Over the past week, The Walt Disney Company and its CEO, Bob Chapek, have been receiving heavy scrutiny for his slow response as the Florida Senate passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would prohibit “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.” Disney workers have scheduled walkouts to protest the company, alongside other recent statements from Marvel Studios and Pixar. In light of this, three former staffers on a scrapped Disney project have shared their own experiences with the House of Mouse.
Pixar scrutinized its parent company last Wednesday when the animation studio shared that Disney corporate reviews “shaved down to crumbs” Pixar’s attempts to include more LGBTQ+ storylines in its movies. It sounds like another animation studio dealt with a similar story: Blue Sky Studios.
This is the animation studio behind Spies in Disguise, Ice Age and the Rio movies. Blue Sky Studios was inherited by the Walt Disney Company in 2019 with the Fox acquisition before Disney decided to shut it down last year. In the midst of this, the animation house was developing an adaptation of Nimona, which was originally a graphic novel by ND Stevenson. Nimona centers on a gender non-conforming protagonist and other LGBTQ+ themes.
According to a report by Business Insider, Blue Sky staffers with knowledge of meetings between Disney and Blue Sky recall Disney leadership had an issue with the LGBTQ+ elements of Nimona, especially the same-sex kiss. In a mid-2020 meeting, Blue Sky animators reportedly felt “pressure” to remove the kiss, but still had hopes for the scene to make it into the film.
According to the anonymous Blue Sky staffers, who preferred to remain nameless to “protect future career prospects”, Disney’s reaction to Nimona’s queer themes "caused a weird atmosphere" at Blue Sky, especially among LGBTQ+ staffers. Nimona was expected to be released in January 2022, among this year’s movie slate. However, late in its production, Disney shut down the studio and the movie remains unreleased to this day. One former Blue Sky staffer also said this:
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has decided not to take a stance against the Florida legislation. On March 7, Bob Chapek sent a company-wide email in response to “Don’t Say Gay” bill concerns, stating that the “best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support”.
Blue Sky Studios speaking out alongside Pixar and Marvel Studios, shows that more people associated with the Walt Disney Company are ready to speak out about its treatment of LGBTQ+ stories at a time when the Florida bill could censor the community.
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