Sidekicks! Disney's Animal Aides

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#33: Explore the unique roles of Disney sidekicks as they dissect how these beloved characters from classics like ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘The Lion King’ relate to mental wellness. Engaging discussions reveal how these animated companions, could don the titles of emotional support animal or service animal. Unravel the therapeutic significance of these animal sidekicks, blending childhood nostalgia with a deeper understanding of mental health support.

Read the blog post for this episode for additional references and resources.

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  • Introduction (0:11): Ariel and Stefanie introduce the topic of Disney sidekicks, examining their roles and categorizing them based on their functions and relationships with main characters.
  • Sidekick Definitions (1:47): The hosts discuss definitions of pets, working animals, and assistance animals, exploring how these relate to Disney sidekicks and mental wellness.
  • Analyzing Disney Sidekicks (10:38 – 21:18): Various Disney sidekicks like Meeko, Sven, Hay Hay, and Pascal are analyzed. Their roles range from pets to emotional support or service animals, considering their relationships with main characters and contributions to the story.
  • Zazu in The Lion King (29:58 – 35:24): Discussion on Zazu’s dual role as an advisor and pet-like figure, examining his loyalty and integration into the community.
  • Cinderella’s Mice and Other Disney Animals (35:47 – 41:14): Exploration of Gus Gus and Jaq in “Cinderella” as examples of service animals, and discussion of other animal characters in Disney movies.
  • Flounder and Sebastian in The Little Mermaid (40:48 – 44:54): Analysis of their roles as companions and advisors, aiding Ariel in her journey.
  • Mushu in Mulan (45:45 – 48:36): Discussion of Mushu as a potential emotional support animal for Mulan, reflecting on his role in her journey and personal growth.
  • Personal Experiences with Pets (48:36 – 53:04): Stefanie shares her personal experience with her dog Chance, discussing the emotional support and companionship provided by pets.
  • Conclusion (53:04 – 53:42): The hosts invite listeners to share their animal companions, as well as their thoughts on Disney sidekicks.

Ariel Landrum 0:11
Hello, everyone, welcome to The Happiest Pod On Earth, I’m Ariel, a licensed therapist who uses clients passions and fandoms to help them grow and heal from trauma and mental unwellness.

Stefanie Bautista 0:21
And I’m Stef, I’m an educator who uses passions and fandoms to help my students grow and learn about themselves and the world around them.

Ariel Landrum 0:28
And here at Happiest Pod, we dissect Disney mediums with a critical lens.

Stefanie Bautista 0:33
Why do we do that? Well, because we’re more than just fans, we expect more from the mediums that we consume. So what Disney experience or Disney topic are we discussing today, Ariel?

Ariel Landrum 0:44
We’re going to talk about the famous Disney sidekick animals

Stefanie Bautista 0:49
Sidekick animals!

Ariel Landrum 0:50
Usually, we see them accompanied with princesses. But now we’re just seeing them more and more in general, with a variety of characters.

Stefanie Bautista 0:59
And we all know we have our favorites, right? If you go off the top your head my the will obviously the first one that comes to mind is Flounder just because he’s cute. He was like, you know, the best friend that always got your back always was just like your number one fan. And you know, we identify a lot of these sidekicks so readily with whatever princess or whatever main character that they themselves have become main characters in their own right. Much like we love our pets, me and Ariel are big animal lovers, and we do have pets of our own. We wanted to talk about the relationship between the sidekicks, these animal sidekicks and their main character, their friend, or whoever, and categorize them in a way that’s a little bit more suited to the real world with Ariel’s help.

Ariel Landrum 1:47
Absolutely. So we’re gonna do some definitions first. And for some of you who may not know, part of one of the things that I do as a mental health clinician, is I can provide assessments to see if someone qualifies for an emotional support animal. That qualification needs to meet very specific criteria. And the first one being that the individual must have a mental health disability. The disability has to match the definition for a federal ADA, including that there are functional impairments. And it significantly limits at least one or more life functions. So I have to assess for all of those things. The other thing I have to assess is, if the emotional support animal has what’s called a Nexus that’s a legal term or a relationship, where their relationship with their owner mitigates or lowers the symptoms of that disability. So it’s a lot of assessing.

Stefanie Bautista 2:46
it really is something that I feel people have embraced a lot more in, you know, the past decade or so. And knowing through the pandemic, through all of these hard times that we’ve gone through, they really do make a difference in how we live our everyday lives, how we treat ourselves how we treat the world. Me as a mother, I know that having a pet around teaches my kids responsibility. And it also teaches them to care for, you know, animals and the things around them. So let’s get into it. We want to identify exactly what categories we’re working with, right?

Ariel Landrum 3:22
Absolutely. So we all know they’re sidekicks. But Stef and I were talking and it seemed like some of them serve more functions and purposes than the other. So with these definitions, keep these in mind as we’re we’re essentially rating and grading. The first one is a pet or companion animal. So this is an animal that provides leisurely companionship to its owner. They’re kept primarily for a person’s company, often an extroverted display, amusement or entertainment. They’re usually domesticated or have a domestic breed. And they have close daily relationships with humans, they are not considered an assisted animal. So in assisted animals an umbrella category. An assistant animals and animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. So an assistant animal is not a pet. Very big distinction.

Stefanie Bautista 4:19

Ariel Landrum 4:19
Is not there for just leisurely enjoyment. An assistant animal is technically a working animal. And the difference would be that some working animals or livestock, so if you think of an animal that is agricultural, for labor, it will produce like eggs or milk or a wool. An assistant animal is sort of doing like a job so they could technically be a working animal.

Stefanie Bautista 4:43
Okay, that would include like a sheep dog, right that like herd sheep and things like that.

Ariel Landrum 4:47
Yep. But an assisted animal specifically, its work involves an owner or a certain relationship around a disability. So far an emotional support animal that companionship and support alleviates at least one or more aspects of their handle disabilities. So that’s that nexus that I was talking about. Now, they haven’t been trained to do this. And the common examples that I’ve found for my clients who are ADHDers, having an emotional support animal creates a schedule of consistency for them, because you cannot ignore the cat crying like the cat will cry and cry and cry. And so the symptom that’s being mitigated is lack of structure, due to executive dysfunction that happens from being an ADHDer. Right? So that would be like an example.

