In a statement attributed to “the LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” obtained by Variety, employees of the animation studio allege that Disney corporate executives have demanded cuts from “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection … regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”
The stunning claim is part of a wider reaction to the company-wide memo sent to Disney employees by CEO Bob Chapek on Monday regarding its response to the recently passed legislation in Florida known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In the memo, Chapek states that the “biggest impact” the company can make “in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.”
According to the Pixar letter, that claim is at odds with employees’ experience of trying to content with same-sex affection approved by Disney executives.
“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were,” the letter states. “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
To date, Pixar has only included a tiny handful of LGBTQ characters in its feature films, most prominently in the 2020 fantasy film “Onward,” which features a cyclops police officer named Specter and voiced by Lena Waithe. The character’s sexuality is only acknowledged in passing, when Specter says, “It’s not easy being a new parent – my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?” But the movie was still banned in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia due to the scene, and in the Russia version, the word “girlfriend” was changed to “partner.”
The same year, Pixar released a short film, “Out,” on Disney Plus, about a gay man who struggles with coming out to his parents.
The letter, which is not dated, also demands Disney withdraw financial support of all legislatures who supported the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and “take a decisive public stand” against the legislation and bills like it elsewhere in the country.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chapek did speak publicly for the first time about Disney’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill during the company’s shareholders meeting, after weathering widespread criticism for his handling of the issue. He announced that the company would pledge $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ rights organizations, and said he will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss Disney’s “concerns” about the legislation, after first connecting earlier on the phone.
“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,” Chapek said.
The latest Pixar animated feature, “Turning Red,” debuts on Disney Plus on March 11.
Representatives for Disney and for Pixar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter was first reported on Twitter by journalist Judd Legum of the newsletter Popular Information.
More to come.