The Best Autistic and Autistic-Coded Characters in Animation

Three years ago, I wrote a piece for Ms. about Hollywood’s blatant and continued exclusion of Autistic people, as well as the ableist tropes film and TV have continued to push in its depiction of Autism. Since the article was published, I have seen more positive strides taken in terms of Autism representation in the media, with many of those strides coming from the world of animation.

It should be noted that not every case is canon and there are many cases of Autistic-coding in film and TV. Researcher Tia Shafee wrote in her dissertation on Autistic-coded characters in media, “Autistic viewers often identify alternative characters as being Autistic, generating their own representation through ‘headcanon,’ representation that is often more akin to their own experiences.”

As we wind down World Autism Month, here are some of my favorite Autistic and Autistic-coded characters in animation.

Canon Autistic Characters

Entrapta (She-Ra & The Princesses of Power)


Princess Entrapta is from the Netflix series She-Ra & The Princesses of Power (or SPOP for short).

The show is a reboot of the 1985 series She-Ra: Princess of Power, with trans producer and cartoonist ND Stevenson serving as its showrunner for its entire five-season run.

Stevenson’s Entrapta, however, seems to have very little in common with her characterization from back in the 1980s. Back then, Entrapta was not written to be Autistic, nor did she have any of the Autistic traits that her 2018 counterpart did. Instead, 1985’s Entrapta appeared to be presented as a femme fatale and, as NerdWire put it, “cunning, snooty and manipulative.” 

1985 Entrapta, from what I and many viewers could tell, was not even considered to be Autistic, even in retrospect. 2018 Entrapta, on the other hand, was written as Autistic from the very beginning.

When SPOP first dropped on Netflix, many Autistic viewers immediately gravitated to the purple-haired Princess of Dryll. Even before Stevenson officially confirmed that Entrapta is canonically Autistic following the series’ conclusion in May 2020, Autistic viewers were quickly able to pick up on the character’s neurodivergence. 

And that was not an accident. Stevenson shared on X that though they are not Autistic themself, they brought in an Autistic crew member—board artist Sam Szymanski—to consult on the character. 

“He had a HUGE hand not only in defining her physical acting, but also pitched me several ideas for her arc early on!” wrote Stevenson, referring to Szymanski as the show’s “go-to for Entrapta.” 

I personally love Entrapta because her being Autistic is shown as something that is part of her—not entirely good nor bad, just neutral. Even when it becomes aggravating for some of her peers at times, Entrapta is not framed as a bad person for being who she is. It’s clear she does care about others; she just expresses it differently because that’s how her mind works.

“I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech,” she explained during one emotional moment where she tries to use tech to help the group find Glitter after getting abducted. 

Sometimes, it’s good to see Autism presented not as entirely good or entirely bad, but just as it is. 

Norma Khan (Dead End: Paranormal Park)


In another Netflix animated series, Dead End: Paranormal Park, Norma stands out to me as an Autistic character. 

Norma is an openly bisexual Pakistani American Autistic girl. That is something rarely seen in media depictions of Autistic people. 

Hamish Steele, the creator of Dead End, later penned a guest post for about the process for writing Norma. According to Steele, when he first created Norma for the DeadEndia webcomic series that would eventually be picked up into Dead End for Netflix, she wasn’t initially intended to be Autistic. 

“Norma was conceived to be #relatable … Norma was neurotic, pedantic and anxious but also brave, loyal and principled. She was my attempt at writing the average teen. But as time went on, readers kept asking me variations on the same question: ‘Is Norma on the spectrum?’ / ‘Did you mean to write Norma as having ASD?’ / ‘Can I headcanon Norma as autistic?’ In truth, it was all accidental.”

Steele said that when writing for the Netflix adaptation of his webcomic, in part due to the reaction to Norma from Autistic fans, they brought in special education professor Michelle Dean to act as the show’s “Autism consultant.” 