Got it. Yeah, because the things got to eat. So you got to put them on a schedule to eat. And that helps them with routines, and just doing things that are over and over again, so that they can get used to it and help out with that gap. Got it.

And that consistency helps then mitigate the symptoms of ADHD that occur and thus creating more holistic lived experience for this individual. And remember, I said it just, it needs to adversely affect one or more life functioning, and the nexus of the emotional support animal to that disability needs to help alleviate at least one or more. So if the alleviation is simply like the ability to have a structured schedule something that you couldn’t do on your own because your brain doesn’t allow you to, then that’s it. Like I’ve done my my full assessment. Under assisted animal. There are three types of animals, there’s emotional support animal, there’s therapy, and all people tend to get emotional support animal therapy animal wrong, a therapy animal is used as a therapeutic aid by a Health or Human Services professional to support someone else. So an emotional support animal helps their handler that the therapy animal is told to do work by the handler to others, and oftentimes they get permission to go into like hospital settings, for example, you’ll see a lot of therapy animals in like, a children’s unit, helping or or in a senior center giving sort of like emotional aid to others.

Stefanie Bautista 7:09
Yep. When my dad was in care when he was receiving really intense kidney treatment, there was always a dog that came by UCLA and you know, greeted all of the patients and everybody loved him. He was like, the most beautiful golden retriever. And, like, of course, you know, my dad loves dogs, because I have one too. And, you know, he was just like, yeah, he really brought light and he brought a lot of happiness into the ward, because you know, other than that, they wouldn’t see something like that.

Ariel Landrum 7:39
Oh, that’s so cute.

Stefanie Bautista 7:40

Ariel Landrum 7:41
So an emotional support animal can be any animal therapy animal, even though it’s, it’s told therapy animals, almost always a dog. And then service animal. Legally federally is a dog.

Stefanie Bautista 7:55
Good to know.

Ariel Landrum 7:56
Unless some states allow a miniature horse and those are for individuals with like violent struggles. But yeah, so even though we’re saying service animal, it’s really a dog. However, other animals have been trained to provide services, they just might not have as many legal rights. And we’re only talking about the United States. So I don’t know, like definitions and laws, other places. But a service animal is an animal that has received specialized training to perform a specific task or set of tasks for a person with a disability. And so some of those common tasks would be opening a door grabbing medication, alerting individuals in the presence of allergens like barking, or helping to pull a wheelchair, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation, providing physical support and assistance with balance. However, a service animal could also be a psychiatric service animal and help with situations like sensory relief and overload by link deep pressure application, or alerting a handler before they have a panic attack through like licking them or barking, or encouraging engagement by limiting selective solitude. So like, if someone’s getting overwhelmed by a crowd, they might circle for crowd control, or they might push the individual towards the corner to get a breather space. So those are our animals. And the thing about a service animal that sometimes people aren’t aware of is that there are official places where you can get a service animal trained, but technically and legally, a service animal can be trained by their handler. And so this is where our Disney princesses come in. Because, from what we know, or I mean, our Disney characters with side kicks, from what we know, none of these side kicks have had like an official training from somewhere.

Stefanie Bautista 9:38
No, they’re dealing with their own stuff in life, and I don’t think there was time for them to take a course.

Ariel Landrum 9:46
Remember that because disabilities are unique and individual, the way that individuals need assistance? Yeah, it would make sense that they might need very specific tailored tasks that aren’t part of like the regular regime of like a traditional training experience.

Stefanie Bautista 10:02
And I mean, there is an article that says, you know, why? Why do Disney princesses or Disney characters have animal sidekicks in the first place? And one of the main reasons is to give that character the emotional support that they need. You see that they’re, you know, riding on their shoulder or their, you know, they’re just for them to pet or they’re giving them some sort of advice. Like they’re normal. They’re normally always talking mainly, but they can act as their guardians as well, as you’re going to see as we go through some of these sidekicks. So, you know, in reality, if they were doing their job.

Ariel Landrum 10:38
And like we said, emotional support, animals don’t have to have any tasks that they’re trained. It’s just that relationship, that relationship that mitigates a specific disability. Now, this is where we’re things get a little tricky. I’m not diagnosing any of these characters, and saying that they do have a specific disability because it’s not canon. But we’re going to assume if we did give them a category…

Stefanie Bautista 11:01
What would we categorize them as?

Ariel Landrum 11:04
Yeah, yeah, if they were more than pet, we believe.

Stefanie Bautista 11:07
And we challenge you when you rewatch some of these movies to see if what we’re saying is true. Or if you have a differing opinion, because, you know, I’m sure that when these characters were written, they weren’t specifically “Oh, this one’s gonna be a therapy animal. This one’s gonna be a support animal.” It was really the relationship that the main character and this animal had and how they played in moving the story forward. So lots of things to think about, but I think it was a really cool thing for us to kind of look at these really important characters in a different lens to see how they played their part in moving the relationship forward with their main character. So are you guys ready?

Ariel Landrum 11:44

Stefanie Bautista 11:44
Awesome. So we’re going to start with Meeko are wonderful raccoon. In Pocahontas, we see Meeko riding in the front of Pocahontas’ boat, always there whenever she needed whenever they were going through the wilderness. Whenever she was singing, he was around. And he was really funny. He had a lot of comic relief in the movie, from what I remember.

Ariel Landrum 12:08
I remember Meeko stealing a lot of things.

Stefanie Bautista 12:10
I remember him eating a lot. He was just always eating.

Ariel Landrum 12:14
Did he specifically aid Pocahontas. I remember him grabbing the compass and giving it to her. So he was aware that that was like something she she wanted and he retrieved it? Would you consider that like task oriented aid? Did she ever tell him what to do?

Stefanie Bautista 12:33
I felt like he was the sassy best friend that was like, “Are you sure you want to date this guy? Are you sure we want to do this?” Like he always kind of gave the side eye and was like, as he was eating, like, kind of brushing off John Smith. So I mean, I don’t think that he was necessarily trained to be her guardian. But I think he gave off a lot of best friend vibes to me.

