Most everybody would agree that representation in the arts is important, but seeing marginalized groups become better represented in films has been a slower process than many would like. However, representation has been an important part of Pixar's Sparkshorts series on Disney+, and the newest entry, titled simply, Out, marks the first time that a gay character has been the lead in any story we've seen from Disney.
Out's main character is named Greg, and the 8-minute short follows him as he's getting ready to move from a small town to the big city. It's made very clear up front the Greg is gay, we meet his boyfriend Manuel, but Greg isn't open about his sexuality, and when his parents surprise him by showing up to help him pack, Greg ushers Manuel out the back door. Greg isn't sure what to do, as having his parents help him pack runs the risk of them discovering his truth on their own. He briefly wishes he had the simple worry-free life of his dog Jim, and then, thanks to a bit of magic, the two switch places.
As a dog, Greg now has to both protect his secret from his parents while also keeping his dog, in his body, from doing anything too crazy. Of course, as the dog, Greg also has a chance to see his parents from a new perspective, and he understands them a little bit better.
It's a touching little story that also has some laugh out loud moments, and even a fun little Pixar easter egg in the form of a minor Toy Story character who appears as Jim's favorite toy. It's basically everything we've come to love out of Pixar's feature films in a smaller package.
Pixar's Sparkshorts series are unique creations of the studio. A number of different individuals inside the studio get tapped to make a short, and they do so with a small team, a small budget, and little to no oversight from the studio. They get to make exactly the story they want to make. The results have seen stories about women working in male dominated workplaces, the difficulties of raising children with special needs, and even a short where the main character is an autistic woman, and voiced not by a professional voice actor, but somebody actually dealing with autism.
In the past, Disney has been both praised and criticized for decisions regarding homosexual representation. We've seen some forward progress in the form of "gay moments" and gay characters, but there has also been some backlash for the way these things have been handled.
Out may not change the landscape all by itself when it comes to representation, but it's an important step nonetheless. And it's also just a great animated short, and something new to enjoy from Pixar while we're waiting for the now delayed release of Soul.
Out can be seen on Disney+ now.
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