June 2019 Evening Standard
Parents said their children were overjoyed when they learned of the existence of the character.
Disney said the character came about because a crew member, whose own son is hard of hearing and wears an implant, was keen to include it. More than 5,500 youngsters in the UK wear a cochlear implant - a device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear giving deaf children the gift of hearing, according to figures from 2018.
Social media has been awash with praise for the film.
One Twitter user wrote: “For about a year now, I’ve been babysitting a child with cerebral palsy who has a cochlear implant. “The fact that Toy Story 4 has included a child with a cochlear implant is such a big win for inclusion. “Thank you for this empowerment, Pixar.”
US philanthropist Jay Ruderman, whose foundation focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities, said: "Great to see Disney Pixar portraying a more diverse & inclusive classroom in Toy Story 4 by featuring a child with a cochlear implant. Representation & visibility of diversity is so important, especially for our children."
Zack and Dylan Pezzuto, who were born deaf and received implants aged six months in New York, were also thrilled. They have spent two years on London and Oxford-based deaf charity Auditory Verbal’s early intervention programme, and now attend a mainstream school and speak English and Italian fluently. Their mum Deborah described the boys' reactions when she showed them a picture of the boy from Toy Story 4. She said: “Zack told me, ‘I need to run to school to tell all my friends. How cool we are?’ “Dylan said, ‘Mum this boy looks like Zack. We need to tell the teacher’.”
Another mum, Avril, whose son Orson wears hearing aids and has completed Auditory Verbal's therapy programme, said she couldn't wait to tell him about the new animation. She said: “Orson couldn’t sleep the other night and came down and asked me why his friends don’t wear hearing aids so we’ve been talking a lot about hearing aids and implants. I think it’s important to raise the profile of children and adults with hearing aids and implants. It reduces any stigma, makes people feel comfortable to talk and realise deaf children can achieve the same as a hearing child.” Auditory Verbal’s CEO Anita Grover said: “We are so pleased that Pixar have made the decision to include a child with a cochlear implant, as it will mean so much to children who wear hearing technology and their families. It also helps to raise awareness of childhood hearing loss.”