Disney is in quite a bit of hot, gay water as of lately. The company has never been known for its great LGBTQ+ representation or politics, but it’s come under even more scrutiny than usual recently after fans recently learned that the company was donating money to legislators in Florida backing that state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
When CEO Bob Chapek said that the company could make a bigger difference telling “inspiring stories” than through political or monetary means, fans and Disney employees were even more enraged. Especially when the news broke that Pixar has been censoring gay content out of its films for years.
So, has Disney really been producing enough inspiring content to counteract its donations and lack of a statement? Let’s take a look at that inspiring content that Disney is so proud of. Here are 16 times Disney was celebrated for including a “first” LGBTQ+ character or characters in its movies.
Fans didn’t even notice this gay married couple in Zootopia until years after the movie came out. We knew that Judy Hopps had two loud neighbors in her apartment, but it wasn’t until a fan realized that they’re credited as Bucky and Pronk Oryx-Antlerson that we realized we had missed this "groundbreaking" couple!
We got our first lesbian couple in a Pixar film back in 2016’s Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo that focused on Ellen DeGeneres’ character. The couple are on screen for less than three seconds, but it was considered a lot back then.
When this live-action remake came out, Disney touted LeFou (played by Josh Gad) as being their first gay character and even said that he had an “exclusively gay moment” in the film. When it turned out that gay moment was a flash of him dancing with another man in a group scene, fans weren’t so excited. His sexuality was going to be further explored in the Disney+ prequel series about him and Gaston, but unfortunately, that show has been put on indefinite hold.
Marvel’s first bisexual superhero wasn’t actually confirmed on screen. Instead, we learned Valkyrie, introduced in Thor: Ragnarok, was bisexual from the queer actor who plays her: Tessa Thompson. Fortunately, her queerness will be front and center in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder where she’ll be searching for a new queen.
Wow, this was a bad one. Disney and Marvel Studios proudly announced that in 2019 they had introduced their first gay character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only to have fans find out that it was an unnamed character in one scene played by the movie’s straight co-director. “Grieving Man,” as he’s been called, is part of a support group for people who lost someone in “The Snap” and he mentions going on a date with another man.
The fourth installment of Disney and Pixar's Toy Story franchise featured a brief moment between a young kid and their two moms. Although the moment was very fleeting, and didn't provide much representation at all, it was still enough to anger one particularly vocal Christian fundamentalist group who called their inclusion in the movie "dangerous."
It took nine films, but Star Wars finally got a same-sex kiss in The Rise of Skywalker when two Resistance fighters, Larma D’Acy and Wrobie Tyce, kissed after a battle had been won. Again, they’re only shown kissing for a second, but hey, at least we know that gays exist in space.
Disney was so proud of this one. When Onward was released two years ago, Disney patted itself on the back for casting Lena Waithe as a cyclops cop who mentions her wife, says “it gets better” and then leaves. We really don’t need more lesbian cops, and we really need better representation than this.
MacGregor, played by Jack Whitehall, was supposed to be Disney’s “first major gay character” when Jungle Cruise was set to be released way back in 2019, but because of the global pandemic, the film was delayed until 2021. In the film, MacGregor talks with Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and tells him he never got married because his “interests happily lie elsewhere.” “To elsewhere,” Frank toasts, probably referring to where quality representation is.
Marvel’s first gay superhero and the first married gay couple in the MCU both happened in 2021, which was quite the year for "First Gays" for the company. Played by Brian Tyree Henry, Phastos is one of several superheroes in the movie and is seen with his husband and son. It took only 13 years and two dozen movies for Marvel to introduce a gay superhero.
Artie is one of several characters advertised as the company’s “first major gay character” after both LeFou in Beauty and the Beast and MacGregor in the delayed-for-several-years Jungle Cruise. Still, Disney was proud that this flamboyant, fashion-loving villain was another “first” for them.
We love this incredibly queer Disney+ show, created by out showrunner Tim Federle. It features one of our favorite young queer couples, Seb and Carlos. In one of the episodes in season 2, Seb is worried that Carlos is only dating him because he’s the only other gay kid he knows. Carlos reassures him by singing the adorable song “In a Heartbeat,” declaring, “When all’s said and done, you’ll always be the one that I keep coming back to. In a heartbeat I choose you.”
In 2022, the MCU debuted its first lesbian superhero. America Chavez, a popular Latina lesbian from the comics, made her big-screen debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. She’s played by Xochitl Gomez.
After news broke that Disney not only donated to legislators backing anti-gay bills, but also repeatedly cut queer content from their movies, Pixar decided to restore a scene in the Lightyear film where a female character named Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) kisses her female partner. The scene was originally cut, but now, we get to see it on the big screen.
Ms. Marvel is actually, unironically the best MCU show there is by far, and it even features a same-sex couple! In one scene when Kamala is walking through her school hallway, she interrupts a lesbian couple who is heavily flirting in front of her locker, adding, “I’m rooting for you, favorite couple!”
Comedian Jaboukie Young-White will be voicing a new character in the upcoming animated film Strange World who is involved in “the first openly gay teen romance in a Disney feature” according to Twitter user Matthiew Saghezchi, who saw a clip from the film at the Annecy 2022 festival. “The scene describes the son being very shy in front of his boy crush, and his dad comes in and says ‘so nice to meet you! my son talks about you all the time’ and further embarrasses his son,” the Tweets read.
Young-White will be playing Ethan, the grandson of the family of adventurers and legendary explorers who arrive in a dazzling new world unlike they’ve ever seen. The film will also star Dennis Quaid, Lucy Liu, Gabrielle Union, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Strange World is scheduled for release November 23.