Steele recalled it was the writing for Dead End during the first season that led him to “seek an official diagnosis.”

Eventually, Steele received an official Autism diagnosis in 2022 at the age of 31, just “a few months” shy of Netflix officially dropping the first season of Dead End: Paranormal Park on its platform. Steele admitted, “Everything Norma was going through was taken from my own experiences” as an undiagnosed Autistic queer teen. 

One of my favorite episodes of Dead End is the season one episode “Trust Me.” It perfectly signifies just how much Norma’s character connects with Autistic audiences. Early in the episode, Norma has to participate in a series of “team building exercises” with her co-workers. These activities, such as her having to stare into her partner’s eyes before having to help form a “human web,” trigger a sensory overload-induced meltdown and cause her to flee. 

For the last exercise, everyone is asked to touch a crystal skull that will bring them face-to-face with their worst fears. When the others become stuck in their “fear world” by the episode’s villain Harmony, Norma makes a deal with him that he will let the others go if she touches the skull, bringing her into her own “fear world”—something she has been apprehensive about doing up to this point.

When she touches the skull, her “fear world” is revealed to be the sounds, overwhelming sensory, and social anxieties that she has to face on a regular basis. As she starts to tear up, she reveals, “My fear world is the real world!” 

Truer words could not have been said.

Renee (Loop)


When it comes to bad Autism representation, I have seen High Support Needs Autistics often get the short end of the stick. That being said, Renee from Disney/Pixar’s short film Loop has been a rare gem among the sea of Arnie Grapes and Musics

The short was released in 2020 as part of Pixar’s Sparkshorts program and was the second short from the collection about Autism, with the first being Float, released just two months before. Unlike Float, which primarily focuses its perspective on the father of a young Autistic child, Loop focuses on the perspective of the Autistic child themself. 

The short was praised by Autistic audiences for not just its depiction of Renee as a High Support Needs Autistic girl, but for its casting of Madison Bandy, who is High Support Needs Autistic herself, in the role. 

Madison Bandy (left) with Loop director Erica Milsom. (Walt Disney Company)

At no point in Loop does the film try to frame Renee as in the wrong. Even when she appears to frustrate the neurotypical character Marcus (voiced by Christiano “Chachi” Delgado) or when she has a meltdown due to sensory overload, Renee’s perspective and personhood is never doubted or antagonized.

“People on the spectrum are approachable, but it takes a lot more patience,” said one of the short’s producers, Michael Warch.

It is rare to see an Autistic character, especially a female-presenting High Support Needs Autistic character of color, like Renee, in film. 

I hope to see more characters like Renee and Hollywood take notes from this film in the future.

Autistic-Coded Characters

Ariel (The Little Mermaid)


I could’ve picked one of several Disney princesses to highlight here, as so many have been deemed Autistic-coded by the community. Princesses such as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Elsa and Anna from Frozen and Rapunzel from Tangled are just a few examples of the Autistic-coding from Disney’s “official” princess lineup. 

However, I decided to pick Ariel to highlight here for two simple reasons.

One: Ariel is one of the more obvious examples of Autistic coding in a Disney Princess. Ariel has a special interest (the human world) that she is extremely dedicated to, despite it appearing very unusual to others; difficulty understanding social cues; and her strong sense of justice. 

And two: many Autistic people see the character as teaching the viewer (to an extent) how to treat Autistic people. 

TikToker Chamaya Moody outlined how on her page back in 2020.

Nimona (Nimona)


Based on the graphic novel of the same name by She-Ra & The Princesses of Power showrunner ND Stevenson, the Oscar-nominated film Nimona is about a young teenage girl with shapeshifting abilities demonized by society for her power, teaming up with a shunned former knight with a prosthetic arm to expose the corruption in the medieval-futuristic kingdom in which they live. 

The film was praised for its unapologetic LGBTQ+ themes, with its title character often being read by viewers to be Autistic and gender fluid.

