A 'Simpsons' animator's real-life struggle inspired a cartoon for kids with disabilities.

As long as animator Chance Raspberry can remember, he's held a pencil in his hand.

When he was 11, Raspberry broke the family VCR by skipping it backward and forward, pausing it to copy the images from Disney's "Sleepy Hollow" into an old notebook. Other days, he sat hunched over the desk in his room, mimicking the jet-black pen strokes that made Spiderman come to life.

For Raspberry, drawing pictures was a window to the rest of the world.

It was the '80s, and at the time, he was coping with Tourette's syndrome, a disorder health professionals and people close to Raspberry knew little about. It meant he often engaged in behaviors that no one could predict or control.


The tics, which started as unusual bouts of excess energy, often caused Raspberry to do dangerous things — like venture into the street in the middle of a preschool class.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Once, Raspberry alarmed his preschool staff by perching on top of a jungle gym, pretending to shoot classmates with an imaginary bow and arrow. When they told him to stop, he literally couldn't.

As a result, Raspberry was often sent home, his parents pleading with school administrators who didn't understand him and his behavior. When he was 8, the tics started to manifest in sudden, violent outbursts.

"The worst tics were when I would repeatedly slap myself across the face. I would have to hit myself in alternating patterns of five and 10. On top of that, I had this tic where I needed to rub my right cheek against my right shoulder, and eventually I got a rash," Raspberry explains.

When he felt alone, Raspberry found solace in the zany world of cartoons, where high energy was normal.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

He began to draw. But being an artist — and one with a disability — didn't make everything easier for Raspberry. Classmates would often try to startle him just to see what he would do. Sometimes, they would even ruin his drawings.

"I remember I used to make this sound, like ‘weeee,’ obsessively. One time I left my desk to find that this drawing I was working on for hours was gone. I came back, and the drawing had this ‘weee’ written all across the top. It was destroyed, and I was really mad, because it had taken me so long,” Raspberry recalls.

He channeled all of his energy into his drawings, even ignoring the occasional teacher who would rip the pencil sketches from his hands in class and crumple them into the trash. Despite it all, his drawings got better and better.

16 years, countless hours, and thousands of cartoon sketches later, Raspberry ended up with a career drawing the same unruly boy who inspired him as a kid: Bart Simpson.

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Raspberry says he always loved Bart "because he's this outsider, rebel spirit — but he's never been ashamed. He doesn't regret being different."

"I think as a kid who had these feelings of being an outsider and being different, I loved watching Bart getting into trouble and seeing these stories told through the eyes of someone my age," he says.

After winning a group Emmy for his work on the Simpsons at 28, Raspberry decided he wanted to do more for other kids with neurological differences. He wanted to help those kids — and people around them — understand why thinking differently needs to be not only accepted, but celebrated.

Drawing from his own childhood experiences, Raspberry found the inspiration for the new animated show he's developing called "Little Billy."

Little Billy Harper. GIF courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Like Raspberry, Billy is a young boy with a neuro-cognitive disability — only Billy's is a fictional one called "ultra-hyper-sensitivity." People around Billy don't often understand him, and some people even find him dangerous.

“I am basing this on my actual life, and I had all of these issues with my teachers and not getting along or following the order of things," he says. The show is largely based on Raspberry's life around age 4, when his abundance of energy made him realize he was different from other kids.

In 2014, Raspberry raised $30,000 on Kickstarter to help bring "Little Billy" to life. He's currently finishing the pilot and continues to work full time as a character layout artist on "The Simpsons."

Image courtesy of Chance Raspberry.

Raspberry channeled his abundance of energy into creating the completely hand-drawn series — the trailer alone required a whopping 1,372 drawings.

The goal of the series is to tap into the nostalgia of childhood in an entertaining, healing way while also creating visibility around what it's like to grow up with special needs.

"The show will explore in full in an honest way how a family that is dealing with this goes through it, how they’re affected," Raspberry says.

"Just because we're different, it doesn't mean we're broken."

Watch the trailer for "Little Billy" below:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less