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, reports variety.com.
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 create 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 aOnward’, which features a cyclops police officer named Specter, 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 version released in Russia, 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 claim of censorship by Pixar employees is particularly damning for former CEO Robert Iger, who oversaw Disney’s purchase of Pixar in 2006 and just exited the company in December 2021.
The employee 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 organisations, 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 weaponised 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.
Following Chapek’s pledge, the Human Rights Campaign announced that they’d refuse the donation until “meaningful action is taken to combat” the legislation.
In a statement, the HRC’s interim president Joni Madison, explained: “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.”