9 delightfully eerie photos from inside a 187-year-old doll hospital.

On the corner of a bustling city square in Lisbon, Portugal, stands an old hospital.

Like most of the buildings on the square, it's quite old — part of Lisbon's Praça da Figuera ("Square of the Fig Tree"), established in the 18th century. Yet hospital still admits new patients, checking their ailments, and, occasionally, wrapping them in bubble wrap.

Yes, bubble wrap. That's because this isn't a hospital for humans. The sign the sign above the door says it all: "Hospital de Bonecas" — The Doll Hospital.


Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

Founded in 1830, this hospital staff spends its days repairing and restoring dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys. Some of those healed may "walk" away with just a couple of stitches or a bit of paint, but other patients require much more serious care.

This doll hospital has no doubt seen a lot of toys come through the door during its 187-year tenure. (There was apparently a somewhat famous Bride of Chucky doll a few years back.) But many of its patients are more than just toys to the families who love them: One may have been the baby Jesus from a family's heirloom nativity scene, or a gift from a lost grandparent, or the last thing a refugee family was able to save from a previous life.

Though the Hospital de Bonecas may be focused on repairing porcelain and plastic, it's essentially treating the toys' human owners for something known as "saudade" — a Portuguese word for the longing, nostalgic feeling that remains after a loved one is gone.

“We work with feelings more than strictly with the objects,” Manuela Cutileiro, who runs the hospital, told Reuters. “It has always been our job to, ultimately, cure the saudades.”

Check out some pictures of the Hospital de Bonecas healing feelings below:

Cutileiro dresses up a doll that's been repaired. Like the dolls, the shop has been handed down in her family for five generations.

Besides being the owner, Cutileiro is also a doll surgeon and former primary school teacher.  Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

The dolls arrive in all manner of conditions. This one is badly damaged.

Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

Donated, owner-less toys may serve as erzatz organ donors.

Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

A donor might contribute an arm to an incoming patient.

Or maybe even a head.

Even the oddest expressions can find their match. Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

Here, a variety of Barbies wait on a net while waiting to be prepared. Shot from below, the dolls seem to form a kind of strange circus act.

Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

A woman repairs a doll at the hospital.

Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

Once repaired, the dolls are ready to be played with, posed, and taken home again.

Photo from Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images.

Prices range from about $5 for minor repairs to several hundred dollars for major antique repairs — but if it means being able to reconnect once again with a lost loved one, that's well worth the price.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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