Ariel Landrum 12:59
So then, so then we’re gonna rule out a service animal and we’re gonna rule out therapy animal because he wasn’t providing like emotional support to others.


Would you consider him a pet or an emotional support animal because the only thing I can think of is he did comfort her when she was sad.

Stefanie Bautista 13:17
He did. He shared it, which is kind of why I kind of more categorized him as like, like almost like a human counterpart. But he wasn’t talking. He didn’t say anything. He just squeak. He was one of the characters that did not have any speaking roles. So…

Ariel Landrum 13:33
So pet?

Stefanie Bautista 13:34
I would say a pet. I will say a pet with a lot of attitude, which in real life, we have pets with a lot of attitude.

Ariel Landrum 13:41
All right. All right. All right. I concur. I think, from what I can remember, and anyone can of course, correct us. It seems more like he was a pet that was atune to his handler, his owner. And a very independent pet. I think I’m like an outdoor cat.

Stefanie Bautista 14:00
An outdoor cat. And also, I mean, he was mimicking the way she was like falling through the waterfall when she was like swimming. He he had a lot of character. So I think definitely a pet. And because Pocahontas was so in tune to nature and the animals around her. I think that drew a lot of similarities between his character and his emotions and her emotions, just because she already had that established connection with the world around her.

Ariel Landrum 14:27
Yeah, so culturally, she may not identify him as a pet could she may identify him like for kinship bonds.

Unknown Speaker 14:34
Kinship, yep.

Ariel Landrum 14:35
In the forms of the just this exercise. Yeah we’ll go with pet.

Stefanie Bautista 14:39
We’ll go with pet. All right, great. So we have Meeko as a pet. All right, we’re gonna fast forward a little bit and we’re going to talk about Sven our reindeer from Frozen.

Ariel Landrum 14:51
Okay, so in not talking about diagnoses, but just general awarenesses what we do know is that Kristoff was abandoned and raised through an adoptive family. And so therefore, there can be some very specific, unique struggles even as far as like trauma struggles, and he may have difficulty having, you know, a sense of belonging, questioning himself. And what we do know from the two movies, he isn’t really certain or secure about his place in the relationship has a whole song about it.

Stefanie Bautista 15:29
In the world, really, he’s not sure where he fits in, he’s just kind of like a snowflake flying in the wind.

Ariel Landrum 15:34
I won’t give him a diagnosis, but I would say that he probably has enough for me to further assess for potentially one that could result in additional support.

Stefanie Bautista 15:44
Yes, and we all know that Sven is working he has a working animal because he helps haul the ice up and down the mountain. He helps Kristoff make his money. So we know that he has a lot to do with the the way that Kristoff runs his life and makes a living. So I think definitely working animal is one of his titles. And you know, he he has a lot of us. He’s got a lot of sass. He’s kind of like his, you know, bro best friend his. They definitely have a bromance going on? Because Sven is very animated, and he does a lot of physical gestures that suggests that he wants Kristoff to do one thing or another.

Ariel Landrum 16:25
Definitely think because of how Kristoff talks to him uses. He actually uses him in social interactions pretending to like be Sven’s voice, right? Like Kristoff, like, does that mimic the voice and even in his song in the second movie to Anna like, it’s fun. He’s like singing to you. He’s like practicing his proposal. I feel like Sven’s leaning more towards emotional support animal that happens to be a working animal that’s been trained to do a lot of tasks.

Stefanie Bautista 16:52
Yeah, yeah. Because they do use them even in the Spring Frozen Short, he’s helping decorate the whole entire place for for the birthday party. They’re hanging things on his antlers. He’s, you know, helping set up like a party. So he’s definitely trained to do a lot of things that help people, not just Kristoff.

Ariel Landrum 17:14
Okay, okay. So because he’s not just helping Kristoff. He’s doing general work for humans. But he provides specific emotional aid to when Kristoff is the second guessing himself have low self esteem questioning himself unsure anxious when we’re gone with emotional support animal.

Stefanie Bautista 17:31
Yes. Oh, and he’s another one that does not talk.

Ariel Landrum 17:34
Does not talk. Yeah. I think that adds another layer to it. Because that pretty much is our experience with animals.

Stefanie Bautista 17:41

Ariel Landrum 17:41
We are not like Dr. Doolittle. There’s a good chance that we are having to develop relational understanding with our animals.

Stefanie Bautista 17:48
Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. All right. Great. Okay, next one is a fun one, because we kind of talked about this particular character and how they held their place in this universe. And that is Hay Hay from Moana. Our wonderful, clueless. Not really all there ever. And I wouldn’t even know if he was exactly Moana’s side kick, even though he was on the boat and just always happen to be there. Because when we think of Moana, we think Pua right?

Ariel Landrum 18:18
Yeah I do.

Stefanie Bautista 18:19
Because Pua is her pet Pua is you know her roaddog. Pua is the one that is helping her and rooting for her like I mentioned earlier. But Hay Hay, he’s kind of just there. But he plays an integral part to the story.

Ariel Landrum 18:32
Yeah. which is surprising. also voiced by Alan Tudyk, which is like it’s hilarious to think that somebody had to…

Stefanie Bautista 18:38
A had a voice…

Ariel Landrum 18:40
Acting role to this chicken. Rooster rooster.

Stefanie Bautista 18:44
And before we categorize him, he is known as the village idiot.

Ariel Landrum 18:49
He’s known as the village idiot. Yes, I I definitely think even though he he ate that stone.

Stefanie Bautista 18:56
The rock.

Ariel Landrum 18:58
Rocks, rock eating chicken. I think he was a pet. But I think he was a self domesticated pet.

Stefanie Bautista 19:05
Yes. Self domesticated because he is so independent in the wildest ways possible.

Ariel Landrum 19:12

Stefanie Bautista 19:12
He’s chaotic.

Ariel Landrum 19:13
He’s He’s chaotic. Neutral, maybe?

