After a major outcry, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has promised to make more gay content for kids and has reintroduced a kissing sequence between two women in the next ‘Toy Story’ spinoff, ‘Lightyear.’
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On Tuesday, Disney employees protested the company’s tardy response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, as parents fight back against the company’s last-minute attempts to shield itself from allegations that it isn’t doing enough to support the LGBTQ community.
CEO Bob Chapek said the entertainment powerhouse would form a task force to guarantee that more LGBTQ-awareness content is available for youngsters during a town hall meeting on Monday.
After Pixar employees accused the parent corporation of deleting gay characters from films, news surfaced on Friday that Disney was reintroducing a kissing sequence between two women in the next ‘Toy Story’ spinoff, ‘Lightyear.’
“It’s not Disney’s place to play politics. Buzz light-year doesn’t need gay characters. It needs a good story, good performances, and to answer archetypal questions,” tweeted Twitter user @RageQuitSco. “If the inclusion of gay characters does that, I’ll show it to my kids. But not if it’s just far left propaganda.”
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“This is one Disney story that my child will never see,” remarked another person.
Dozens of Disney employees marched outside the company’s Burbank headquarters on Tuesday, chanting “Say Gay!” as part of a full day of walkouts at the company’s theme parks and offices.
The law in Florida would prohibit the teaching of sexuality, gender identity, and sexual orientation education “in a manner that is not age-appropriate.” In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Disney expressed solidarity for the walkouts, a day after Chapek said he regretted not speaking out against the bill sooner.
“We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ Cast, Crew, and Imagineers and fans who make their voices heard today and every day,” the company posted on Facebook.
The protest on Tuesday is the finale of a series of smaller protests that have occurred every day between 3 p.m. and 3.15 p.m. since March 15.
The protest will be a “full walkout” from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., “or whenever your shift begins/ends,” according to organizers. Production, marketing, IT, and other non-unionized jobs are expected to participate, according to them.
Disney should “immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations to politicians involved in the passage of Don’t Say Gay,” they demand. They also want the corporation to stop ‘construction and investment’ in Florida until the law is repealed, which Governor Ron Desantis has yet to sign.
Romualdas Dulskis, a Teamsters official in Orlando whose local represents costumed characters at Walt Disney World that portray Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and Stich, as well as bus drivers and other Disney employees, claimed his union did not endorse the walkout.
“That’s just not the way we are going to go about this,” he stated emphatically.
Contracts, according to union leaders, forbid work stoppages or disturbances.
“I don’t want to downplay anyone’s efforts, if someone feels what they are doing is the right way to make an impact,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents Disney World custodians, housekeepers, and other employees.
“We aren’t part of that. It would violate our contract if members of our union participated, though we are concerned about the issue, of course.”
During a virtual town hall on Monday, Chapek told staff that he regretted not taking a public stand against Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Chapek is already dealing with leadership issues due to a schism with his predecessor, Bob Iger, and staff dissatisfaction due to Iger’s illustrious tenure.
Disney made a mistake by not publicly condemning the law, according to Chapek.
During a virtual town hall meeting, Chapek, 61, said, “I and the leadership team are determined to use this moment as a catalyst for more meaningful and lasting change.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Chapek also promised to fight Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s plan to investigate parents of children having gender-transitioning treatments for child abuse.
Chapek told staff that Disney would form a task team led by film executive Paul Roeder and Disney Parks marketing executive Lisa Becket, among other things, to smooth out the edges after a rocky start to his term in January.
The task team would be in charge of ensuring that children have access to more LGBTQ-awareness content.
“Why does Disney not complain about the way china treats gay people, Uyghurs, or the people that make the clothes you wear.” one Twitter user retorted.
Another user stated that they have completely abandoned the company’s parks.
‘I used to take my kids there every year. Now I refuse to take my grandkids back. You’ve made everything less magical and everything gay.’
According to Variety, a character named Hawthorne, voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, is in a relationship with another lady in the “Toy Story’ spinoff ‘Lightyear,” which stars Chris Evans as a fictional “real life” inspiration for the “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear.
The relationship was reportedly preserved in the film, but a kiss between the two characters was purportedly deleted and was reinstated on Friday amidst the recent outcry.
Neither Disney nor Pixar have made any public statements about the scene or the film, which isn’t due out until June 17.
The disagreement began when Chapek issued an internal message on March 7 following a meeting with members of the company’s LGBT community.
Chapek said he was hesitant for Disney to speak out against the Florida bill, which has been criticized for restricting students’ access to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” information in elementary schools, according to the note, which was quoted by local media.
Corporate remarks “do very little to change outcomes or minds,” and are “often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,” wrote Chapek.
In a letter to Chapek, employees at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios expressed that they were “disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry” about their company’s silence on the bill’s passage.
Chapek said on Monday that he plans to go on a global listening tour of employees to try to repair his connection with staff after his widely criticized memo, according to the Journal.
Prior to Monday, Chapek’s words were met with a flood of criticism, as they were interpreted as a lack of support for the LGBT community. On social media, there was a boycott effort against Disney.
Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who cofounded the cultural juggernaut with his brother Walt, emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of Chapek’s position.
Disney, which has a large presence in Florida thanks to its Walt Disney World resort, has been chastised internally and publicly for its lack of public response for weeks.
In an email to staff on Friday, Chapek said, “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I let you down.” “I am sorry.”
In an email, he added, “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights.”
“Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good. I agree. Yes, we need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, he also assured that he had called Gov. DeSantis, who is expected to sign the bill into law, “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender kids and families.”
However, Chapek’s words did nothing to quell the already smouldering debate over the bill, which is part of a nationwide campaign by Republicans who believe they are regaining control of liberal policies that they believe threaten traditional family values.
The bill—officially titled Parental Rights in Education—is set to become law on July 1, and parents can sue teachers who break its rules.
Chapek’s dispute with Iger, which began when Iger postponed his retirement to “help” Chapek in dealing with the COVID pandemic, has hampered his transition into his new role.
After Iger enraged Chapek by prolonging his departure three times, the executives, who were formerly friends, no longer talk.
Iger, who chose Chapek to succeed him, declared plans to return to the company for a fourth time in March 2020 to assist guide it through the early days of COVID, when it was forced to close its money-making theme parks and theatres displaying its films.
New Disney boss Bob Chapek (right) no longer keeps in contact with former head exec Bob Iger (left), it has been reported, following a falling out that occurred between the two around the time Iger resigned from the company two years ago
According to CNBC, Chapek, who received a total salary of $26 million in 2021, was “furious” with Iger, didn’t require a “white knight,” and had not requested assistance.
At a party hosted late last year to honor Iger’s retirement from the entertainment conglomerate, the two men scarcely exchanged words.
He stayed on as executive chairman after stepping down as CEO, but he left at the end of 2021.
Their feud is claimed to be causing Chapek problems as he tries to gain favor with other Disney executives who are loyal to Iger because to his sparkling term at the helm of the entertainment conglomerate, which began in 2005.
Iger also sparked controversy when he recently spoke out against the Don’t Say Gay bill, despite the fact that polls show that the policy is backed by a majority of Americans.