Pixar employees accuse Disney of LGBTQ+ censorship

The workers issued a joint statement following the organisation’s response to Florida's ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill.

An image of Pixar Studios owned by Disney.

On Wednesday, March 9, a group of Pixar employees published a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, criticising his response to pressing LGBTQ+ issues. The document which was signed by “The LGBTQIA+ employees of Pixar, and their allies,” accused the organisation of censoring queer storylines, along with refusing to take appropriate action against harmful legislation.

It comes after Chapek issued an internal memo earlier this week regarding Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, indicating that although the company stands with its “LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities,” Disney would not be taking a public stance.

“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” he stated. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame […] Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”

The memo continued: “Because this struggle is much bigger than any one bill in any one state, I believe 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 organisations we support.”

It wasn’t until after the bill was passed on March 8, that Chapek publicly denounced the legislation, saying that Disney “opposed to the bill from the onset”.

“I understand our original approach, no matter how well-intended, didn’t quite get the job done,” he added.

Pixar employees heavily criticised the response from the Disney CEO, and also called for the company to stop funding politicians that supported the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ movement. They stressed that the organisation must do more for LGBTQ+ people, and that having somewhat limited inclusive representation is no longer enough.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the letter added that queer representation is “shaved down to crumbs” in their projects, and that “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.

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

The Pixar employees also challenged Chapek’s claim that statements “do very little to change outcomes or minds”, and noted that Disney took a public stance and significant action against the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this month.

They add that if “Disney is true in its values, it will take a decisive public stand against the discriminatory legislation”, not just in Florida, but across the US. 

In the aftermath of the backlash, and before this letter was released, Chapek pledged to donate $5 million to LGBTQ+ organisations and meet with Gov. Rob DeSantis about the bill at a shareholders meeting on Wednesday.

Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content Peter Rice commented on this, saying: “Personally, I see this law as a violation of fundamental human rights, and I condemn any attempt to marginalize individuals on the basis of their identity […] I appreciate that Bob recognized that we must do more to support the LGBTQ+ community.”

A spokesperson for the largest LGBTQ+ rights group in the US, the Human Rights Campaign, said that they would not accept any funding from Disney “until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books.”

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