Stefanie Bautista 19:16
Yeah, I think chaotic neutral. I don’t think he has any intention of harm. And I don’t think he has any intention of good.

Ariel Landrum 19:21
Yeah, just is he just says, Yeah, even I, I watching the movie, I’m not even sure like when he coughed up the stone at the appropriate time, it’s still hard to tell if that was like sheer luck and fate, or if it was, like him, having an awareness that Moana needed some aid. So I’m gonna go with pure, pure pet, self domesticated. And we have that right. Like sometimes we have like squirrels in our yards.

Stefanie Bautista 19:49
I mean, we also have a lot of pets who are, you know, who have won awards for being chaotic like the ugliest dog award. And, you know, just these dogs that are just so lovable. Because you know that they’re just trying to live.

Ariel Landrum 20:03
Just living life.

Stefanie Bautista 20:04
They are the way they are, they look a little funky, and that’s okay. But you know, they’re still lovable. They still mean good. And I mean for Hay Hay himself, he almost gets killed multiple times.

Ariel Landrum 20:15
Is completely unaware of it.

Stefanie Bautista 20:17
Yeah, unaware that the world has kind of imploding around him. But, you know…

Ariel Landrum 20:20
And when I think of Moana, as she does uncover a lot of her her history, that she wasn’t aware of. Something similar to like many diaspora, or when people are leaving their homelands. However, her current motivation had to do with present stress, which was based off of like, essentially climate anxiety, if you think about it.

Stefanie Bautista 20:46

Ariel Landrum 20:46
So she could technically be diagnosed with that. But the thing when it comes to like climate, well, it would be anxiety, but we put for the climate. But when it comes to climate anxiety, and those who are indigenous, it’s not really considered a disorder, it’s considered a an appropriate response to seeing their homelands, like completely demolished and often comes with like grief and loss, fear for their future. So I think I think, pet, and I don’t think that she has anything that would denote to me that there would be a disability.

Stefanie Bautista 21:18
Yeah, because it’s a common effect. It’s a common struggle that a lot of people in the diaspora go through, especially with her people who have moved from place to place. And now in that move, in that, you know, reality of her village, her trying to find her place is something that she’s just naturally going through, it’s not necessarily an anomaly to anybody who’s living there.

Ariel Landrum 21:40
And the land going through like struggles with fishing and coconut like, essentially, like, I mean, we know it’s the goddess, but it’s like a blight. You know, like there’s there’s actual struggle going on with the the climate and the nature, again, appropriate responses. And so I would not consider, not the, I would not consider it a mental health disorder as a result of something like, organic could be environmental trauma, if it were to persist. But we saw in the movie, she kind of clean things up pretty quickly.

Stefanie Bautista 22:12
She did, she did, and you know, Hay Hay, kind of symbolizes a part of her village that you know, always is with her, because it’s something that just exists in her village that is very specific to her village. And that makes her think of home all the time, even though she has Pua with her even though she has the memories. And you know, her grandma with her all the time. Hay was a physical representation of that, and he just always showed up. So I think you know, that being a part of home is something that a pet gives to us, wherever we are, if you move with your pet, whether it’s city to city, state to state, it’s a little piece of home that you know, you always familiarize yourself with.

Ariel Landrum 22:51
Even in the way that you’re sharing that when I work with clients who have like pet grief and loss, one of the things that I highlight is we tend to get pets at pivotal moments of our life. Like when we first stepped out into the world on our own, when we were first living on our own or when we get children or preparing to start a family or as a couple trying to see if we could we that’s usually when we get a pet. So they marker like milestones, very specific moments of our lives. And that and that was Hay Hay, like he he ventured out with her in a moment where she just had a lot of uncertainty. And when it comes to the grief and loss of a pet, usually that’s marking like, if we’ve lived with them for a substantial amount of time that’s marking an end of like that milestone, and having to both realize that and grieve not only those changes and losses, but now have to grieve the act, the act of representation of that, which is our pet.

Stefanie Bautista 23:46
Yeah, and to move on with your life without that is a huge transition for people who get pets at pivotal moments. Like you said.

Ariel Landrum 23:54
Pets witnesses that are most vulnerable. We stand naked in front of them.

Stefanie Bautista 23:58
They’re kind of just there all the time.

Ariel Landrum 24:00
And that was Hay Hay, right?

Stefanie Bautista 24:01

Ariel Landrum 24:01
There all the time.

Stefanie Bautista 24:03
You really didn’t want him to be here. It was kind of a nuisance. He was just there with his googly eyes. Great. I love that. I didn’t think we’re gonna have that conversation with Hay Hay, but you know what, he took us there. He took us there. Wonderful. So that is Hay Hay our next free well actually this one’s not even really free because doesn’t have hair is Pascal from Tangled. Wonderful chameleon so lovable so cute. Rapunzel’s right hand’s man? I’m I think Pascal is a male name. So I’m I think he’s a boy.

Ariel Landrum 24:38
Yeah, I think I think she uses he he him with him.

Stefanie Bautista 24:42
Yeah, yeah. So Pascal is very loyal to her. He is her only friend when she’s imprisoned in the tower never leaves her side. So we know that there’s a lot of emotional bonding there because they’re the only two in the tower. He is her fierce protector. He is kind of like kind of like a sibling almost, that, you know really is rooting for her. And once Flynn Rider comes up, he has his side eye. I think he’s also a character that doesn’t talk.

Ariel Landrum 25:10
Yes, yes, I do know that Pascal grabs things for her like her paint brushes. I do believe he has been trained essentially, either actively she taught him or just from the general relationship of interaction. And given that she is in severe solitude and finds out later that she’s kidnapped, I could say that there may be some diagnoses that could occur. Given that he goes out with her into the world, it’s hard to tell if she trusts Flynn Rider, right or more because she has Pascal or like the like her own naivety or just willingness, or her spirit right to just explore on the world. And we do see her oscillate in a lot of pain for like, leaving her mom, right? Like that was a big thing was this their attachment together was her to be individualized to her to sort of like they were very what is in Bowen called enmeshed. So, again, because she was locked away. I think he could lean towards psychiatric service animal, I think there’s a possibility.

