Former staffers of animation studio Blue Sky have claimed they were pressured by Disney into censoring an LGBT+ scene from the movie adaptation of Nimona.
Nimona was originally published as a webcomic by ND Stevenson – the trans writer, cartoonist and animation producer behind acclaimed projects like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Lumberjanes.
The fantasy comic about a shape-shifter named Nimona was eventually published as a graphic novel by HarperCollins and won an Eisner award in 2016. Nimona was picked up by Disney-acquired Blue Sky and was set to become a film before Disney closed the animation studio in 2021.
Three ex-Blue Sky workers told Business Insider that Disney didn’t fully approve of the film because it contained LGBT+ characters and themes.
The anonymous staffers said Disney executives particularly pushed back against one queer scene featuring a same-sex kiss in the movie during a meeting in mid-2020 between leadership teams.
The same-sex kiss in the movie would have been between villain Lord Ballister Blackheart and the supposedly heroic Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who have a romantic relationship in the comic.
Blue Sky’s leadership apparently “felt enough pressure” on them to remove the kiss from further pitch presentations to Disney, according to the workers.
But the sources told Insider that the animation studio apparently hoped to ultimately include the kiss in the final film.
Disney did not respond to Business Insider‘s request for comment on the allegations. PinkNews has also contacted Disney for comment.
The news comes after a group of LGBT+ Pixar staff accused Disney of cutting “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” from their projects. The accusation, which was released in an open letter, claimed that animators were “being barred from creating” LGBT+ content by Disney despite fierce protests from “both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar”.
The letter called out the Disney’s delayed response to Florida’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which would ban classroom discussion about LGBT+ identities in the state’s primary schools.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek has since apologised for not being a “stronger ally in the fight for equal rights” and paused all political donations to Florida.
The three ex-Blue Sky members said that Nimona experience similar pressure from Disney’s top leaders and ultimately caused a rift in the formerly “tight-knit” workplace.
The workers told Insider that omitting the same-sex kiss caused “confusion” within the studio, which they described as akin to a “family”. One staffer said it “caused a weird atmosphere” at Blue Sky, especially among LGBT+ workers, that was completely different from his experience at the company.
Another worker said the group had come forward to not only highlight the need for “more queer stories” but to also “call out how nefarious it is when you don’t tell queer stories”.
“When the biggest entertainment company in the world creates content for children and systematically censors queer content, they are pushing queer children to dark places,” the worker said.
The third former worker called Nimona a film that they truly “believed in” and “loved”, and they “thought people needed to see” the movie.
Nimona was planned to be released in January 2022. Several Blue Sky employees told BuzzFeed News last year that the film was about 75 per cent complete – with only a couple more months of work left to finish the movie – when the studios were closed.
One of the former workers said they “personally didn’t see the support from Disney” while they worked on Nimona. They added that they didn’t think Disney had a “great track record of making queer-inclusive media”.