Pixar Finally Debuts Its First Gay Lead Character in the Tear-Jerking Short ‘Out’
After decades of infuriating failed promises of representation, Pixar released a short about a man coming out to his parents. You’ll cry—and wonder why it took so long.
The new Lady Gaga-Ariana Grande duet, an unreleased Carly Rae Jepsen album, Lana Del Rey igniting a juicy feud with everyone in music, a Smash concert becoming the hottest thing on TV: Pride month has come early in the world of pop culture.
Next in line is a new short film from Pixar that finally, after years of infuriating bait-and-switches of promised representation, features a gay character in the lead. Out, written by Steven Clay Hunter, was released through Disney+’s SparkShorts series Friday.
Pixar and Disney, especially, still have lightyears to travel when it comes to LGBT+ representation in their respective outputs, which, outside of animated Hot Dads to crush on in films like Inside Out, Coco, and Onward, has been inexcusably paltry.
Out is a just a short on Disney’s streaming service, but there is no mistaking the sexual identity of its lead character or its warm, accepting message. Finally, Pixar is giving us gay tears.
Out centers on Greg, a closeted man who seems to be in his early twenties who is packing up his apartment to move in with his boyfriend, Manuel. Manuel and Greg have a sweet moment where they find a framed photo of the two cuddling that Greg has hidden in his sock drawer. “Once we’re in the city, I’ll hang it right in the open,” he promises Manuel, who scoffs that he’ll just take it down when his parents visit.
As if on cue, Greg’s parents make a surprise visit to help him pack. He hides the framed photo and hurries Manuel out the door before his parents can see him and suspect anything. “Tell them,” a hurt Manuel says on his way out.
At this point, we should explain that the short opens with some sort of magical dog and cat putting a spell on the collar of Greg’s dog, Jim. When the collar falls off Jim, it finds its way onto Greg’s neck and the spell is revealed: the dog and the human switch places.
While Greg runs around like a goofy puppy, the dog—now inhabited by the actual Greg—tries desperately to keep Greg’s mother from finding the photo of Greg and Manuel, going so far as to bite her to stop her from seeing it. Overwhelmed, she sulks and makes a tearful confession to the dog, needing a sounding board and of course not realizing it is actually her son.
She unloads everything she’s feeling about how hurt she’s been to be shut out of Greg’s life and that he’s moving so far away. It turns out she rehearsed how to delicately word it so that she indicates she knows he is gay without making it a big thing, but the afternoon has been so awkward she’s not sure she’ll be able to say it. It’s quite beautiful. You will cry.
The dog and Greg eventually switch back, and you can imagine the happily ever after from there. It’s all so human, emotional, and lovely. Sure, there’s a weird mystical fairy godmother dog and cat that arrive by magical rainbow that kind of leaves a sour taste….but let’s not get into that.
Out is a small thing, but it’s major progress—even if that fact is depressing in itself.
Pixar has a disastrous track record of making headlines for new movies that will ostensibly feature LGBT characters, only for those characters to appear for mere seconds, have to be surmised to be gay, or have only one or two throwaway lines.
There was the “first gay couple,” barely visible in a crowd scene in Finding Dory. There were the married lesbian antelopes in Zootopia, but no one even noticed because their appearance was so short. Much ado was made before the recent release of Onward about a gay cop character voiced by Lena Waithe who would be Pixar’s first official openly gay character. Officer Spector makes a reference to her wife, making her the first character to confirm her sexuality through dialogue.
The whole thing was so fleeting in comparison to the build up surrounding its significance that the character ended up being mocked by members of the LGBT community. When Entertainment Weekly recently released a special Pride cover featuring LGBT icons throughout history, people on social media jokingly photoshopped Officer Spector into the spread.
Still, Pixar has been lightyears ahead of its sister company, Disney, which was pilloried when the creative team behind the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast proudly promoted an “exclusively gay moment” in the film. The big “moment” ended up being a disastrous, brief waltz between Josh Gad’s LeFou and a man during a ballroom scene.
For decades, Disney has scripted characters that have been coded gay—largely villains like Scar, Jafar, Ursula, Hades, and Ratcliffe—contributing a complicated history with the LGBT community that mixed celebration and exasperation. When Frozen premiered, the character of Elsa was so widely interpreted to be a lesbian that #GiveElsaAGirlfriend became a massive movement when a sequel was planned. Alas, that didn’t happen with Frozen 2.
But now we have Out.
After scattered crumbs over the years, those who crave LGBT+ representation are finally getting the whole meal. Well, more like a snack—this is a short. There is still the frustration of having to settle for what little we’re given. But at least we’re settling for something remotely healthy this go-round.