Stefanie Bautista 26:19
I definitely believe that. Yeah, I think that that’s huge, just because Rapunzel is going through so many extreme measures in her daily life. And when we see Rapunzel she’s coming out of that, and she’s having a lot of realizations, she’s at a pivotal moment in her life. So she is not only going through her process of discovering womanhood, but she’s also discovering that everything that she knew was basically not exactly what she thought it was. And Pascal is her constant throughout all of this.

Ariel Landrum 26:49
And like you mentioned, the only socialization she had besides her mother. So already, he plays an integral psychological role in that she, she creates dialogue with him. But very different than when Kristoff’s using Sven, like, essentially for emotional support. Because he’s, he’s kind of leaning on him, like during times of struggle. For her, like, Pascal is constantly with her. She’s constantly engaging with him. And she’s having essentially direct relationship and dialogue with him and, and plans her day with him. Like, I feel like he’s so integral to what her lived experience was before she left the tower, then there couldn’t, I couldn’t imagine him not being a psychiatric service animal.

Stefanie Bautista 27:36
Exactly. And I think the choice for him to be a chameleon was so smart, because he is basically her window to the outside world. He could be whatever she wanted him to be. And he has the ability to do that, because she didn’t have that perspective to the outside world, aside from her interactions with him. And, you know, I think if it was any other animal, I don’t think it would have had the same effect. Because what she was going through was really, really extreme.

Ariel Landrum 28:05
And I think also shows you where some of the advancement for disability laws for service animals needs to take place. Like I said, here in the US, it’s the service animal federally is a dog, and that tower was not going to fit a dog. I don’t think there’s no way that Mother Gothel would have allowed her to have a dog she had to be able to hide him right? And

Stefanie Bautista 28:29
He could camouflage whenever he needed to hide in her hair really because her hair could hide anything. Maybe her hair could have hit an emotional service dog. Now that I think about. I mean she’s swinging from tower to tower, she could hide a dog. She could hide a dog.

Ariel Landrum 28:43
She could hide a dog in there.

Stefanie Bautista 28:44
But anyway that’s beside the point.

Ariel Landrum 28:47
But yeah, I think that if there had been more if we have been embracing more animals in regards to like those laws, the we would find a lot more people getting assistance in ways that that we hadn’t considered and for for me when it comes to emotional support animals because the law doesn’t say that it has to be specifically a dog. I have assessed cats, dogs, and some lizards. I don’t know much about bird and human interaction. I’ve never received training for that. So that’s why I always refer out but with particularly when it comes to like bearded dragons seem to be the thing.

Stefanie Bautista 29:24
Yeah a lot of popularity around Bearded Dragons as emotional support animals.

Ariel Landrum 29:29
The reason they get into being the choice oftentimes has to do with the individual has severe allergies. So it’s like, oh, I don’t have the option of a dog or a cat. And I also need what an emotional support animal can provide to mitigate. You know, my mental health disability and bearded dragon ends up doing it.

Stefanie Bautista 29:47

Ariel Landrum 29:48

Stefanie Bautista 29:49
They’re cute though.

Ariel Landrum 29:50
They are.

Stefanie Bautista 29:50
Love Love Me a bearded dragon. I do want to shout out Flynn Rider’s horse Maximus…

Ariel Landrum 29:57

Stefanie Bautista 29:58
He plays…

Ariel Landrum 29:58
Well stolen horse or rehomed?

Stefanie Bautista 30:02
He rehomed himself? Oh, Because I think that he creates a counterpart to Rapunzel’s relationship with Pascal. And I think, because we see Flynn Rider have his own kind of character arc and his growth in the story as well, because he learns a lot of things about himself. I think it was really beautiful for both of them to go through those changes with their animal companions.

Ariel Landrum 30:25
And essentially him being challenged by like this authority figure of a horse and creating essentially respect towards it. Whereas, like, all previous versions of him had no respect for like authority.

Stefanie Bautista 30:36
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And this was more of like a mutual relationship, almost, because the horse was kind of forced into it, but then also was just kind of like, “Alright, this guy’s kind of pathetic, so let’s help him out.”

Ariel Landrum 30:47
“I feel pity.”

Stefanie Bautista 30:50
All right, awesome. So the next character that we’re going to talk about is a speaking character. And he has a very great role in this iconic movie. And we are going to be talking about Zazu from The Lion King.

Ariel Landrum 31:05

Stefanie Bautista 31:06
So we are kind of pivoting now. And we were talking about a animal companion to a villain. So as you all know, Zazu in the original Lion King, the animated version, he is the royal advisor to well, he is Mufasa’s as advisor, but then he has to kind of pivot, because when Mufasa passes away, he has to now serve under Scar. So he kind of plays a dual role. And we can all say that he is a working animal because he is an advisor.

Ariel Landrum 31:34
Yeah, yes. And I think even more so when he was Scar’s advisor, he was even more of a working animal because he was he, he didn’t even get to give advice. It was like, “Sing for me!,” right? “Do do this task.” And that’s all that we don’t have a relationship. When it came to Mufasa, he had a relationship with Mufasa. They, they had dialogue together. And this is where it’s like, it starts to get murky, right? Because they can actually have a conversation and you’re having a conversation with your pets. But if we were thinking of Mufasa if Mufasa was a human and Zazu was still a bird. One of the things that I would notice of their interaction is that he is considering the needs of Zazu which starts to feel more like a pet. And we do consider the needs of working animals we do, you know, good ethical farms are gonna give them the medicine they need proper food, enrichment and nourishment. However, at the end of the day, they’re still a working animal. Where as in this case, Zazu seemed integrated with the community. So it’s with the family felt more pet like.

Stefanie Bautista 31:43
Yeah, definitely pet like but also a pet that could snitch on you because he was kind of a killjoy all the time especially through Simba’s eyes. Simba, Nala were like “Zazu get the heck away from us, we are just trying to live our lives. We’re trying to be kids.” And he was like the uncle the babysitter, who was just like, you know, “Don’t do that. You can’t go over there.” But he meant well, we know that he has good intentions for the kingdom good intentions for Mufasa’s family because he is so loyal. And not only is he a servant, but he is you know, trusted within their community.

