Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear,” out this June, has restored to the film what would be the animation studio’s first same-sex kiss in a feature film, between a character called Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) and her partner.
An individual with knowledge of the film’s production said that the same-sex relationship was always a part of the movie and never up for debate, but the kiss itself was ultimately removed as part of the creative process in terms of conversations about intimacy.
But the individual says in light of the current environment across Disney, a decision was made last week to restore the kiss to the finished film.
The news comes after a letter released by Pixar employees in the wake of Disney’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation accused the studio of barring them from creating or showing displays of LGBTQ+ intimacy and content in their stories.
“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 said. “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.”
“Lightyear” is directed by longtime Pixar vet Angus MacLane, who envisions the legendary space ranger as he was always meant to be – in the context of a giant sci-fi epic. Buzz is voiced by Chris Evans, with a supporting cast that includes Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn and James Brolin as Zurg.
This, of course, led to questions of what moments were shaved down or removed entirely. There is a gay character in 2020’s “Onward” who discusses her girlfriend, but the character only mentions her partner; you never see them together or in any kind of romantic setting. And the movie still got banned in more conservative parts of the world. And the kiss in “Lightyear” poses the similar possibility that certain countries around the world may not release the film over objections to LGBTQ+ content.
Before “Onward,” it became a visual hunt like for one of the studio’s many Easter eggs – in “Cars 3,” an angry school bus character has a rainbow-striped version of the Lightning McQueen lightning bolt as a bumper sticker; there is a same-sex couple (with a child no less!) that walks by in the background of “Finding Dory;” and there is a clearly gay-coded character in their most recent release, “Turning Red” (now on Disney+). And there’s also the Pixar short film “Out.”
Of course, speculation immediately turned to last year’s “Luca,” which is maybe the most explicitly gay Pixar movie, both in terms of the bond formed by two young sea monsters on a sun-drenched Italian island, post-World War II, but also in the thematic underpinnings of having to hide your true self to be able to fit it, the jealousy that forms between the two characters, and the overall vibe of the relationship, which many likened to the Pixar version of “Call Me By Your Name.” (Of course, nothing has come out about anything being removed from “Luca.” Yet.)
“Lightyear” will be released on June 17, 2022. Variety first reported the news.
Brian Welk contributed to this report.