Of the major U.S. film studios, Walt Disney Studios is probably the most easily recognizable, with a well-defined brand identity that it has exported on an international scale. Certainly most Americans could name several Disney titles if asked, with many of them being films that have left a lasting impression since childhood. In fact, since the first Disney feature film in 1937 (Snow White), entertainment for children and families has been a primary focus for the company that continues to this day.
Many of Disney’s most famous distribution imprints are best known for their animated features, including Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and the Japan-based Studio Ghibli, for which Disney holds U.S. and international distribution rights. On the live action side, the imprints include Walt Disney Pictures, Disneynature, Lucasfilm (best known for the Star Wars saga), and Touchstone Pictures. They also recently acquired Marvel Studios, with whom they released the summer blockbuster The Avengers in 2012. Walt Disney Studios has the weakest historical record when it comes to LGBT-inclusive films of the studios tracked in this report, with the animated divisions having no content to speak of. Touchstone Pictures however, has released a small handful of films with LGBT characters over the years, including the British comedic drama Kinky Boots (2006), Tim Burton’s biopic of cross-dressing director Ed Wood (1994), and romantic comedies Sweet Home Alabama (2002) and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003). Perhaps most impressively, in 1985 Lucasfilm produced the film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, which wove together passages from gay Japanese writer Yukio Mishima’s autobiography with parts of his fictional novels, including his secret love for a peer at school. The film was never officially released in Japan following conservative protests over its portrayal of Mishima as a gay man. It was distributed in the U.S. by Warner Brothers.
IRON MAN 3
Just like in 2012’s The Avengers, out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts once again shows up as himself to deliver some super-hero related news. This time around his appearance amounts to about two seconds, compared to around eight in The Avengers. The fact that he’s an openly gay public figure apparently playing himself means this cameo once again technically meets GLAAD’s criteria for an onscreen LGBT impression, though we did not count a less than one second shot of Fashion Police’s George Kotsiopoulos in which he was barely recognizable and had no dialogue. We continually hope that future Marvel films will include more substantial characters.
There was at least one other Disney release last year that included a more substantial gay character. The Touchstone/Dreamworks comedy Delivery Man is about a former sperm donor who learns that a clinic mistake led to his fathering over five hundred kids, some of whom he begins to anonymously follow and help. Statistically, some of those kids would turn out to be LGBT, and the film does indeed feature at least one gay son. During a montage of Starbuck (the donor) following the kids, he watches the son appear to greet several possible boyfriends over the course of a day, which seems to inspire good-natured parental concern. Though the character arguably isn’t significant enough to pass the Vito Russo Test, his appearance is well-handled, and even features several same-sex kisses. The fact that these aren’t present to elicit a laugh but to further character development is a nice change of pace from most Hollywood comedies.
As we said last year, LGBT people in “family” oriented films is not the far off notion it once was, thanks to films like the Oscar-nominated ParaNorman. We are already a part of America’s families and communities, and films must begin to reflect that fact. With the Disney Channel having now featured its first same-sex family on the kids’ sitcom Good Luck Charlie, that day may not be far off. There have been no reports that the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy will feature appearances by the source material’s lesbian characters Moondragon and Phyla-Vell, so we’ll likely have to wait a while longer for LGBT characters in one of Marvel Comics’ highly successful film adaptations. Fans continue to hold out hope for a green light on the film version of The Runaways, which prominently features a super-powered lesbian teenager, but currently remains on the shelf.