Disney has often been in the hot seat over its lack of significant LGBTQ+ inclusion as well as its lack of support for its queer employees. When a statement by the company fell short in its opposition to Florida’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and when Disney came under fire for financially supporting some of the lawmakers backing the legislation, Disney/Pixar employees took a public stand with a strongly-worded open letter.
Now Variety reports that their speaking up has already led to the inclusion of a previously-deleted same-sex kiss in Pixar’s upcoming animated feature, Lightyear.
Anonymous Disney and Pixar employees told Variety that the kiss is between two female characters, one of whom is a major character voiced by Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black).
The film, which will release in June — Pride month — is the origin movie of beloved character Buzz Lightyear, one of the stars of all four Toy Story films.
After facing criticism for its weak response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, as well as allegations that it had donated money to all of the legislation’s sponsors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued a memo that was emailed to all Disney employees.
“We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there,” read the memo. “The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.”
These words in particular enraged Disney/Pixar employees, who claim that their attempts at queer representation in the company’s films have been systematically thwarted by their historically conservative management.
In a statement signed “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies,” employees say: “Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
Disney has previously been criticized for a disappointing lack of queer representation in its movies. Actor Josh Gad has said that they didn’t “ go far enough” with a moment of two male characters dancing in Beauty and the Beast to deserve any pats on the back for inclusion.
In terms of Pixar films, moments of queer presence are both understated and few: the brief appearance of presumably lesbian couples in Toy Story 4 and Finding Dory, and mention of a female character’s girlfriend in Onward. There is Out, a short film released via SparkShorts on Disney+, which features a gay male protagonist — but its viewership was presumably tiny in comparison to that of the company’s full-length blockbusters.
Pixar hasn’t had a theatrical release since 2019. When Lightyear hits theaters this summer, the kiss between Hawthorne and her girlfriend in will be a big first for Disney — but hopefully it won’t be a last.