Short films have been a Pixar Animation Studios staple: the desk lamps of “Luxo Jr.” (1986), a solo chess competition in the Oscar-winning “Geri’s Game” (1997) and, most recently, the story of a Chinese mother fearing her son growing up as told through a dumpling in “Bao” (2018).
Pixar’s latest edition, now streaming on Disney+, features its first LGBTQ animated lead character as he finds the courage to reveal his sexual orientation to his parents in “Out.”
The nine-minute short film was written and directed by Steven Clay Hunter, who has worked in animation or visual effects on "Finding Dory," "WALL-E," "Brave," "Toy Story 4" and many more projects.
"Out" tells the story of Greg (voiced by Kyle McDaniel) and his boyfriend, Manuel (Caleb Cabrera), as they receive an unexpected visit from Greg’s parents just as the young couple is preparing to move to the city.
Aided by cat and dog fairy god-pets, Greg switches bodies with his dog, Jim, with the help of a magic dog collar. Much of the action centers on attempts trying to distract Greg’s mother (Bernadette Sullivan) from discovering a framed photograph of the couple hugging. (Don't miss the cameo from Wheezy of “Toy Story.”)
The film reaches a heartfelt climax when Greg's mother's reaction is revealed.
“Out” is a part of Pixar’s SparkShorts — a collection of six animated independent short films streaming on Disney+.
A statement from Pixar Animations Studios president Jim Morris said, “The SparkShorts program is designed to discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows. These films are unlike anything we’ve ever done at Pixar, providing an opportunity to unlock the potential of individual artists and their inventive filmmaking approaches on a smaller scale than our normal fare.”
Earlier this year Disney included an openly LGBTQ character in “Onward.” The Dan Scanlon-directed Pixar animated feature received a theatrical release in February, just before the coronavirus-forced shut-downs of cineplexes, and found a new home streaming on Disney+ and other digital platforms, drastically shortening the usual theatrical window. The "Onward" character, Officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, casually brings up the stepdaughter she co-parents with her girlfriend.
As The Times' Tracy Brown wrote in March, Officer Specter was "the first character in any animated Disney film to openly acknowledge being queer in a line of dialogue." But given Disney's history of merely hinting at a few characters' LGBTQ sexuality, such as Gaston sidekick LeFou in the 2017 live-action "Beauty and the Beast," the "Onward" character left a lot of Disney fans wanting more.
"Out" couple Greg and Manuel seem to be a step toward answering that call.