Disney has been at the center of a PR firestorm ever since the Florida state legislature passed a bill that banned the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms in public schools. The legislation’s detractors, who dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, quickly called on Disney to stop funding politicians who support the bill. While it is a fairly standard practice for corporations to fund politicians in both parties in states where they do business, Disney eventually backed down and pledged to stop supporting state legislators who voted for the bill.
However, the process has placed scrutiny on Disney’s relationship with the larger LGBTQ community. While Disney has recently incorporated extremely subtle references to homosexuality in some of its films, many critics feel the company has not done nearly enough to make their movies inclusive.
That may be beginning to change, as Pixar recently restored a same-sex kiss that was previously cut out of the upcoming film “Lightyear.” But according to a new report in Variety, the studio has long wrestled with questions over how inclusive its films should be.
Recent films like “Soul” and “Inside Out,” which took place in New York and San Francisco, almost included references to the cities’ large LGBTQ populations, but details including a rainbow sticker on a window were ultimately scrapped. But the most tangible example of this internal tension may be the 2022 film “Luca.”
“Luca” tells the story of two male sea monsters who have a friendship so intimate that many critics interpreted it as a gay allegory. The film’s creative team has acknowledged that they discussed such themes, but refuse to explicitly say if the characters have a romantic relationship.
“Some people seem to get mad that I’m not saying yes or no, but I feel like, well, this is a movie about being open to any difference,” the film’s director Enrico Casarosa said. While some undoubtedly appreciated the relationship in “Luca,” members of the LGBTQ community have long complained about media featuring characters that appear to be gay without ever acknowledging it.
To make matters worse, new reporting from Variety indicates that Pixar executives also considered making the character of Giulia, a human girl in “Luca,” gay, but the plans never materialized. A source who works at Pixar said that the studio, which has had intense internal deliberations about whether to include same-sex couples in background shots of recent films, could not figure out a way to write a gay character without a romantic plotline. And apparently, this was not the first occurrence of such a roadblock.
“We very often came up against the question of, ‘How do we do this without giving them a love interest?’” the Pixar employee said, noting that the studio ultimately decided to abandon the idea. “That comes up very often at Pixar.”