A new film from the Pixar Animation Studios SparkShorts program of home-grown, experimental storytelling (Purl, Kitbull) has bowed on Disney+ and broken through a fresh barrier for the studio, featuring a gay main character for the first time. Released on Friday, Out is a nine-minute piece written and directed by animator Steven Hunter (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) and produced by Max Sachar (Coco, Toy Story 3), which presents a coming out story imbued with a touch of body-swapping enchantment.
On an average day, Greg’s life is filled with family, love and a rambunctious little dog — but despite all of this, Greg has a secret. Today is different, though. With some help from his precocious pup, and a little bit of magic, Greg might learn that he has nothing to hide.
“The SparkShorts program is designed to discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows,” read a quote from Pixar President Jim Morris on the program’s webpage. “These films are unlike anything we’ve ever done at Pixar, providing an opportunity to unlock the potential of individual artists and their inventive filmmaking approaches on a smaller scale than our normal fare.”
Both Disney and Pixar have taken flack from conservative viewers, critics and action groups in recent years for the studios’ tentative steps to present LGBTQ+ characters — however fleetingly. Brief sightings of a presumed lesbian couple in Toy Story 4, Pixar’s first official openly gay character — cyclops cop Officer Spector (voiced by Lena Waithe) — in Onward and Violet’s super supportive dads in Disney Channel’s DuckTales have all drawn ire, calls for boycott and even screening bans.
Out debuted on Disney+ on May 22. It joins the ranks of SparkShorts alongside Kristen Lester’s SIGGRAPH Best in Show winner Purl, Brian Larsen’s Smash and Grab, Rosana Sullivan’s Humanitas Prize-winning and Oscar-nominated Kitbull, Bobby Rubi’s Float, Edwin Chang’s Wind and Erica Milsom’s Loop, which centers on a non-verbal girl with autism — all available to stream on the platform.