Nimona Faced Pushback From Disney Over Same-Sex Kiss, Say Former Blue Sky Studios Staffers

One of Disney's many acquisitions from the $71.3 billion merger was Blue Sky Studios, the animation studio behind "Ice Age," "Robots," "The Peanuts Movie," and "Ferdinand." Blue Sky was founded 1987 by a team of computer animators including Carl Ludwig, Eugene Troubetzkoy, Alison Brown, David Brown, Michael Ferraro, and Chris Wedge, who directed "Ice Age" and "Robots" among others. After 17 years of making hit films, Blue Sky was shuttered by Disney in April of 2020, reportedly because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Apart from the 450 animators who had to begin looking around at the new company for jobs, one of the casualties was "Nimona," a Blue Sky film in the midst of being directed by Patrick Osborne, and originally slated for released in January 2022. There were 10 months left on the production schedule when the plug was pulled, but "Nimona" will no longer see the light of day ("Spies in Disguise" was Blue Sky's final film). 

"Nimona" was based on a fantasy webcomic by ND Stevenson, and followed the adventures of the title character, a shape-shifting, gender-nonconforming teen who served as the sidekick to an ex-knight named Ballister Blackheart. The film was announced in 2015, and production shut down with Disney's closure of Blue Sky.

Disney has been facing an influx of severe criticism since it recently came to light that the company had donated money to Republican politician who supported Florida's bill HB 1557, colloquially known as the Don't Say Gay bill, that would prohibit discussions of sexuality and gender identity in elementary school classrooms. Disney CEO Bob Chapek countered the criticism from pro-rights groups by saying that Disney would produce more inclusive content, and promising to "reassess" its political giving. Pixar employees then stepped forth and said that Disney had, in fact, been consistently censoring "nearly every moment of overtly gay affection" from their films. After a few days, Chapek issued a (weak) apology, and announced that Disney would cease all political donations in Florida.

According to Insider, something similar to the Pixar staffers' experience happened during the production of "Nimona," when Disney asked the Blue Sky to cut a same-sex kiss from the film. 

Kiss of death

According to the staffers, Blue Sky representatives took a meeting with Disney over their concern that "Nimona" contains multiple queer elements, and would feature a same-sex kiss. Stevenson, who is themself nonbinary, includes themes of gender fluidity in "Nimona," and the makers of the film retained some of those elements. When Disney expressed their concern, the staffers at Blue Sky — who asked to remain anonymous — immediately attempted to present a version of the film without the queer kiss included in the hope that they would sneak it into the final cut of the film anyway. 

The kiss was to take place between Ballister Blackheart and his boyfriend, Ambrosius Goldenloin. 

The insistence that the kiss be censored caused a great deal of distress among Blue Sky's LGBTQIA+ staffers, who hadn't encountered such a hurtful and bigoted policy from their own administration. According to the Insider report, Blue Sky did eventually show a rough cut of the film — with the kiss — to Disney. Shortly thereafter, the studio was shut down. 

To editorialize: It is important that queer content be openly expressed in children's entertainment, as it may be the first time a young queer child learns the vocabulary and is given the emotional tools to identify who they are. A wholly heteronormative cartoon universe can only heighten a sense of isolation felt by queer, trans, or nonbinary youths. "Nimona," written by a nonbinary author, starring gay characters, and containing symbols of gender dysphoria, had the potential to bring a lot of important topics into the conversation for younger viewers. 

Now, however, we'll never know.