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The Ghost and Molly McGee Season Two: Autism, Ghosts, and Gadgets!

Los Angeles, March 30 – During the past few years, we have been excited to see growing authentic autistic representation on our screens. On April 1, we will be introduced to a new character, June, who is both autistic and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander).

The Ghost and Molly McGee is a Disney Channel animated series that follows an unlikely bond between an exuberant tween, Molly, and a grumpy ghost named Scratch. The two are eternally connected thanks to Scratch’s backfiring curse. Season two introduces new neighbors, the Chens – Ruben, Esther, Ollie, and June (the autistic character).

I couldn’t believe it when RespectAbility’s SVP, Lauren Appelbaum, brought me in to work on this show. It was exactly the type of work I hoped to do!

From Script To Animatic

As a Chinese autistic woman, I was super excited when I heard that June Chen was AAPI. I also was impressed with Disney Channel’s commitment to reflecting the diversity of the disability community. There isn’t a lot of autistic female representation onscreen, and representation of autistic People of Color (regardless of gender) is even less. The team also confirmed that they wanted to authentically cast an autistic actress, preferably one from the AAPI community.

In our first meeting with the producers, we discussed character descriptions, ideas, and storylines. I shared my school experiences, including the struggle to make friends, and how I connected to others through theatre. The team wanted June to connect with the world through her gadgets and engineering. With that idea in mind, we talked about the importance of autistic special interests (an intense and sometimes narrow passion) and how to convey those passions with June. The team was always receptive to notes and asked insightful questions. I could tell they wanted to do the work to create a loveable, authentic character.

To ensure autistic authenticity to June’s interactions, I suggested June might take a joke literally, which is common for autistic people. Contrary to autistic cliches, we decided June sometimes makes eye contact. When Darryl McGee, Molly’s brother, asks her a question about engineering and tech, she looks up from her gadget, intrigued and eager to talk to him.

While reviewing preliminary sketches and animatics, I helped the animators understand that it isn’t just what an autistic person says or even how they say it, but it’s also how they move and behave that makes autistic people different. For example, June’s movements could be less coordinated in comparison to non-autistic characters, as autistic people are slower to develop coordination.

To Screen

The Chen family in a scene from "The Ghost and Molly McGee"

THE GHOST AND MOLLY MCGEE – “The New (Para) Normal Pt.2” (Disney)

June is voiced by Chinese-American, autistic actress Sue Ann Pien, who recently starred in As We See It. Pien remembers having a love for all things Disney, like a lot of people on the autism spectrum. Regarding her casting, Pien says, “I’m always looking for ways to open up portrayals in the Asian American community, and I think adding this character is going to normalize the experience of neurodiversity in my community.”

In the first episode of season two, the McGees become fast friends with the Chen family! A humorous moment occurs when the McGees gift the Chens turnips and June gags, “these smell like boiled toenails!” Instead of scolding, June’s mother gently reminds her to show thanks for a gift, no matter how weird. It is so important to see June supported by her loving family. June confidently explains, “I’m autistic, and I guess not everyone can handle my unfiltered truth.” Her directness is a very autistic way to speak, and it shows she knows about her diagnosis and isn’t ashamed.

June also being quickly accepted by the McGees is great modeling for children and their families watching this series. When Darryl notices June’s gadget, he jumps right in and starts a conversation about inventions and their resulting mayhem. Because the McGees are already quirky (I mean, Molly’s best friend is a ghost), they easily embrace another quirky family…until they realize the Chen family’s hobby! Watch the first episode of season two on Disney Channel and Disney XD on Saturday, April 1 and next day on Disney+ to find out what it is!

Meet the Author

Ava Rigelhaupt

Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt is a writer, actress, and advocate for disability and autism representation in the entertainment industry. She wants to write for TV or film, while also finding a way to continue acting.

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