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From Fairy Tales To Real Love: Discovering The Top 10 Gay Disney Characters!

From Fairy Tales To Real Love: Discovering The Top 10 Gay Disney Characters!

The story of LGBT representation and the lack thereof in animation and in cinema as a whole is a long, complicated, and often underhanded one. In fact, it is only now – long, long after queer material was legalized for commercial distribution – that massive animation studios with tens of movies are beginning to take their first baby steps into inclusiveness.

What started off with spoken words that implied gay Disney characters having same-sex partners didn’t take long to lead to short cameos and side characters. However, what makes taking the leap to main characters so frightening?

Most of the time the reluctance is attributed to distribution issues in countries like Saudi Arabia and China, where queer representation in media is banned and can see pieces of film being disallowed from display in the country altogether. The difficulty in going from cameo to character is quite simple, although a little sneaky. When a character mentions being queer in their dialogue, that can be rewritten when the movie is dubbed in other languages, and when a cameo featuring a same-sex couple takes place, that scene can be skipped or the couple excused as ‘just friends’.

This shows that – at least in some part – the reluctance stems from the fact that the movie would make less money if it included queer characters that cannot be easily written or dubbed out, both due to ‘foreign markets’ and the negative reactions of other conservative communities.

While the discourse on gay Disney characters is often speculative, and there’s significant room for improvement in ensuring authentic representation rather than it feeling either coerced by public demand or overlooked altogether, it’s important to acknowledge and value the progress made thus far.

With the helpful hand of fan-canon and speculation (On which most of this list is based!) one can find a lot of gems out there, even if they are simply characters that the LGBTQ community identifies with rather than actually queer themselves.

We know that you’re as eager to learn more about them and their backstories as we are, so let’s go! Time to discover the top ten queer icons and gay characters from Disney to date!

From Fairy Tales To Real Love: Discovering The Top 10 Gay Disney Characters!

#1) Cogsworth and Lumière from Beauty and the Beast

We’ve covered Gaston and LeFou’s complicated status as Beauty and the Beast characters in another article, but it seems that this 1991 Disney Classic has more to offer yet! In fact, it seems as though the Beauty and the Beast is a lot more progressive than even some of Disney’s newer films in a lot of ways.

Cogsworth and Lumière, as gay Disney characters, serve as strong supporting roles in the film, acting as butlers and servants of a sort to the Beast and in maintaining and brightening (literally!) the household. Cogsworth is a strict, reserved, and yet intensely loyal enchanted clock, while Lumière is a flame-tipped candelabra with much spirit and charisma.

Or at least that’s the forms they both take at the beginning of the film – for, as the story goes on to explain, both the Beast and all of his servants were cursed to look as they do now by the Enchantress that the Beast turned away from his castle due to her ‘hideous’ appearance. 

Their bickering, sometimes contentious relationship is made a large focusing point in the film, as is their apparent closeness despite the fact that they often do not see eye to eye. If the fact that they spend most of the Beauty and the Beast’s runtime acting like an old married couple wasn’t enough to make one consider the fact that Cogsworth and Lumière are in a relationship, then the range of affection that the two show one another during the film just might change your mind.

#1) Cogsworth and Lumière from Beauty and the Beast - Gay Disney Characters

#2) Greg from Out

An animated short released in 2020 by Pixar, Out is a first for both Pixar and Disney – featuring an openly gay protagonist, and having a story focusing around that same protagonist coming out to his parents, hence the name of the short ‘Out’. The short premiered on Disney+ before going on to be released on Youtube a year later for Pride Month 2021, allowing it to be watched by everyone on the internet for free.

Taking a break from packing up their apartment to move, Greg and his boyfriend Manuel are sharing a touching moment reminiscing over a photo of the both of them together when Greg’s parents arrive for an unexpected visit. The pair don’t know about Manuel or the fact that Greg is gay, however, and thus Manuel is forced to leave – but not before he hands Greg the photo and insists that he comes out to his parents.

The course of the story – and the sparkly, EDM-accompanied spirit cat and spirit dog that dive it – involves Greg absent-mindedly wishing that he had the life of his dog Jim, and then actually swapping bodies with him. Much humor ensues as ‘Greg’ (now inhabited by the mind of the dog) interacts with his parents in goofy, embarrassing ways, while Greg tries to stop his mother from finding the picture of he and his boyfriend together in his new canine body.

Things have their way of turning out right, however. Go watch the short on YouTube to find out how!

#2) Greg from Out - Gay Disney Characters

#3) Li Shang from Mulan

One of the main characters of the 1998 film Mulan alongside the titular character herself and Mushu, Li Shang is the son of a powerful army general, and the leader of the troop tasked with defending China that Mulan joins. 

