Emerson College alumnus Aaron Gingrich’s (’03) web series, The Very Very Special Show, won for Best Animated Short/Show at the first-ever Festival International du Film sur le Handicap (FIFH) last month in Cannes, France.
The series, about a group of friends at Sunny-Brook Special Education Middle School who run a live morning news show, is voiced by young people with developmental disabilities, who also help with the writing.
“We really wanted to give them not just a voice, but a literal voice, so we wanted them to voice the characters as well,” said Gingrich, creative director and co-founder (with producer Joe Lomba ’02) of Ratcatcher Entertainment, which produced the show.
It wasn’t just the judges in Cannes who were excited about the show. Gingrich said Ratcatcher, which worked with animation producer Mondo Media on the project, signed an output deal for 12 episodes with TF1, France’s largest TV network.
Gingrich said he’s always wanted to make a show featuring kids with developmental disabilities, but it was important to him that it be made with input from the kids themselves so it wouldn’t be a “point and laugh situation.”
For The Very Very Special Show, Gingrich said he worked with teens who attend a program for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Southern California. The teens helped with material, he said, offering up their favorite jokes.
Gingrich said the kids opened him up to a whole world of very literal humor (“Where do detectives sleep? Under covers.” “That door is alarmed. Who startled it?”), which he uses in the show.
The show began life more than three years ago, and the festival—which showcases films by, starring, about, and for people with disabilities—started just this year. One of Gingrich’s neighbors was helping out with the festival and asked him if he wanted to enter The Very Very Special Show.
He found out he won on the last day of the festival.
“It was an absolute surprise and honor,” Gingrich said.
He said “everything’s timing” in comedy, and now is the right time to give people with disabilities the spotlight. Animation, with its ability to do just about anything, storywise, and its slower production pace, has broken down some barriers for people with disabilities, Gingrich said. Now live action is getting on board, he said, citing Minnie Driver’s new show on ABC, Speechless, which stars a young actor with cerebral palsy.
The FIFH, and in fact the series itself, was an Emerson-heavy affair, Gingrich said. He received his award from film producer Nicolas Vannier '92, who also was his partner in the TF1 deal. And actress Victoria Ullmann '03 was in the audience to cheer him on.