Telling a story in just over three minutes isn’t an easy feat, but Disney has the unique ability to draw us in and make us feel for characters we barely know. But in many of Disney’s touching animated shorts, we feel so strongly for the characters because we are the characters. The stories often touch on things that feel deeply personal, so while we may only know the characters for a few brief minutes, we find ourselves connecting with them in unexpected ways.
Don’t let the fact that it’s technically an ad fool you – Disney’s newest holiday short, The Stepdad, will 100% make you cry at your desk. The story is touching, heartbreaking, and magical in an iconically-Disney way. This year’s ad is a sequel to last year’s story, one that celebrated passing down beloved family traditions from one generation to the next.
The Stepdad follows Nichole, a character from last year’s ad, and her family. In just over three minutes, viewers get a thorough and moving window into life with Nichole’s family during an important transition. She has two young kids, Max and Ella, who are as excitable as they are adorable. Max and Ella’s dad passed away, but a magical book he gave to Max is one of his most treasured possessions.
When Max and Ella’s stepdad Mike moves in with them, he struggles to figure out his new role. Mike clearly cares deeply for Max and Ella but finding a balance between showing them that he cares and giving them space to adjust proves difficult.
Mike approaches each family tradition with restrained enthusiasm, clearly eager to embrace his new role but hesitant to overstep. The holiday festivities are punctuated by small moments of connection, as Max and Ella slowly begin to embrace Mike’s presence. That is, until a gingerbread house disaster leaves Max and Ella in tears.
The heartbreaking moment is a turning point for the family – rather than give in to the dejection that comes with feeling out of place, Mike finds a way to give Max and Ella a Christmas they’ll never forget. And in doing so, he begins to find his footing as a stepdad.