On Tuesday, the Parental Rights in Education bill — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its many critics — passed in Florida’s Senate and House. The bill, which prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, has been denounced for potentially harming queer youth, who already face discrimination and lack of representation. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, a grown man caught on video bullying students.
In the days before the bill was passed, employees at Disney, which effectively has its own fiefdom in the Sunshine State, pushed for CEO Bob Chapek to do something, anything. He did very little. Now, before the law is signed, some Disney staffers have taken an extra step. As per Variety, a statement attributed to “the LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies” was made public, which reveals some troubling practices at the House of Mouse.
Among the claims is that Disney execs have demanded cuts of “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection … regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.” The letter goes on:
“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 … 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, there has been only a small smattering of LGBTQIA+ characters or even moments in Disney-owned movies and shows. The 2020 Pixar film Onward featured a character, voiced by Lena Waithe, alluding to a girlfriend, but that was it. (The moment got the movie banned in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while the version in Russia changed “girlfriend” to “partner.”) The most explicit film on the subject is Pixar’s short Out, which concerns a man struggling to come out to his parents.
After Disney’s staffers began demanding Chapek do his best to stop the “Don’t Say Gall” bill — including no longer donating to lawmakers who voted for it — the CEO issued an internal memo that refused to take a political side. What he did suggest was that the “biggest impact” the company can make was in “creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce.”
Alas, and with scant exceptions, historically the company has not exactly done that. And now the employees are revolting.
On top of the group’s damning statement, the Human Rights Campaign, which was one of the group’s Chapek revealed would receive money in support of LGBTQIA+ causes, has said they will deny Disney’s donation. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the group said that will change if Disney works with activists to “ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books.”