If you have a small child (or are a small child at heart), then chances are that you know (and love) Doc McStuffins, the Disney Junior series about a seven-year-old girl named Dottie McStuffins (Laya DeLeon Hayes), who dreams of growing up to be a doctor just like her mom. Since she is a little kid, she helps her injured or sick toys (like a hypochondriac snowman named Chilly). If this wasn’t adorable enough, there are also musical numbers (written and composed by Kay Hanley and Michelle Lewis). Even though it’s aimed at little kids, the storytelling is sophisticated and the characters engaging. Creator Chris Nee, when talking to The New York Times, described the series as “Cheers for preschoolers.”
And this week’s episode, “Itty Bitty Bess,” makes Doc McStuffins even more endearing. The series has always been quietly groundbreaking and this episode is very much in that spirit. It features a toy that Dottie’s mom rescued for her from the flea market: a miniature toy version of Bessie Coleman, the first female pilot of African American descent and the first African American to hold an international pilot license. Dottie helps “Itty Bitty Bess” with her rusty joints. And “Itty Bitty Bess” opens up a valuable (and never preachy) history lesson for Dottie and the rest of the toys.
What makes this episode even more special is that “Itty Bitty Bess” is voiced by Audra McDonald, a Tony-winning performer who will soon voice another Disney character, appearing as Madame Garderobe the wardrobe in the upcoming live action version of Beauty and the Beast. McDonald’s performance is soulful and upbeat and adds even more to this very special episode.
As a treat, we’ve included exclusive images from the episode, which airs at 9 a.m. this Thursday on Disney Channel.