Mulan is a classic topic at the table of discussing Disney’s attitude toward gender roles and queerness as a whole, both given the fact that the entire film revolves around gender in the sense that Mulan cannot join the army and must hide her gender due to the fact that she is a woman. When it comes to Li Sheng, however, although the general’s most famous song proclaims that he will ‘make a man out of’ Mulan’s assumed male persona ‘Peng’, it seems that his interest in masculinity is not (purely) from a misogynistic point of view. Li Sheng flirted with Mulan both when he thought that she was a man as well as when she was discovered to be a woman, possibly marking him as bisexual.

When the live remake of Mulan came to release, fans were somewhat shocked and surprised to see that Li Shang was removed from the movie altogether, and that not one element of his position in the plot remained. This was attributed to the fact that the writers felt as though viewers might feel uncomfortable with someone in a position of power flirting with one of his subordinates, which is not a point without merit, although many fans were still disappointed at the change.

#3) Li Shang from Mulan- Gay Disney Characters

#4) Alexander and Terry from Big City Greens

Big City Greens is a 2018 Disney Channel series that is still running as of the writing of this article. The show focusses on ‘Cricket Green’, a country boy who has recently moved to the city, and now must face everything that the concrete jungle has to throw at him. His wild adventures and untamable curiosity form the basis for Big City Greens, and leave never a dull moment.

But who are Alexander and Terry? A pair of characters that have been amongst the developmental process of the show since very early sketches and now serve as important side characters, Alexander and Terry are boyfriends that occasionally encounter the protagonists and offer advice.

While Terry has yet to speak a word in the entire runtime of the show and all of its associated material, Alexander is just as energetic as the show’s main character in a lot of ways, even when it comes to not seeing eye to eye with his boyfriend. 

While there was originally a little uncertainty about whether Alexander and Terry, as gay Disney characters, were a couple, despite the fact that even early sketches had them holding hands, the pair were confirmed to be a couple by the series creator, and that was all that fans needed to know. It also bears mention that Alexander’s voice actor – with Alexander being the only one out of the two characters that actually speaks – is openly gay in real life, meaning that his portrayal of the character is, to this day, considered in good taste.

#4) Alexander and Terry from Big City Greens - Gay Disney Characters

#5) Phastos from Eternals

While not many people think of Marvel as belonging to the notorious animation company itself, since the comic book franchise and its movies came under the administration of Disney back in 2020, there can be no denying that the ethos and the direction of Marvel films changed drastically. 

There is one positive outcome of this, however, and it comes in the form of the character Phastos.  A member of the universe-defending Eternal species, Phastos abandoned his mission as an eternal long before the events of the movie, and instead spent his time on earth starting a family and enjoying life like a normal human being, believing that he and the rest of the Eternals on earth had satisfied all that was required of them. 

Phastos is openly gay, and he is shown to be married to a human named Ben Stoss in the movie – with whom he has a son named Jack. When the rest of the Eternals come to ask for Phastos’ help in defeating a returned threat against Earth and all of its people, he agrees only reluctantly, wanting to protect his family from harm more than he is determined to have nothing to do with his supernatural heritage.

The inclusion of Phastos as a character in the movie and the fact that the character and his husband share a kiss was a reigniting match to the cynical condemnation of queer representation in cinema, although many critics have hailed it as an impressive step almost uncharacteristic of Disney.

phastos from Eternals - Gay Disney Characters

#6) Ethan Clade from Strange World

This character is a fairly recent inclusion to the list, but definitely earned its fair share of media attention – perhaps more than the entire rest of the movie he starred in, Strange World. Clade’s inclusion into the movie – or, rather, the inclusion of his crush and gay romance arc – resulted in a large amount of backlash from media and conservative parties, and is rumored to be the reason why the movie saw only a limited theater release and was then consigned to the deep dark depths at the back of the Disney+ streaming catalogue.

Strange World is a movie about discovery and new worlds – featuring, rather fittingly, a strange world where the discoveries of Ethan’s father, Searcher, led to the construction of a utopia-like civilization powered by a magical strain of fruit. Ethan’s crush on fellow young man Diazo is heavily referenced all throughout the film, not only before Ethan and his parents embark out into the unknown, when Diazo and other friends come to Searcher’s farm to talk about card games with Ethan, but also during and after. Ethan openly talks about his crush with his long-estranged grandfather, and the end of the film shows the pair clearly having been in a relationship for some time.

It is a shame that such a heartwarming relationship and character dynamic is at least partially responsible for giving the film a fate of limited success, but it can be said that the fact that the movie exists is progress enough.

#6) Ethan Clade from Strange World - Gay Disney Characters

#7) Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King

Okay – you’re going to have to hear this one out. Making the insinuation that these two are a couple is sure to be a surprise to some, and almost sacrilegious to others, but aside from the clear fact that the two are close and live with one another out on the savannah, there is a fair bit of evidence to the claim. After all, both Timon and Pumbaa are cut out from their respective species and homes for being different, the pair often share touching moments of closeness, and they quite literally adopt Simba. 