Ariel Landrum 33:16
And because he’s so loyal even though he was a working animal, then later assigned, we could say like to Scar, the second that Simba came back, he allied with Simba like…

Stefanie Bautista 33:28

Ariel Landrum 33:29
Allied with his original, essentially what you’d say family or owners. And we, we do see that right when, when pets get re homed, or when working animals get moved to a different farm, they tend to remember their original family and have like a bond with them.

Stefanie Bautista 33:43
Yeah. Or even if they’re lost, and they get reunited, or if they deploy, and

Ariel Landrum 33:52
You have that story. We’ll say that in a bit. They remember

Stefanie Bautista 33:58
They remember and they show it in every single way, humanly or animal possible.

Ariel Landrum 34:03

Stefanie Bautista 34:04
Emotionally. And we see that through Zazu because he immediately is like, “You know what, screw all that. I’m just gonna go back to my original pride,” even though he is not a lion himself. He has loyalty to the pride that Mufasa created.

Ariel Landrum 34:21
And remember, we said that pets, first and foremost have companionship. And there’s companionship there. Right when you’re thinking of family bonding, like Yeah, that’s it.

Stefanie Bautista 34:32
Yeah, exactly. So yeah. Zazu man, voice by Rowan Atkinson, which I was like, “Mr. Bean what?” When I was a kid, because, you know, Mr. Bean, he was he was pretty popular back then. And having him having that speaking role, I think really brought his character to life. And he did such a wonderful job of just playing that kind of snitch.

Ariel Landrum 34:58

Stefanie Bautista 34:59
That snitcher but also you know, you really felt for him when he was under Scar’s control because you you didn’t want him to perish.

Ariel Landrum 35:07
And then in the live action it’s a it’s John Oliver right?

Stefanie Bautista 35:10
Yes, it’s a John Oliver.

Ariel Landrum 35:11
And I think he did. I mean this John Oliver!

Stefanie Bautista 35:13
Such a great job! Yeah John Oliver! Could have been just a reincarnation of Zazu himself. So smart. So as a matter of fact, very British.

Ariel Landrum 35:24
Also sassy.

Stefanie Bautista 35:25
Super sassy. And yeah, we we heard that Sass vocalized instead of just you know, like a side eye or their actions. It was all of that so. Yeah, great character. Okay, fantastic. So, the next one is we’re going to reach a little bit because this is a much much older movie. Gus and Jaq from Cinderella.

Ariel Landrum 35:47
Ahh Gus Gus!

Stefanie Bautista 35:48
Yes, Gus Gus and Jaq are wonderful sidekicks, little mice, that helps Cinderella they’re faithful mouse companions to her. And they love her. They truly just love her. They live with her. They see her struggles. They’re devoted to helping her sneaking her all the things that she needs in order for her to escape her situation.

Ariel Landrum 36:08
And she does go through severe amounts of trauma she loses she’s she loses the mom she loses the dad gains a wicked stepmother and we can sisters right? Becomes essentially, I’m not even gonna use the term like indentured servant like she’s abused into essentially slavery in her own home. Has no access to any of her own wealth, her own family property, her name, they they essentially try to erase her from the from existence except to just be I wouldn’t say maid but she’s not getting paid.

Stefanie Bautista 36:40

Ariel Landrum 36:41
And so lots of severe trauma. What we do know is she, herself relies personally on kindness, something that was instilled to her by her bio parents, and something that she’s able to hold on true. But given the amount of trauma that she’s experienced in the lack of socialization, the outside world, she definitely needed to socialize herself with the animals. And there are a variety of animals in that movie, but the mice specifically did her bidding, like Gus Gus and Jaq would do what she told them to they would retrieve things. And so I definitely consider them a service animal or psychiatric service animal that had, like function that they are aware of, and their direct relationship to her like they they enjoyed sort of like their own life, but for the most part, they were keeping an eye on her.

Stefanie Bautista 37:34
Yeah, they were keeping an eye on her. They were watching out for her. They’re the ones who got the key to the room, because Lady Tremaine locked her in there so that she couldn’t try on the glass slipper. If none of that happened. If they didn’t do that action, there would be no story. So I mean, I think definitely you’re spot on with that categorization. Because they’re they’re really the heroes in this story. They save her. It wasn’t Prince Charming. It was them.

Ariel Landrum 38:00
It was them. And I think they work with the other animals well.

Stefanie Bautista 38:05
They work with the birds.

Ariel Landrum 38:07
Okay, the she gets Bruno up there to scare away Lucifer, the cat. And even though like they are essentially, on the chopping block of, like hierarchy when it comes to engaging with the cat, they did what they were told. And when it comes to service animals and psychiatric service animals, we obviously want to take care in the situations we put them in. But some situations could be just naturally scary to them that they ignore that fear because they want to service their handler. So like, common examples would be like, noises at a construction site can be very scary and loud to a dog. But if they have to help guide their handler, they will do it. They will they will they will desensitize themselves and those mice knew they need to be afraid of the cat. They still try their best.

Stefanie Bautista 38:56
Still did it. And that cat was big. It was pissy. It who just did not want to do anything with anyone.

Ariel Landrum 39:02
Named after the devil.

Stefanie Bautista 39:03
Literally named the devil. And interesting enough Jaq, Jacque and Gus Gus don’t speak English. They speak kind of a broken version of it. So they’re kind of like they say Cinder- they Cinderelle they don’t really say her name so they they’re not totally humanized. But they’re not totally fully animal. They were close. They were shirts.

They make me think of Pokemon. Gus Gus.

Truly but it’s funny because Pokemon don’t even wear clothes like that it’s just Pikachu that does.

Ariel Landrum 39:40
Unless you’re playing Pokemon Go and it’s an event day.

