#GiveElsaAGirlfriend to 'Finding Dory': The Online Push for LGBT Characters in Animated Movies
"It's going to get harder and harder to ignore this drumbeat," says GLAAD's Sarah Kate Ellis about the recent Internet-backed call for LGBT representation in animated films.
In the new trailer for Pixar's Finding Dory, there is a brief five-second scene of two women being shocked by a pacifier-sucking octopus that has taken up residence in a stroller once occupied by (presumably) their toddler.
After the trailer debuted, the internet paid no mind to the aquatic invertebrate with an oral fixation, but instead turned its spotlight on the two women. Many took to Twitter and other social media platforms to call them the first same-sex couple seen in a children's animated film, with multiple news outlets reporting on their would-be groundbreaking appearance.
While Disney did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter's request for comment about whether the women in the trailer are, in fact, a couple, the Finding Dory incident comes on the heels of a social media campaign that called for Walt Disney Animation to make one of its most popular princesses in recent memory LGBT.
In May, there was a social media push for Elsa, of Frozen fame, to become Disney's first lesbian princess. The hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend started to trend, with people calling for the sequel to the massively popular Disney feature to include the studio's first prominent LGBT relationship. Frozen 2 will see the return of directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck but does not yet have a release date.
"I think we have reached a point of 'enough is enough,'" GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told THR.
GLAAD declined to comment on the possible LGBT representation in Finding Dory, since its members had not yet seen the film in its entirety, but Ellis did talk about the importance of having LGBT representation in kid's animated features. She said: "These portrayals help real LGBT youth to recognize that they aren't alone and validate their identity."
Other animation studios have already featured LGBT characters in small ways.
2012's ParaNorman featured the first openly gay character in an mainstream animated film. The final scenes of the zombie thriller from Portland-based Laika — the stop-motion company also responsible for Box Trolls and the upcoming Kubo and the Two Strings — saw the jock character Mitch, voiced by Casey Affleck, talking about his boyfriend.
And ahead of its 2014 release, DreamWorks Animation's How To Train Your Dragon 2 made headlines when director Dean DeBlois confirmed that one of the dragon-loving Vikings would come out as gay. After witnessing a marital spat between two other Vikings, Gobber the Belch mutters, “This is why I never married. This and one other reason." The line was ad-libbed by actor Craig Ferguson.
When asked whether Disney could be apprehensive about including LGBT characters in its animated features, Ellis offers: "When you look at the global market, so many of the big studios look to the international box office and there are a number of LGBT issues abroad, so they want to be careful not to be cut out of countries." She adds: "You have a two-year [movie] pipeline and you have a lot of money on the line and then you have one weekend to make up that money."
Three of the top 20 highest-grossing films at the worldwide box office are animated features. Universal's Minions and Pixar's Toy Story 3 both boast grosses above $1 billion, with Frozen is the ninth highest grossing film of all time, with a global box office of $1.27 billion.
"Films are so important because, not only do they reach small towns in America, but they do reach globally and what comes out of Hollywood is our biggest cultural export," explains Ellis. "We have been pushing them for years at GLAAD but now social media and the community is pushing them on it. It's going to get harder and harder to ignore this drumbeat."