As the cherry on top of the cake, both of the voice actors that have voiced Timon in both the original movies and the remake – Nathan Lane and Billy Eichner – are openly gay. Eichner, however, batted down attempts to correlate his sexuality with that of the character by saying “I mean, I’m gay and Nathan Lane’s gay, so it’s interesting when a straight actor does a role, no one’s like, ‘That character must be straight.’ But because it’s Nathan and me they’re like, ‘Oh, Timon must be gay.’ Which is not to say he’s not gay. You’ll have to ask the writers. It’s not specified in the script.”

So take that with a grain of salt as you will. After all, very little Disney characters are confirmed as being gay, which leaves us to scrounge around for the smallest hints of queerness, but we can only hope that things become less patchy in the future!

#7) Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King- Gay Disney Characters

#8) Bucky and Pronk from Zootopia

Zootopia was a ‘first’ in a lot of different ways. Not only did it bring a new, broader approach to Disney’s long-standing use of anthropomorphic animals, but it was also the company’s first attempt at providing societal commentary that had relevance in the real world. This can be clearly seen between the lines of the plot, with the conflict between predators and prey acting as a metaphor for themes of racism and cultural segregation.

Race (or species) wasn’t the only subject broached in this 2016 blockbuster, however. Zootopia also included Disney’s first officially gay married couple, though – in classic Disney style – their presence was somewhat of a background act, and thus easily edited or dubbed out so that the company could maximize profit in regions where an outwardly queer pair of characters would have caused the movie to be banned.

The characters in questions are Bucky and Pronk – protagonist Judy Hopps’ neighbors that introduce themselves to her as ‘loud’ upon her first day in her new apartment in Zootopia. There’s not much more to say about them as character than that, given that they are never seen again, but one piece of concrete piece of evidence towards their status as a couple does exist outside of dialogue and what the writers have said about the them. Diligent fans were able to notice that both Bucky and Pronk are listed in the credits as having the last name Oryx-Antlerson, which can only mean that they are married. Congrats to them!

#8) Bucky and Pronk from Zootopia - Gay Disney Characters

#9) Oaken from Frozen

While often overlooked or explained away (although it’s hard to see how the evidence can be dismissed here!), it turns out that there has been gay representation in Disney films a lot earlier than we might think. That’s right: a gay couple, complete with family, right in what is perhaps Disney’s most famous movie of all – Frozen, showcases gay Disney characters subtly integrated into the storyline.

Many of you will probably be asking ‘But who is Oaken’? Well. Diligent watchers or fans of the 2013 film might remember the owner of ‘Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna’ – the store laden with summer items that Anna and Kristoff stumble upon during their quest to find Elsa and put a stop to her magical winter. Strong, tall, and clad in traditional clothing, Oaken greets the pair and attempts to peddle his summer wares with much zeal, making the best of the sudden change of season.

While Oaken’s selection of winter supplies is dismal, his enthusiasm to close a sale is not – and he even throws in a visit to the sauna with the price of some of his products, pointing to the glass window of the sauna itself, saying “Hello family!” 

The camera then changes angle to the door, where what can be assumed as four children and a man the same age as Oaken wave back enthusiastically.

While there is no confirmation or concrete evidence that the man is Oaken’s husband, his inclusion in the family and the children they share has led to the certainty of many gleeful fans.

#9) Oaken from Frozen - Gay Disney Characters

#10) Pleakley from Lilo and Stitch

Now this is an underrated one! Pleakly – a three-leg-tentacled alien who originally worked for the Galactic Federation before becoming a part of Lilo’s family in the 2002 film Lilo and Stitch. While his character seems to have been rather easily forgotten and is generally looked over by fans scanning Disney’s works for LGBT-leaning characters, that isn’t to say that he doesn’t deserve a spot on this list!

Pleakley enters the Lilo and Stitch franchise as somewhat of a wild card – introduced into the story at the bidding of the Galactic Federation in an effort to capture Stitch, but in actuality he is a very caring character. During the movie he spent most of his time disguised as a human woman and acts as somewhat of the submissive ‘villain sidekick’ to his partner Dr. Jumba Jookiba. In fact, Pleakly and Jumba end up quite literally getting married in Season 1, Episode 14 of Lilo and Stitch: The Series. Things can’t get much more confirmed than that!

This makes Pleakley an absolute trailblazer of a character, and that’s without even starting on the role he later takes as Lilo’s ‘aunt’, cooking, cleaning, and nurturing all throughout the movie and to a greater extent the series in which he features. No struggle, ado, and media attention involved – Pleakley is simply a legend of his own league and kind, and that’s all that needs to be known about him! See? It isn’t so hard to throw in a bit of character variety after all! 

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