While Stevenson has not commented on whether or not Nimona is canonically Autistic, there is so much about Nimona that is too on-the-nose to be coincidental.

In one scene, Nimona (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) is describing to the character Ballister (voiced by Riz Ahmed) what it feels like to shapeshift versus when she has to suppress it. The way she describes it could easily be read as a metaphor for Autistic people having to mask Autistic stimming.

The Owl House


Almost every character in The Owl House is Autistic-coded, so I couldn’t pick just one.

Granted, creator and showrunner Dana Terrace had stated that the main character of Luz Noceda is canonically neurodivergent (though she did not specify where under the neurodivergent umbrella Luz landed).

Many fans have speculated Luz has ADHD, but others such as myself believe is AuDHD (both Autistic and ADHD). 

Other Autistic-coded characters in The Owl House include Gus Porter, Amity Blight, King Clawthorne, Hooty, sisters Eda and Lilith Clawthorne, Hunter, Vee and Luz’s mom Camilla Noceda (often read to be either late or undiagnosed Autistic, which is very prevalent among women, and especially among women of color).

Personally, this show has really been a source of so much healing for my inner child.

*Spoiler alert*

In one instance, the second episode of the show’s final season shows Luz talking with her mom, Camilla, about her insecurities and feeling as if she was a burden that just messes everything up for the people she cares about. In response, her mom tells her about how she had feared she would face the same hardships she once faced as a child so much that she ended up not “stand up for [her] when [she] needed [her] most.” Camilla added, “My biggest mistake was trying to protect you by changing this beautiful, good witch into something she wasn’t”. 

Luz then starts crying as she openly realizes the things she ever really wanted “was to be understood”.

I wish I had had a show like The Owl House when I was growing up as an Autistic child feeling the exact same way Luz did. 

Hazbin Hotel

(Amazon Prime Video)

Like The Owl House, the majority of the main cast in Hazbin Hotel is very Autistic-coded. So, instead of hyperfocusing on one character, I want to highlight the biggest ones: Charlie, Lucifer and Nifty.

First, we have the main character, Charlie Morningstar, the Princess of Hell. Charlie is described by series creator Vivienne Medrano and many fans as a Disney Princess in Hell. Medrano has also claimed to have based Charlie’s personality off Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, another character many fans have described as Autistic-coded.

Charlie is overly trusting of others, prone to stimming and has a hard time expressing herself and communicating her goals and intentions, finding it easier to do so with music and singing. As already mentioned, many Disney princesses have been described as Autistic-coded, so it isn’t much of a stretch that Charlie is as well. 

Next is Charlie’s father and the ruler of Hell, Lucifer Morningstar. Hazbin Hotel’s take on the biblical character is very unique, both in its design and characterization. Many fans have theorized Lucifer to be Autistic. As one TikTok video outlines, he has a special interest in rubber ducks, has difficulty understanding social cues (much like his daughter Charlie), and is “literally experiencing Autistic burnout in the events we see in the show”.

Lastly, we have Hazbin Hotel’s resident housekeeper Nifty—in my opinion, the most Autistic of the bunch:.

From Nifty’s very first appearance in Hazbin Hotel’s pilot episode from 2019, the ‘tism vibes were through the roof and that has not changed in the main series. She has a hard time maintaining consistent eye contact; hyperfixates on routine, organization and cleanliness; has trouble understanding and reading social cues; and expresses her thoughts and perspectives through what could be read as non-neurotypical means. 

Happy Autism Acceptance Month!

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Red Rosenberg is a former intern and current contributor at Ms.They are an autistic nonbinary lesbian. They prefer to go by they/them pronouns. They graduated from Los Angeles Pierce College in June 2020. They hold an associate of arts for transfer degree in journalism and two associates of arts degrees for arts and humanities, and social and behavioral science, respectively. They have previously worked at Pierce College's Bull Magazine and Roundup Newspaper.