Lightyear Filmmakers On Restoring The Film's Lesbian Kiss

Pixar's "Lightyear" will feature an important first for the animation studio: an on-screen kiss between a queer couple.

The timeliness of this event isn't lost on anyone. Pixar's parent company, Disney, recently came under fire for sponsoring the Florida politicians behind the notorious HB 1557, a bill that forbids the state's elementary school teachers from talking about sexuality and gender in their classrooms. (Hence HB 1557's nickname: the "Don't Say Gay" bill.) Hoping to smooth things over, Disney CEO Bob Chapek sent out a memo to the company's employees, stating that it would strive to counter the bill's ill effects by producing more "inspiring," queer-friendly content.

Far from resolving the matter, Chapek's memo was roundly criticized for trying to suggest that positive queer representation in media is enough on its own to offset the harm caused by real-world homophobic legislation. (That's to say nothing of Disney's, to put it charitably, half-hearted attempts at real LGBTQ+ representation in the past.) Queer Pixar employees and their allies even penned an open letter in response, alleging that Disney executives had cut out moments of "overtly gay affection" from several of their animated films. This, in turn, led to the same-sex kiss in "Lightyear" being restored after previously being censored by the higher-ups at the Mouse House.

Putting back the kiss was 'important' to Lightyear's creatives

"Lightyear" puts a meta-twist on Pixar's "Toy Story" franchise by revealing the origin story of Buzz Lightyear, "the hero who inspired the toy — introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans," as the film's official synopsis explains it. Steve Rogers himself, Chris Evans, is voicing the non-toy version of Buzz in the movie, with "Orange Is the New Black" star Uzo Aduba voicing his friend and fellow astronaut, Hawthorne.

As part of a "Lightyear" press screening and Q & A event attended by /Film, producer Galyn Susman confirmed that a moment where Hawthorne is shown kissing her wife was initially cut from the movie, prior to being put back in after the "Don't Say Gay" controversy. She went on to explain why this scene is meaningful, both as queer representation and in terms of Buzz's arc in the film:

"Yes. We have a kiss. You saw it in the version of the film that you all saw before this Q & A. We've always had the lesbian couple. They've always been a part of the film. Being able to put back the kiss was important to us. It's a touching moment. It helps Buzz to see what it is that he's... It's the life that's being lived in front of him by his best friend that he's not having. He doesn't have those kinds of relationships. He doesn't have a child. He doesn't have what she has. And so it was important for us to get that back in there. And we're really excited about that."

For the time being, it's unclear whether Disney plans to cut the kiss between Hawthorne and her wife from "Lightyear" for its release in places that have long censored LGBTQ+ content or will simply forgo distribution in those markets. Last year, Marvel's "Eternals" never saw release in China and other select locations after director Chloé Zhao refused to remove an onscreen kiss between Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and his husband, so there's already a precedent for Disney tentpoles going the latter route. The company's higher-ups might not like it, but if they want to avoid even more bad publicity, they would do well to follow suit with "Lightyear" and show the movie in its full, uncensored form wherever they can.

"Lightyear" opens in theaters on June 17, 2022.