A “source close to the production” told Variety the decision was made recently, amid widespread backlash over Disney’s slow response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill controversy. The animated flick has Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, who, in this telling, is a person who inspired the Toy Story action figure. The movie reportedly features an Uzo Aduba-voiced character named Hawthorne, who is in a romantic relationship with another woman.
Insiders say Hawthorne’s sexuality is quite clear in the film, but a scene in which she kisses her partner was ultimately cut for unknown reasons. Last week that evidently changed after a number of Pixar employees slammed Disney CEO Bob Chapek for failing to publicly condemn Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, and accused Pixar’s parent company of regularly censoring LGBTQ content.
“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,” read a joint statement from Pixar employees. “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
Variety noted that a number of Pixar films have featured LGBTQ characters, although studio employees say their efforts to include more queer elements have been squashed by Disney executives.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, officially named the Parental Rights in Education bill, would prohibit discussion of gender orientation and sexual identity in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. Chapek released a memo last week announcing the company would pause all political donations to Florida lawmakers. He also issued an apology for his slow response to the legislation.
“Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” he wrote. “Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. 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. I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on—and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility and opportunity you deserve.”
Lightyear is directed by Angus MacLane and features Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, James Brolin, Efren Ramirez, and Pete Sohn. It is scheduled to hit theaters June 17.