Updated: Jan 20
Disney/Pixar’s short Out on Disney+ features Disney’s first openly gay main character.
It’s Pride Month and Disney+ is showcasing its list of content celebrating LGBTQIA+ characters. While the list is fairly short, there are some great options that feature queer representation, like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary of a Future President. When it comes to Disney, any representation is a big step, however, most of its shows only seem to have their queer characters in supporting roles. Additionally, Disney is really good about leaving viewers speculating about a characters’ sexuality, such as Josh Gad’s LeFou in Beauty and the Beast and Artie in Cruella. So when Pixar’s short Out hit Disney+ last May, many viewers were pleased to see an openly gay male as the main character. Until he wasn’t the main character anymore.
Out follows Greg as he is packing for a big move with his boyfriend Manuel and his dog Jim. However, Greg isn’t actually out to his family, so the 12-minute short centers around him trying to hide a picture of him and Manuel from his parents. With a nudge from a magical dog and cat, who enter on a rainbow, Greg decides he wants to tell his parents — who for some reason look like lumberjacks, maybe they’re in Minnesota? I got big How I Met Your Mother Marshall’s parents vibes from them, but I digress.
Apparently, Greg doesn’t think his parents will accept his sexuality because he spends the entire day hiding the picture from them. Then, in true Disney fashion, Greg switches bodies with his dog Jim. Yep, typical Disney turning their minority characters into animals (à la Princess and the Frog). Now, Greg (really Jim) is running around mindlessly smelling his dad’s butt and Jim (really Greg) is chasing his mom around still trying to hide the picture from her.
He does everything to keep his mom from seeing the picture, he pees on the floor and bites her. Then, his mom sits down with Jim and tells him how hurt she is that her son is moving far away. She says she hopes Greg finds someone who loves him as much as his parents and that the man will make Greg happy. Yeah, after all of that his parents already knew. After this, Greg and Jim switch back and Greg invites Manuel to meet his parents.
On its surface, Out is a lovely story about a family accepting their son. However, Disney has a terrible problem with putting minorities in their content only to have them immediately changed. Tiana, the first Black princess, turned into a frog in Princess and the Frog and Joe Gardner, a Black man, died minutes into the movie only to become a spirit and then a cat in Soul. No child is going to be able to see themselves in these characters if they are only on the screen for mere minutes, when cis white children have seen themselves in Disney movies since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released in 1937.
Additionally, the story ending with the parents saying “we already knew” seems a little unrealistic. Obviously, Disney doesn’t want to release a sad story where the child gets disowned for his sexuality, but Greg never even said the words “I’m gay” in the entire short. It still feels like Disney is treading lightly around any topics of sexuality because they are afraid of the fan reaction. Even Out sparked backlash among some Disney+ customers, who started a petition to have it removed from the streaming platform.
In the end, for what it is, Out is a groundbreaking addition to Disney/Pixar. However, Disney certainly has a long way to go until everyone can see themselves represented in their stories.