Stefanie Bautista 39:42
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yeah, so anyway, we digress. But Jaq and Gus Gus are super lovable. I think they are unsung heroes. I mean, they are mice so we know that they are the underdogs. that we know that they are the ones that you know we’re rooting for. Without them Cinderella would not be saved. She She would still be in her crappy situation. So shout out to those two. We’ve gone through a lot of different animals. And I think it is fitting that we end, I want to end with a couple just because we didn’t hit these pretty big ones. Little Mermaid just came out, we all know and we have a lot of really great friends when it comes to the Little Mermaid. So we can kind of do a mash up of two? Because we can talk about Flounder. And we can talk about Sebastian, because they are two very important characters and friends to Ariel that help her in different ways. We did talk about Zazu. And when I think about Zazu, I think about how Sebastian plays a very similar role because they are both advisors to their king.

Ariel Landrum 40:48
So I definitely think that with the live action and the animated Flounder and Flounder was more of essentially a companion so a pet. And, you know, knew I would say tasks or tricks like could grab things. But But he had a relationship with Ariel. I think the second that she lost her fins, she gained a physical disability.

Stefanie Bautista 41:14

Ariel Landrum 41:14
Like we’re thinking like gaining legs would not be. But remember, she is not human. She is not she’s not meant to have those legs, she literally essentially removed an entire appendage of her body. Yes. and is having to now completely relearn how her body is functioning without that appendage.

Stefanie Bautista 41:35
And she lost her voice.

Ariel Landrum 41:37
She lost her voice. So she also cannot communicate. So she has two forms of essentially what would be a physical disability. And I think after that because of her deep relationship with Flounder, he turned into somewhat of a service animal however, because of his limitations being in the water, it then transition to Sebastian, who was not her pet. And instead was maybe I would say like, if we’re gonna say companion or pet or dad’s pet, he like then rehome to her.

Stefanie Bautista 42:12

Ariel Landrum 42:13
Who learned to be a service animal because what we saw was he helped. We saw them helping her swim up, right. Both of them are under each of her arms. He’s like now having to translate things to her and communicate to her. He is running around the castle. Spoiler alert in the live action. He doesn’t get a kitchened. He doesn’t have the kitchen song.

Stefanie Bautista 42:35
Yeah, boo. But anyway.

Ariel Landrum 42:38
But he is sleeping in the bed with her. He is trying to help her achieve a very specific goal, which is to create a connection with Eric, which we can say that he becomes her voice.

Stefanie Bautista 42:48

Ariel Landrum 42:48

Stefanie Bautista 42:49
Yeah, he becomes the orchestrator, which is in the animated movie as well, because he starts the song he almost has them kiss. So he is definitely working all throughout this movie, because he is on task all the time. He just wants to get the job done to protect her.

Ariel Landrum 43:07
Yeah. And I don’t know how you even live action or the animated how Eric somehow magically understands him. But yeah, he becomes her voice. He literally is the one because he’s the one who speaks her name. Right?

Stefanie Bautista 43:20
Yeah, like says it behind like, trees. But then, I think Well, I think Eric somehow manifest that as like a voice in his head.

Ariel Landrum 43:30

Stefanie Bautista 43:31
He’s not necessarily saying “Oh, my God isn’t an animal talking to me?!” He’s just like, oh, maybe there’s something because he’s looking for intuition, right? He’s looking for something that’s going to give him a signal to find this girl. And he takes those signals, which are actually Sebastian, he doesn’t know that. But he’s thinking of it in his own way.

Ariel Landrum 43:47
Yeah, I think they both become that. And I will say, again, is something that can be common, because some of the things that we want to remember is that anyone, anyone and everyone is susceptible to gaining a disability, that is why it’s important to become a advocate for the disabled, because you could be part of that community. It unfortunately could just be one accident away. And and so in this case, with her having someone speak for her, that like essentially her interpreter as as well as could be. That was such a beautiful task and functional aid, though, was necessary and crucial.

Stefanie Bautista 43:47
Yeah, it was crucial to the whole thing. It’s crucial to the story to her development to her survival. And with without that, I think, you know, we we don’t necessarily think Ariel and Sebastian we think Ariel and Flounder, and you know, I feel like this perspective might have changed me to think you know, Sebastian did hold it down for Ariel even though he truly did not want to it was just a nuisance for him the whole entire time.

Ariel Landrum 44:54
Yeah. And he had the ability to go on land and in water.

Stefanie Bautista 44:58
Another smart choice. Yeah, because Flounder had those limitations.

Ariel Landrum 45:02
Yeah. And again, sometimes with a service animal, we realize like, we need a very specific thing that one can’t provide or the other. That’s why I mentioned earlier, miniature horses for balancing. They are, they’re just stocky and sturdier. There’s no way that I don’t care how big of a dog you have that if you have a difficulty with balance, that a dog’s not really going to provide that in the way that a horse can.

Stefanie Bautista 45:28
Got four sturdy legs. Well, we went through a lot of different animals and a lot of really beloved animals and characters. We do want to leave off, I don’t want to forget our magical character Mushu.

Ariel Landrum 45:45
All right!

Stefanie Bautista 45:45
Because he is not really a real animal. But he’s also not seen by everyone. So I feel like he’s a definite anomaly. To a lot of sidekicks. I think he is open to interpretation.

Ariel Landrum 45:59
Yeah. So I don’t know if you could call him a pet. Yeah, he might be a working animal he was assigned.

Stefanie Bautista 46:04
I mean, his official label is Guardian.

Ariel Landrum 46:07
Yeah okay.

Stefanie Bautista 46:08
So he is a deity. He is a guardian, even though he is a dragon. But also guys, dragons aren’t real. So he is definitely a sidekick. I feel like it’s, it’s good to note him. He’s an honorable mention in our list, because he’s, he’s there for Mulan, he talks to the ancestors, he’s there to protect her, no matter where she is. But he also has a physical ability to help her out whenever she needs to watch out for her when she’s taking a swim, or, you know, taking a bath, and lights fireworks like, not every animal could do that.

Ariel Landrum 46:45
I think if I were to categorize him more as a pet, I may categorize them as emotional support animal when Mulan because Because essentially, Mulan was committing a crime. But if we moved remove that component, she was engaging in, you know, gender fluidity of gender expression. And, you know, dressing like a man, if we were to even say that she was someone who was queer wanted to be more fluid in her presentation, he then might be an emotional support animal, not because that is a disability, but because of the way the outside world treats individuals who are gender fluid, and that she got support from him, like he was cooking her food, and he was fighting others for her. But also, he was, at first he was a little bit against it, but he was actively supporting her in a time when she could have had a lot of mental emotional struggle. So maybe.

