Film and TV

Disney shuts down first feature film to have queer lead characters, blames COVID-19

Patrick Kelleher February 25, 2021
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Nimona Disney

A still image of the front cover of the Nimona graphic novel. (Harper Collins)

Disney has shut down a studio that was making the company’s first feature length animated feature with a queer lead, meaning the film may never see the light of day.

The film, called Nimona, was being made by Blue Sky Studios, and was set to feature a same-sex kiss and a “gender non-conforming lead heroine”.

Disney acquired Blue Sky Studios in a 2019 merger with 20th Century Fox. The studio had just 10 months’ work left on Nimona, but bosses told staff on 9 February that they were being shut down, according to Buzzfeed News.

In a devastating blow, staff were told that they will all be laid off in April due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the film is unlikely to ever be completed.

Staff spoke on the condition of anonymity to Buzzfeed, with many expressing their disappointment at the news.

“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 said.

Nimona was created by Noelle Stevenson and started as a webcomic before it was published as a graphic novel by HarperCollins in 2015.

Responding to the news, Stevenson wrote on Twitter: “Got to see some recent reels and art from Nimona today. Absolutely blew me away and I’m so heartbroken you won’t be able to see it. Blue Sky was making something really special.”

Disney’s Nimona could have had the power to ‘change kids’ lives’

Staff at Blue Sky Studios said the film was going to have a scene where a same-sex couple say “I love you” and that their romantic history would be put front and centre.

One employee said the film would have the power to “change kids’ lives” due to its powerful exploration of its characters’ queerness.

“I just want this movie to be seen by the world, because it needs to be seen by the world,” they added.

Another staff member said they were never sure if they had Disney’s full support in making the film.

“They don’t have a great track record of making queer-inclusive media,” they said.

Blue Sky Studios was behind some major hits of the last two decades, including Ice Age and Rio. Their last film was 2019’s Spies in Disguise.

Disney has a patchy history when it comes to LGBT+ representation. Its live-action reboot of Beauty and the Beast hinted that LeFou was queer in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.

Pixar’s animated feature Onward, released in 2020, also included a tiny reference hinting that a character voiced by Lena Waithe was queer.

Related topics: COVID-19, Disney

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