For Disney, it’s a surprising, unprecedented move.
The world of animation is slowly becoming a more progressive place in terms of representation, largely due to the hard work of creators working against the structures of an industry that is, by and large, resistant to change, especially of the sort that can cost it money. The latest cartoon to push that envelope is The Owl House, a children’s cartoon on the Disney Channel which now features the show’s first out LGBTQ+ character in the form of Amity, who, as demonstrated in the show and confirmed by her creator online, is bisexual. Which makes her, I do believe, one of the first queer leading characters Disney’s ever had, and maybe the first in general in traditional animation.
To offer a narrative recap: Amity began at odds with Luz, her former rival and the show’s protagonist. Luz is a girl trapped in ana alternate dimension and going to school there, where she befriends rebellious witches, tiny warriors, and other magical beings. In the newest episode, we learn that this school has a prom. Only it’s not prom, it’s Grom, and Grom is actually an ancient monster that the Grom Queen must defeat to defend her title and the safety of the countryside (which only sounds a little bit stressful than most proms). During the course of the episode, Amity becomes the Grom Queen, then Luz takes her place, and then later we learn that Amity intended to ask Luz to be her date to the Grom. Her date date, framed in such a way that it’s fairly clear her feelings are more than platonic.
On Twitter, creator Dana Terrace confirmed it, writing, “I’m bi! I want to write a bi character, dammit! Lucklily my stubbornness paid off and now I am VERY supported by current Disney leadership.”
Other creators chimed in with support and their own comparable experiences at Disney. Notably, Alex Hirsch, creator of Gravity Falls, explained how, during his tenure with Disney, such a thing would flatly have not been possible.
In 2012 the Disney censor note on this image would have been:
“inappropriate for channel, please revise, call to discuss” (to avoid a paper trail)
Now in 2020- there’s no note at all.
Props where props are due! This time, Disney- you did good. pic.twitter.com/HLDux1jNUk
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) August 9, 2020
Queer content still bears a meaningful financial risk for networks, as it can lead to international censorship, though it’s questionable whether making queer creators bear the brunt of that uncertainty by forbidding certain content is the best way to handle that particular problem. And Disney, in particular, can be rather censorious about anything it deems controversial, to the extent of lightly editing movies appearing on the Disney Plus platform to remove, say, minor sexual content.
According to Dana Terrace, that was initially the case at Disney for her as well, though unknown factors changed over time ” perhaps due to the success of other shows leading the charge in queer representation ” and eventually support manifested among the current Disney animation leadership.
In dev I was very open about my intention to put queer kids in the main cast. I'm a horrible liar so sneaking it in would've been hard haha. When we were greenlit I was told by certain Disney leadership that I could NOT represent any form of bi or gay relationship on the Channel.
— Dana Terrace (@DanaTerrace) August 9, 2020
Whatever the internal reasoning, it’s a welcome sight. And we hope it’s a harbinger of more to come from Disney.