Disney Removes Same-Sex Affection From Pixar Films?

On Friday, March the 11th, Variety shared a letter penned by Pixar employees in response to Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s stance on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as a meme sent by him on Monday. In the staff memo, Chapek reportedly said the “biggest impact” Disney can make is “in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.” In return, the Pixar staff say Disney demands cuts to “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection… regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.” In Wednesday’s shareholders’ meeting, Chapek said, “Gov. DeSantis committed to me that he wanted to make sure that this law could not be weaponized in any way by individuals in the state or groups in the state to unduly harm or target gay, lesbian, nonbinary or transgender kids and families.” In response to the meeting, the Pixar employees had this to say:

“While signing on to donate to the HRC is a step in the correct direction, the shareholder meeting on Wednesday made it clear that this is not enough. … Disney did not take a hard stance in support of the LGBTQIA+ community, they instead attempted to placate ‘both sides’ – and did not condemn hateful messages shared during the question and answer portion of the meeting.”

The only notable, outwardly LGBTQ characters in Pixar’s canon are the police officer voiced by Lena Waithe in Onward and the characters in the short film Out. Read a statement from Joni Madison, interim president of HRC (Human Rights Campaign) here:

“Businesses have had and continue to have a major impact in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from marriage equality to the defeat of House Bill 2 in North Carolina and beyond. While Disney took a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida — including hardworking families employed by Disney — today they took a step in the right direction. But it was merely the first step.”

“HRC encourages Disney, and all employers, to continue to fight for their employees – many of whom bravely spoke out to say their CEO’s silence was unacceptable – and the LGBTQ+ community by working with us and state and local LGBTQ+ groups to ensure these dangerous anti-equality proposals that harm LGBTQ+ families and kids have no place in Florida,” Madison’s statement continued. “Every student deserves to be seen, and every student deserves an education that prepares them for health and success — regardless of who they are. This should be the beginning of Disney’s advocacy efforts rather than the end.”

You can read Variety’s scoop and the full letter from the Pixar employees here for more information. While this is all blatantly hypocritical coming from the studio that wants kudos for turning a comic relief villain into a gay icon, it isn’t surprising. I’m also of the opinion that Disney doesn’t care about its employees, so that aspect of this news is just par for the course. They laid off their park workers when COVID hit with no aid or assurances. They left countless people jobless when they closed down the brick-and-mortar Disney Stores (except major ones like that in Times Square). They’ve been disrespecting Pixar throughout COVID, putting their films on Disney+ for free while Disney Animation and other studios got a theatrical or hybrid release. The first COVID-era Pixar film to see theater screens in America will be Lightyear this June. 

Pixar employee Letter

While most of this is unsurprising, that doesn’t make it right. I haven’t read the contents of this bill, so I hesitate to come down too hard on either side. Nonetheless, it is cowardly for such a powerful corporation to straddle the fence when they have so many employees in Florida. I also don’t understand Disney’s stance on portraying gay characters. They get it wrong almost every time, like gay-coding the villains in fairy tale adaptations and the laughable attempt at re-working Le Fou. But then you have something like the still-running The Owl House, featuring a bisexual protagonist with a girlfriend. They want to have their cake and eat it too, selling Blu-rays, shirts, and toys to LGBT or ally families without alienating parents who don’t want their kids to know those people exist. I wonder how long they can toe the line; how long will we let them? 

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