Pixar Reportedly Restores Same-Sex Kiss to 'Lightyear' After Employees Protest

Backlash continues over Disney's corporate response to the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Florida.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
3 min read

Disney's Pixar has restored a same-sex kiss to its Buzz Lightyear origin story after employees protested the removal of gay storylines from Pixar films, a report Friday said. The kiss will appear in Lightyear when it hits screens June 17, according to Variety, which cited an unnamed source.

Though characters in the Toy Story spinoff include two women who are in a relationship, the studio cut a kiss between them from the film, Variety reported. The kiss was subsequently reinstated after employee protest amid the backlash against Disney leadership not immediately condemning the so-called Don't Say Gay bill in Florida. The legislation bans sexual orientation or gender identity from being discussed in classrooms.

Despite former Disney CEO Bob Iger condemning the bill back in February, current CEO Bob Chapek held back on fully condemning it until after it was passed by both houses of the Texas legislature. Instead of making a corporate statement against the bill prior to it passing the legislature, Chapek had said, "I believe the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce."

However, a letter sent by Pixar employees to Disney leadership last week reportedly said openly gay storylines and moments have been cut from Pixar films by Disney.

"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."

Pixar's 2020 film Onward featured the studio's first openly gay character, but the moment passed quickly and didn't feature her and her partner on screen together. Pixar also released a SparkShorts animated short called Out about a gay couple in 2020.

After backlash from within the company, Chapek wrote a letter to employees last week saying: "It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry." Chapek added that Disney would increase support for advocacy groups combating similar laws in other states.

Despite Chapek's eventual condemnation and apology, some LGBTQ Disney employees and allies staged walkouts this week, including at Pixar on Friday. The walkouts are scheduled to continue next week, culminating in a full walkout on Tuesday.

"The recent statements and lack of action by TWDC [The Walt Disney Company] leadership regarding the 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation," some Disney employees said

According to Politico, Disney donated $50,000 to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's expected to sign the bill into law, during the 2020 election cycle. The news outlet said Disney also gave $913,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, $586,000 to Republican Senate campaigns and $313,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Disney has now ceased political donations in Florida as it reviews the activity in the wake of employee protest.

Disney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.