Disney isn't shying away from representation and inclusion in its animated films, despite any backlash it may draw. Following the release of Pixar's Lightyear, which featured a harmless same-sex kiss on-screen that turned out to be quite controversial on social media, it now sounds like Disney's next animated film Strange World will also feature LGBTQ+ representation.
Footage of the upcoming sci-fi adventure from Walt Disney Animation Studios was unveiled at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival and a description of one of the scenes shown at the event confirmed that Strange World will have the company's first openly gay teen romance in a feature film. Matthieu Saghezchi, an Emmy Award-winning animation production designer, confirmed as much on social media.
Variety was on-scene at the festival and described the sequence like so:
Ethan flirts with heartthrob Diazo while friends from school look on, teasing in a friendly and warm-hearted way. Much to Ethan’s chagrin, his dad Searcher soon joins in, embarrassing his son with an overeager show of acceptance.
The scene has been described as "very endearing" and "treated as the most natural thing in the world" but will almost certainly rile a portion of the population — probably the same folks who are upset over Lightyear's same-sex kiss. The scene in Lightyear, which was originally cut but then restored following backlash from studio members, ultimately resulted in the film getting banned from at least 14 countries in Asia and the Middle East, including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and more.
While Disney had seemingly once wavered on LGBTQ+ representation in its films, it's now clear that the company's stance is to welcome inclusion and representation on screen, regardless of any blowback they may receive.
Strange World was first revealed earlier this month with an intriguing teaser trailer that gave off a retro sci-fi B-movie vibe. The synopsis reads:
The original action-adventure journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission.
Two additional scenes from Strange World were unveiled as well. The second was an action sequence in which the family gets attacked "by flying fuschia creatures that look like origami stingrays" while exploring a cavern from the inside of an aircraft. In the third scene, Searcher, voiced by Jake Gyllenhall, and the dog are exploring "the phosphorescent landscape looking like a coral refer painted bright pink" and must fend off "a Cthulhu-looking beast." They are rescued by a bearded old hunter who turns out to be Searcher's father.
Strange World is directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon) and co-directed and written by Qui Nguyen (co-writer of Raya and the Last Dragon). It comes to theaters on November 23, 2022.