It has been quite the week for The Walt Disney Corporation, and it’s only Thursday! First, CEO Bob Chapek sent a company-wide memo to Disney employees explaining his response (or lack of) to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in which he stated that the company would continue to support the LGBTQ+ community through the production of their inspiring content.
Many people on social media, including a fair amount of Disney employees, were quick to refute the email because the bill is so homophobic that Disney’s lack of a statement wasn’t doing enough to support the community.
As mentioned, Chapek stated that they would continue to support the LGBTQ+ community through their inspiring content. Anyone will know that Disney’s representation regarding non-straight characters and stories hasn’t been the best, with most characters side-lined to brief appearances or dialogue that makes the audience assume the character isn’t straight.
The blink and you’ll miss it appearances of LGBTQ+ characters have become such a reoccurring theme within Disney that it has become a running joke with the repeated use of “Disney’s First Openly Gay Character” becoming a meme.
It was already a controversial move when Disney shut down Blue Sky Studios, the studio behind Ice Age, Robots, and The Peanuts Movie, but it caused even more uproar when word broke that Nimona, Blue Sky’s then in-production film, was 75% complete and would feature their first openly LGBTQ+ characters.
And now Disney has found itself in further hot water because Variety has obtained statement attributed to the LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar and their allies, alleging that Disney’s corporate executives have demanded cutes from “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection… regardless of when there is a protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”
“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were,” the letter states. “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
So far, Pixar has only managed to create two projects featuring LGBTQ+ characters. The first was 2020’s Onward, which included a one-eyed ogre cop mentioning that her girlfriend’s daughter has her pulling her hair out, and the critically-acclaimed short film Out, featuring an openly-gay couple.
Since the outpouring of condemnation of Disney and Bob Chapek’s responses to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, they have now reversed their words and will be opposing the bill (despite previously donating to sponsors of the bill). The company also announced that it would be donating $5 million to LGBTQ+ rights organizations. However, the Human Rights Campaign has openly stated they will refuse any money from Disney until meaningful action is taken to combat Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill”.