Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2001

Group wants Disney to halt release of ‘Bubble Boy’

August 18, 2001

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A foundation for people with immune deficiencies is asking Walt Disney Co. to cancel the release of a movie about a boy who lives in a plastic bubble and planning a boycott of the film, saying it's insensitive.

An Indiana family also is urging people not to see "Bubble Boy," a comedy about a young man who has lived his entire life in a bubble and ventures into the world when he learns his childhood sweetheart is engaged to another man.




The 15,000-member Immune Deficiency Foundation has asked Disney not to release the movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Marley Shelton, on Aug. 24.

The group, based in Towson, Md., says the movie makes fun of people with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or SCID.

IDF founder Marcia L. Boyle, whose 23-year-old son has SCID, said in a July 30 letter to Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner that the movie is a "cheap slap in the face" to children who have the disease or have died from it.

"I'm sure that in the politically correct society in which we live, almost any movie you release raises the hackles of one group or another. There's a part of me that almost feels sympathy for the criticism that you must continuously face over good-natured movies that cause protest," Boyle wrote in the letter, which is posted on the group's Web site. "There is nothing good-natured, however, about it. It's not only offensive, it's positively horrifying."

Previews for the movie show the boy being run over by a bus and bounced around like a beach ball at a rock concert.

The group contends the movie has similarities to the story of David Philip Vetter, a Texas boy who lived his entire 12-year life inside a plastic enclosure because of a disease that made him susceptible to germs.

Vetter, who died in 1984, is a symbol for children with SCID, the foundation says, and his lifelong isolation linked the nickname "Bubble Boy" with him and the term "Bubble Boy Disease" with SCID.

"Disney says the resemblance to my son is purely coincidental," Vetter's mother, Carol Ann Demaret, said from her home in Houston. "But that can't be true if there was only one 'Bubble Boy' in history. Did they even think about how this might affect those who have to deal with this life-threatening disease?"

Walt Disney Co. spokeswoman Andrea Marzas declined comment Thursday night.

A Fort Wayne, Ind., mother also is urging people to boycott the movie, saying it mocks the disease that killed her two daughters.

"I have a hard time understanding why you would make a comedy out of something serious like that," Jennifer Davidson told Fort Wayne television station WKJG. "They don't make comedies about cancer or AIDS or anything like that."

SCID is one of the best-known of 80 related genetic diseases called primary immunodeficiency, or PI, that weaken the immune system.

Children with the diseases are born with faulty immune genes, putting them at risk for unusually repeated infections, sometimes death.

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