LGBTQ Animation Workers Reject Disney Stance on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill – The Hollywood Reporter
In the days leading up to CEO Bob Chapek’s apology, Disney’s LGBTQ employees were quick to criticize the company’s public silence on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and braced already in an increasingly difficult and “exhausting” fight. .”
In interviews with Hollywood journalist, and in letters to Disney management, LGBTQ staffers across the company denounced Chapek’s defense of Disney’s original decision not to issue a public statement regarding the adoption of HB 1557/SB 1834 .
“All companies are involved in things like this,” said Molly Ostertag, a Disney TV Animation writer who worked on her groundbreaking animated series. The owl houseRecount The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Chapek’s apology on Friday. “I think people are reacting to the hypocrisy of Disney. They are recognized as being a safe place for children, inspiring for children and accepting of children. It goes against all of that.
The bill, which Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign, and which has been labeled by the ACLU of Florida as a government censorship bill, prohibits classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade by school officials and third parties.
On Friday, Chapek announced in a memo to employees that Disney would suspend all political donations in Florida pending a review and that the company would increase its support for advocacy groups to fight similar legislation in other states. He also said Disney was working on a new framework for its political giving “that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values.”
In response to the company’s decision, Ostertag said she was proud of “everyone inside and outside of Disney who came together.”
“It’s a start, and we’re going to use that solidarity and that energy to hold Chapek to his promise to be ‘an ally we can count on,'” she continued. “I hope this makes it clear that a company cannot claim to be a positive force in the world and then be neutral on the issues of discrimination and human rights that occur in its backyard. I m expect the fight to continue and encourage everyone to hold on and admire what we can achieve when we work together.
A staff member who spoke to THR on condition of anonymity said the CEO’s latest action came “after a bad call” and that he must “Craft Of course this the law action come outside of », in particular by making its decision public. Another employee said the result was “the result of the courageous and exhausting work of the LGBT community.”
“I hope Disney really takes advantage of this time of suspended political donations in Florida to reevaluate a tangible and meaningful change in how they approach financial support. We want to see a commitment to changing the real world that reflects what the company says its values are. »
Chapek’s apology and the cancellation of public donations speak to the degree of upheaval within the company. In a shareholder interview on Wednesday, Chapek said the company had “opposed the bill from the start,” but that Disney had remained publicly neutral before it passed because he believed it “could be more effective to work behind the scenes.
Ahead of Friday’s news, Disney’s LGBTQ staffers, some of whom spoke to THR speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the initial silence by Chapek and Disney executives on the rights of LGBTQ youth and their families in Florida was not only strong but personal – a deeply antithetical decision for a company whose the brand is based on “morality, wholesomeness and family friendliness.
They also verbally rejected the CEO’s promises made at Wednesday’s shareholder meeting, internally and, in an unusual move for company employees, publicly on social media, with hashtags like #DisneySayGay and #DisneyDoBetter. Chapek’s announcement that $5 million would go to various LGBTQ rights organizations and a scheduled meeting between Chapek, LGBTQ members of Disney Florida’s senior team and Governor DeSantis to discuss the contents of the draft law were rejected outright.
“Every time this happens, the line of what is okay to do and say to gay people is pushed further into a dangerous place,” Ostertag said. “So when are you going to defend us?”
Employees have called on Chapek to release a statement explicitly condemning the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and similar legislation in other states, with others also calling on the company to recognize the wave of anti-trans legislation proposed and adopted in states like Georgia, Texas and Idaho. . They had also demanded that the company immediately cease political donations to Florida officials who supported the bill. “You can’t monopolize the entire entertainment industry and then say you don’t have any attractions,” said a Disney animation director. THR.
The rapid and critical swell that met the company surprised even some of its employees. For many members of the LGBTQ animation community, they have said “the bar is in the field” when it comes to expecting genuine and informed support from Disney or any other Hollywood animation studio. . But in the hours after Chapek’s initial memo to staff on Monday, staffers quickly began to rally, their energy matching the urgency they felt around the legislation’s broader implications.
Much of the internal discontent had to do with whether Disney’s silence on a bill that focused on the state’s LGBTQ youth — and some of whom may be the children of employees — would create an “empowerment effect.” drive” with regard to future legislation which has a direct impact on them.
“In a state where the pulse [nightclub] a shooting took place, which [Disney] invoked themselves [in the memo], you’d think they’d have more decency and understanding,” one animation writer said, echoing a similar concern. “We are a focused group of minority and marginalized people working for someone with a broader platform who can actually protect them.”
Chapek’s “inspiring content” line in his Monday memo drew a significant portion of the backlash, with employees pointing out how thin Disney’s inclusive offerings are. Beyond the blinking and missing moments found in The beauty and the Beaststaffers highlighted shows like The owl house, canceled after just two seasons, as an indicator that the company isn’t equally invested in its LGBTQ-led content. Others highlighted Love, Victor — which Chapek noted in his memo – as a title originally produced by 20th Century Fox Studios and then distributed by Disney, who then moved it from Disney+ to Hulu.
For the Disney CEO, using the handful of characters and storylines in his library to defend silence around the Florida bill — even as employees like those at Pixar say Disney censored their inclusion efforts — was particularly “insulting,” Ostertag said.
“It’s hurtful to see Disney not resist and instead just say they make inspirational content,” she explained. “I was involved in creating this inspirational content, and it really makes me sick to feel that I helped them give them an excuse not to take concrete action in the real world because they allowed a storyline to happen. ‘an animated show moving forward.’
Agents of SHIELD producer Drew Z. Greenberg, The Ghost and Molly McGee creator and EP Bill Motz, Andi Mac star Lilan Bowden and The owl house Creator Dana Terrace was part of a growing group of top creatives and talent who also disavowed Disney’s initial response.
“I know I have bills to pay, but working for this company has…made me so distraught, and I hate having moral dilemmas about how I feed myself and how I support my loved ones,” Terrace said in a videowhich criticized various aspects of Chapek’s memo and has since been retweeted more than 30,000 times.
Disney animation writer Benjamin Siemon, who worked on duck talestweeted earlier this week about how Disney’s LGBTQ employee community is devastated in the face of the company’s refusal to take a tougher stance. Three days later, sofia the first creator Craig Gerber shared on his Twitter that a company-wide meeting had also taken place, where he had “never seen employees so collectively upset by senior management in over 12 years at Disney”.
Meanwhile, some staff members received internal communications throughout the week from division leaders in an attempt to show solidarity or support even as groups across Disney continued to provide their own statements backed by employees to the company, according to a source familiar with the situation. Some workers in the industry had at one point considered physical action, but were still wondering if a boycott or rally was feasible.
Many animation workers have used established communication channels, through the Guild and employee groups, in part, they say, due to the momentum and frustration over political issues. and social which aggravate. The summer 2020 racial justice protests and ongoing union contract negotiations are among past and present events that have intensified responses and helped spur action, sources said.
Although having equally irate co-workers was a significant support, some LGBTQ employees said they were “preparing for a more frustrating and exhausting fight” than they wanted, one writer said. THR.
Multiple sources also said Chapek’s moves over the past week have left them wondering whether to stay at work. Several employees said Disney’s size and importance in the industry, however, makes it “difficult to walk away” because it may mean there is no one left to “challenge” them both on storyline and in Disney’s hiring practices.
“If we quit, it’s the unemployed LGBT people. We are punished for the decisions of powerful people. And if we leave, Disney goes back to what it was and we stop making the content we needed as kids,” said a member of the Disney animation staff. “There’s something empowering about being able to do that through one of the most powerful companies in the world.”