An announcement made by Disney-Pixar last week is creating some “buzz” around their upcoming animated children’s movie, “Lightyear.” For the first time, one of its blockbuster animated films will feature a same-sex kiss.
“Lightyear” tells the story of “Toy Story”’s Buzz Lightyear and is voiced by star Chris Evans (“The Avengers,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Knives Out)” as Buzz.
The kiss had originally been cut, but according to a report from Variety, it has been added back into the “Toy Story” prequel, which is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2022.
The decision came after Disney received a statement from LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar and their allies earlier this month, claiming that company executives have censored “overtly gay affection” from their films.
“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,” the statement said.
Disney employees reacted with the statement, in part, because of Disney’s financial involvement with lawmakers behind Florida’s House Bill 1557, which opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill is anticipated to be signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis once it hits his desk. It passed Florida’s Senate on March 8, 2022.
House Bill 1557 bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with young children. “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” a portion of the bill reads.
President Joe Biden slammed the bill, calling it “hateful” and letting the LGBTQI+ community know that he and his administration will continue to fight for their protections and safety.
On the other hand, outspoken political commentator Bill Maher showed support for the bill, saying, “We’re talking about very young kids. It’s not like there is no kernel of truth in that maybe kids that young shouldn’t be thinking about sex at all.”
“We are writing because we are disappointed, hurt, afraid, and angry,” LGBTQIA+ employees said. “In regards to Disney’s financial involvement with legislators behind the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, we hoped that our company would show up for us. But it didn’t.”
LGBTQIA+ employees called on Disney’s leadership to “immediately withdraw” all financial support they give to the lawmakers who are behind the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and denounce the Florida bill publicly. In addition, the LGBTQIA+ employees are demanding that Disney correct their indirect support of the bill and said “if Disney is true in its values, it will take a decisive public stand against the discriminatory legislation occurring in Florida and offer tangible support for the LGBTQIA+ communities affected by bigoted legislation sweeping the country.”
LGBTQIA+ advocates believe that similar legislation in South Carolina, Arizona, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama are being pushed by people that the hate LGBTQIA+ community. “We need you to stand with us entirely, not in empty words,” they told Disney.
Telling Disney they must act now, the letter called the matter “urgent,” stating that 42 percent of “LGBTQIA+ youth seriously considered suicide in 2021, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth, with a large factor being the lack of support that these discriminatory legislations enable.”
Disney supporting politicians who push bills like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill are indirectly hurting “one of their most vulnerable audiences,” LGBTQIA+ employees wrote. “There are lives at stake and Disney’s support could save those lives.”
Last Friday, Variety reported that a source close to the production of “Lightyear” shared that one of the significant female characters named Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) is in a same-sex relationship with another woman.
The source told Variety that although the relationship was never in jeopardy of being cut out of the film, the kiss between the two female characters had already been. But after the LGBTQIA+ employees statement caused an uproar due to Disney’s indirect support of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the studio has reinstated the kiss back into the animated film.
If the same-sex kiss makes the final cut of the movie slated to be released this summer, it will the first time a kiss like that will be in a G-rated animated blockbuster film aimed toward children.
Pixar films have had subtly placed LGBTQ characters but has always cut any physical affection between same-sex couples from its films. “Onward’s” female Officer Spector, voiced by Lena Waithe, mentioned she had a girlfriend and “Toy Story 4” showed two mom’s hugging their child at school. “Finding Dory” appeared to show a brief shot of a lesbian couple. These examples have been the extend to which Pixar has incorporated LGBTQ elements into its blockbuster films.
Russia required Disney to swap the word “girlfriend” in lieu of “partner” in its “Onward” release. The film was banned in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia due to it’s same-sex relationship references.
In 2020, Disney-Pixar released an animated short straight to their streaming platform Disney+ titled “Out” that tells the story of a gay man who is struggling to tell his parents about his sexual orientation.