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Disney disapproved of NIMONA’s queer kiss, says former employees

Amid the controversy surrounding Disney's support of the Florida "Don't Say Gay Bill," new details about the cancellation of the animated feature have come to light.

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Blue Sky Studios was shut down by Disney in February 2021. Along with the shuttering of the studio, production on Nimona, an animated film based on ND Stevenson’s award-winning webcomic/graphic novel, was also discontinued. The animated film would have been the studio’s first feature-length film with a queer lead. Now, three people who worked on the project have come forward and stated that the movie met disapproval from studio parent Disney, particularly because it depicted a gay kiss.

No More Blue Sky

Disney acquired the 34-year-old Blue Sky Studios in its 2019 acquisition of the Fox film studio and associated assets. Two years into the acquisition, Disney shut down the animation studio, although the Mouse still owns the rights to Blue Sky’s intellectual property (according to earlier reporting at Stately Beat Manor, Disney is still hard at work on an Ice Age TV show). At the time, Disney cited economic losses due to COVID-19 for scrapping the studio’s first animated feature, Nimona.

Nimona was set to center on a gender non-conforming protagonist and feature a same-sex kiss, something that is rarely seen in animated movies. “It was a first for our studio in a lot of respects and what would have been a first for Disney, I believe,” one employee told BuzzfeedNews in 2021. “It featured two male leads kissing, it featured a gender-nonconforming lead heroine.”

With the recent backlash over Disney and CEO Bob Chapek’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” formally called the “Parental Rights in Education Bill,” which bans teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade, three former Blue Sky staffers decided to speak out about Disney’s reaction to the queer content in Nimona, according to Business Insider:

“Three former Blue Sky staffers with knowledge of meetings between Disney and Blue Sky leadership teams told Insider this week that Disney leadership took issue with some queer elements of ‘Nimona,’ particularly with a same-sex kiss. The former staffers preferred to remain anonymous to protect future career prospects.

“The pushback started during a meeting in mid-2020 between the leadership teams, the former staffers said. Blue Sky leadership felt enough pressure in this meeting to leave the kiss out of future presentations to Disney, despite hoping to ultimately include it in the film, the sources said.”

Here’s the Very Sorry Song

In recent days, amid reports of Disney staffers planning an in-person and virtual walkout, Disney and its subsidiaries have started to post public apologies for not standing up against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” sooner. 

On March 16th, Marvel Studios Tweeted, “We strongly denounce any and all legislation that infringes on the basic human rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Marvel Studios stands for hope, inclusivity, and strength; and we proudly stand with the community. Today, we pledge to continue our strong commitment as allies who promote the values of equality, acceptance, and respect.”

However, it’s worth noting that one branch of Disney did make a public statement before the rest: Disney Animation.  On March 11th, after learning of its parent company’s silence and political donations, Disney Animation responded to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” with a message of solidarity for the queer community. 

The Disney Animation statement read, “​​​​​​​To our LGBTQIA+ community in the studio and across the world, Disney Animation stands by you! We denounce any legislation that infringes on your fundamental human rights. You deserve to be safe, respected, and able to live your lives as your whole selves free from discrimination.”

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