Disney, the media conglomerate with the audacity to plan slavery into a theme park, to build a rollercoaster inspired by the racist film Song of the South, and to defend the funding of politicians behind Florida’s homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now appears to be trying to kiss it better. In Pixar’s next film, Lightyear, a queer character named Hawthorne, voiced by Uzo Aduba, was originally depicted kissing a woman, according to a source close to production. The exclusively gay moment was reportedly axed from the spinoff of the Toy Story franchise, until Disney came under intense public scrutiny for donating to “Don’t Say Gay” proponents. Variety reports the kiss was reinstated last week.
On March 9, LGBTQ employees at Pixar Animation Studios accused Disney of censoring “overtly gay affection” in its feature films. Pixar, a subsidiary of Disney, has shied away from depicting unambiguous LGBTQ+ representation in its films, barring a short called Out that was released in 2020. Even Luca, a bona fide tale of gay romance featuring two twinks exploring the Italian countryside, avoided labeling any of its characters as who they are, to us: members of the LGBTQ+ community.
CEO Bob Chapek released a statement on March 7 stating that “the biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce,” rather than publicly denouncing the bill. He has since backed down from this stance by asserting that Disney will pause political donations in the state. Pixar employees told Variety that for years, they have been championing more meaningful displays of gay affection to no avail. “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it,” employees wrote in the March 9 statement. Disney may want to present Lightyear’s restored lesbian kiss as a harbinger of change come June 17, but it still took major protest for history to say they were more than friends.