Disney staff claim bosses cut ‘every gay moment’ from films in explosive letter amid backlash

A still from the film Luca

A group of LGBT+ Pixar staff have claimed Disney execs cut “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” from their films.

The accusation was made in a blistering open letter addressed to Disney management, which called out the company’s response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek faced stiff criticism from staff for refusing to condemn the bill, formally the Parental Rights in Education Bill, before it was passed by Florida’s senate on 8 March.

In an internal memo this week, Chapek expressed his “unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ community” but refused to publicly oppose the bill, which would block discussion of LGBT+ identities in school.

Chapek argued that Disney tells “diverse stories” which are more impactful than a company statement against the bill, SB 1834.

However, Pixar employees have undermined this with claims Disney has censored multiple attempts at introducing LGBT+ characters.

“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,” the letter read. “Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest. [Even] when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”

Bob Chapek speaks on stage in a suit

Disney CEO Bob Chapek. (Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

It continued: “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”

The employees also said that as recently as 2016, Disney had publicly – and successfully – lobbied against discriminatory legislation in the US.

Human Rights Group rejects Disney’s money

Hours after the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was voted through on Wednesday (9 March) and amid continued backlash, Chapek shifted gears during Disney’s shareholders meeting and announced that the company would pledge $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT+ rights organisations.

He also announced plans to meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss Disney’s “concerns” about the legislation, after first connecting earlier on the phone.

However, HRC rejected the donation until “meaningful action is taken” by Disney “to combat” the legislation.

The HRC’s interim president, Joni Madison, explained in a statement: “Businesses have had and continue to have a major impact in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from marriage equality to the defeat of House Bill 2 in North Carolina and beyond.

“While Disney took a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida — including hardworking families employed by Disney — today they took a step in the right direction. But it was merely the first step.”

Madison continued: “HRC encourages Disney, and all employers, to continue to fight for their employees – many of whom bravely spoke out to say their CEO’s silence was unacceptable – and the LGBTQ+ community by working with us and state and local LGBTQ+ groups to ensure these dangerous anti-equality proposals that harm LGBTQ+ families and kids have no place in Florida.

“Every student deserves to be seen, and every student deserves an education that prepares them for health and success — regardless of who they are. This should be the beginning of Disney’s advocacy efforts rather than the end.”

Bob Chapek had said in his original staff memo, published in full by The Los Angeles Times, that he believed company statements were ineffective.

“Instead, they are often weaponised by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,” he said. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”

The Disney CEO claimed the company could make more impact with its content as he added: “I firmly believe that our ability to tell such stories — and have them received with open eyes, ears, and hearts — would be diminished if our company were to become a political football in any debate.”

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will now head to the desk of Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.

If signed into law, the bill would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.