Disney CEO says LGBT+ representation is more powerful than lobbying. Pixar staff say they’re barred from creating it

‘Beyond the ‘inspiring content’ that we aren’t even allowed to create, we require action,’ Pixar’s LGBT+ employees write in letter to Disney leadership on ‘Don’t Say Gay’

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 10 March 2022 20:27 GMT
Disney to meet with DeSantis to stop ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, CEO says
Leer en Español

The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Bob Chapek, who announced that the company opposes Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation after it passed the state’s legislature, insists that the company’s diverse representation in its programming reflects Disney’s “inclusive culture” and is “more powerful” than any lobbying efforts.

But a group of LGBT+ Pixar employees and their allies say the company has “shaved down to crumbs” what little representation makes it to the screen.

“Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar,” employees wrote in a statement to Disney leadership on 9 March.

“Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it,” they wrote. “Beyond the ‘inspiring content’ that we aren’t even allowed to create, we require action.”

For weeks, Disney employees and LGBT+ advocates have demanded that the company – which carries massive political weight in Florida – leverage its influence to publicly lobby against the legislation, which opponents warn will endanger the lives of LGBT+ young people and have a chilling effect on LGBT+ schoolchildren and their families as well as classroom instruction and lessons on LGBT+ people and issues.

On 9 March, one day after Florida’s Senate sent the “Parental Rights in Education” bill to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, Mr Chapek said in a statement following a shareholders presentation that Disney leadership “opposed to the bill from the outset” but chose not to issue a public statement against it, as company leaders felt they were “more effective behind the scenes, engaging with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”

The Independent’s review of state campaign finance records found that entities tied to Disney – which routinely touts its LGBT+ friendly workplace reputation and inclusive campaigns – donated tens of thousands of dollars to Florida legislators who supported the bill, including at least $4,000 to the 2022 re-election campaigns for the bill’s chief sponsors, state Representative Joe Harding and state Senator Dennis Baxley.

Within the last two years, Disney donated more than $300,000 to Republican officials and state legislators who supported the bill, according to reporting from Popular Information.

The statement from Pixar employees demands Disney stop funding legislators who support such bills and challenges Mr Chapek’s staff memo claiming that company statements “do very little to change outcomes or minds,” citing Disney’s recent statement on Ukraine and Republican objections to the 2020 presidential election:

“Eight days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Disney paused the release of theatrical films in Russia and announced, ‘We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation.’ Following the siege on the capital in 2021, Disney stopped all political donations to members of Congress who had objected to the presidential election results.”

The statement also points out that Disney took a position on state legislation in 2016, when then-CEO Bob Iger threatened to “take our business elsewhere” should Georgia sign a controversial “religious liberty” bill into law. That bill was vetoed.

Pixar employees also challenged Disney to take a “decisive public stand” against similar discriminatory and transphobic legislation in state legislatures across the US.

“Many hateful groups are attempting to eradicate us through legislation – we need to you to stand with us entirely, not in empty words,” they wrote.

Republican state legislators have proposed more than 266 bills targeting LGBT+ Americans in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Of those proposals, at least 125 directly target transgender people.

In 2021, at least 25 anti-LGBTQ+ measures were signed into law across the US, including 13 laws targeting transgender people in eight states, according to the organisation.

The Independent has requested comment from Disney.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in