at the end of the show, which is preferred, and I will make sure to put your name on the list. I will check it right after the show.”

She also gave instructions to those she doesn’t know all that well. “If we don’t know each other well or talk super often or you’re from out of town, please do let me know when you’re coming because I want to make sure that I get to see you. For everybody else, I will 100 percent do my very best to Stage Door [where actors meet fans after the show as they exit the theater] as much as humanly possible. I know people come from all over the world to see Broadway and I want to be there as much as I can. If I am not there, please know it’s for a reason. I may not be feeling well, or something is pulling me away, I don’t know what it is, but I will always do my best to Stage Door because I love meeting you all and I am so honored that you would come to see our shows.”

We just love how precise and in control she is about meeting friends and fans. That kind of gratitude will definitely take her far in Broadway and Hollywood. 

Aside from her work on the stage, Renée has also appeared in several television shows.

Credit: ciararenee8 / Instagram

The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native and 2013 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University has appeared in Facebook Watch’s series “Strangers,” Netflix’s “Master of None,” CBS’s “Big Bang Theory,” and on the CW’s superhero series “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Arrow,” and “Flash.”

If you haven’t heard Renée’s stellar voice, here’s a clip of the actress singing Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold.”

Congrats on this new role, Ciara! We can’t wait to see her show on Broadway! Will you be going?

READ: The New Cinderella Remake Tapped Camila Cabello To Play The Princess And Billy Porter To Be The Fabulous Godmother

Throwback: Remember When Disney Tried To Trademark Día de los Muertos?

Entertainment

Throwback: Remember When Disney Tried To Trademark Día de los Muertos?

shot_by_prum_ty / Instagram

Since Disney Plus launched on November 12, people have been swept up in all the family-friendly chaos, indulging in a long list of classic Disney favorites. While the streaming service also plans to offer new original content, the company is definitely taking advantage of our generation’s lust for nostalgia, providing exclusive access to the Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and National Geographic franchises (and reminding us how much Disney dominated our youth with films like The Lion King, The Cheetah Girls, and Gotta Kick It Up). Honestly, the list of iconic feel-good films is outrageously long, and it’s easy to understand why everyone’s so excited.

But it’s no secret that Disney’s wholesome image has been blemished by a long, varied history of controversy and criticism. While Disney has been accused of sexism and plagiarism numerous times, one of the most notable topics of discussion in recent years has been the company’s tendency to racially stereotype its characters, a propensity that is  especially notable in early Disney films (though many scholars and film critics argue that this has carried into the 21st century, despite Disney’s attempts to be more culturally sensitive).

On many occasions, Disney has acknowledged the racist nature of its older animated films, like Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats. In the descriptions for several programs on Disney Plus, there is a brief warning about the “outdated cultural stereotypes” contained within each film, and while several people view this disclaimer as a sign of progress, Disney has been criticized for making a bare minimum effort toward addressing the problematic elements of its past.

And speaking of the company’s past, how could we forget the time that Disney tried to trademark the term “Día de los Muertos” / “Day of the Dead”?

Credit: Pinterest / The Walt Disney Company

Back in 2013, Disney approached the US Patent and Trademark Office with a request to secure “Día de los Muertos” / “Day of the Dead” across many different platforms. At the time, an upcoming Pixar movie with a Día de los Muertos theme (read: the early stirrings of Coco) was in the works, and Disney wanted to print the phrase on a wide range of products, from fruit snacks to toys to cosmetics. Por supuesto, Disney received major backlash for trying to trademark the name of a holiday—what is more culturally appropriative than claiming ownership over an entire celebration? Especially one with indigenous roots?

“The trademark intended to protect any potential title of the movie or related activity,” a spokeswoman for Disney told CNNMexico at the time. “Since then, it has been determined that the title of the film will change, and therefore we are withdrawing our application for trademark registration.”

But prior to withdrawing their application, Disney received extensive backlash from the Latnix community. Latinos all over social media expressed their disdain for Disney’s bold and offensive attempt to take ownership of the holiday’s name, even starting a petition on Change.org to halt the whole process. Within just a few days, the petition had garnered 21,000 signatures.

Although Disney didn’t acknowledge whether the online uproar had influenced them to retract their trademark request, they were clearly paying attention. Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American editorial cartoonist, had expressed open disdain at what he called Disney’s “blunder,” creating “Muerto Mouse”—a cartoon criticizing said blunder—in response.

Credit: Lalo Alcaraz / Pocho.com

This wasn’t the first time Alcaraz had criticized Disney with his cartoons. After the trademark fiasco, Disney definitely caught wind of Alcaraz’s position, and in an effort to approach the upcoming Día de los Muertos movie with sensitivity, the company hired him to work as a cultural consultant on the film.

Although several folks celebrated this development, Alcaraz was widely denounced for collaborating with Disney—many people called him a “vendido,” accusing him of hypocritically selling out to the gringo-run monolith against which he had previously spoken out. But Alcaraz stood his ground, confident that his perspective would lend valuable influence to the movie and ultimately prevent Pixar from doing the Latinx community a disservice.

“Instead of suing me, I got Pixar to give me money to help them and do this project right,” Alcaraz said. “I was let down because I was hoping people would give me a little bit of credit for the stuff I’ve done; to give me the benefit of the doubt.”

And, sin duda, Coco emerged as one of the most culturally accurate films that Disney has ever produced. Employing an almost exclusively Latino cast and crew, Coco seamlessly captured the beauty, magic, and wonder of Día de los Muertos, depicting the holiday with reverence and respect. And after becoming the top-grossing film of all time in Mexico, it’s safe to say that Coco helped Disney bounce back from its trademark mishap, even if more controversy is bound to emerge in the future.