Stefanie Bautista 47:37
That was, that was only her her only connection to, you know, keeping her from just giving up. Because he was there rooting her on and he was there being the voice of reason and saying, you know, “Hey, let’s take a step back and think about why you’re actually doing this.” But he also had an agenda of his own because he wanted to be a, you know, a full deity himself. So there’s a lot of layers to Mushu I think that warrants a whole episode in itself.

Ariel Landrum 48:03
And I think even you highlighting that, like when I work with clients who are trans and transitioning their emotional support, animals are oftentimes the direct reason why they can complete a transition. And it’s because, “If I’m happier, my pets happier, I’m happier, we have a better relationship. And because we have a better relationship, I no longer feel the symptoms of potentially depression or anxiety that have been put on me by the environment.” So in that case, I would say that because he was a direct motivator for her he, he could have been an emotional support animal like we’re leaning towards there.

Stefanie Bautista 48:36
I mean, he was my emotional support animal when Mulan was going through all of that stuff when I was watching the movie. So without him and his comical relief, and also his just undying loyalty to her. I think she wouldn’t have gone through what she had gone through and survived and saved all of China. Personally, I gained a pet when I needed it the most emotionally. When my husband deployed overseas for a whole year, I was living by myself in the apartment and we lost our dog that we had raised a couple years before that. And so I felt that it was time for me to find a dog or a dog to find me. So I adopted my pitbull mix Chance at one of the really big Best Friends Animal adoption events here in Los Angeles, shout out to them. He was fully trained. He was about three years old when I adopted him. And he was a really great companion for me when I was living alone in the apartment, because he gave me a sense of purpose and routine when you know, I didn’t really have those things not having my partner living with me. Other than going to work. It gave me something to look forward to like I walked them in the morning I walked them at night. We shared a lot of just outings together with friends. And you know, he he’s still with us to this day. Now that I have two kids. He’s, you know, my kids protector and I Um, yeah, the different times that my husband left to deploy or went on training, every single time he comes back, my dog goes insane. Like he jumps around, like claws, whoever he is pushing down, he’s about 75 pounds. So he is not a very small dog. So when he shows his emotions, he shows them in a big, big way. And that kind of goes back to what you were saying that, you know, all of these animals, they, they do recognize people, they do establish those relationships, they do have that loyalty, all of these things that, you know, we see in stories happen in real life. And so, you know, having Chance as a part of the family in a time where I was lonely, and I needed some companionship really carried throughout the different phases in our life. And now that we don’t, you know, we don’t experience that in the extreme that we did before, because now I have kids, he plays a different purpose now. And you know, as he’s getting older, as my kids are getting older, they’re forming that bond. And they’re establishing that mutual relationship of emotional need of security, of just a sense of community within, you know, they’re all siblings now, which is really great to see. And, you know, Ariel has seen firsthand the benefits of me adopting Chance at the pivotal time that I needed him.

Ariel Landrum 51:24
Yes. And when Stef was interested in trying to see if he could qualify as an emotional support animal, I gave her referrals to be able to get the evaluation. And what what some people aren’t aware of is emotional support animals have to be reevaluated every year. And there was a certain point where once AJ returned, and then you started to grow your family, he became just a pet. At that point, there was no need to do this assessment. There’s no need to do documentation. And I think that’s that’s also just crucial to let people know is that sometimes they think that their certification from a mental health providers like forever, and yeah, it lasts for a year. That’s because disabilities also change, right? When we have more accesses, when we start to, depending on on what we’re experiencing, like in a mental health related experience, maybe we’re doing more healing, maybe we’ve now switched to a different type of treatments and emotional support animal, we’ve added medication, now we’re able to do things more that we don’t rely on our emotional support animal for.

Stefanie Bautista 52:27
Yeah, and one of the reasons why I asked for diagnosis is because of my living situation. At the time, too. I was living in an apartment complex that didn’t necessarily welcome dogs, unless they were serving a purpose. So since then, my living situation has changed. I don’t have to, you know, report that to anybody. So even though it kind of worked out in my favor, it it was just it’s good to know that you know, you have to kind of abide by the cycles and the the ways that we all grow as well in relationship to our animals, whether they’re working or whether they’re not.

Ariel Landrum 53:04
So if you have any sidekicks that you think we should have talked about, or if you disagree with any of our decisions, please, please tweet at us @happiestpodGT, or send us a DM on Instagram, @happiestpodGT. If you have a service animal or emotional support animal or even a pet that you want to share and show. Go ahead and send that to we want all the animal photos.

Stefanie Bautista 53:30
Yes, all the animal photos always in forever. All right, it was great talking about our animal sidekicks. And you know what, I’m gonna go hug my dog now. Yeah. All right. See you next time, everyone.

Ariel Landrum 53:42

Media/Characters Mentioned
  • Disney Sidekicks
  • Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
  • Miko (Pocahontas)
  • Kristoff and Sven (Frozen)
  • Hay Hay (Moana)
  • Rapunzel and Pascal (Tangled)
  • Zazu (The Lion King)
  • Gus and Jack (Cinderella)
  • Flounder and Sebastian (The Little Mermaid)
  • Mushu (Mulan)
  • Disney’s Rapunzel
  • Disney’s Cinderella
Topics/Themes Mentioned
  • Mental Wellness
  • Role of Disney Sidekicks in Emotional Support
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Mental Health Assessments
  • Emotional Support Animals
  • Service Animals
  • Therapy Animals
  • Impact of Animal Companions
  • Disability and Disney Characters
  • Psychiatric Service Animals
  • Ethical Treatment of Working Animals
  • Heroic Animal Characters
  • Disability Representation in Disney Movies
  • Emotional Support
  • Coping Mechanisms
  • Reevaluation of Emotional Support Animals

Questions? Comments? Discuss this episode on the GT Forum.

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