LGBTQ+ members of Disney’s DMED team — or Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution — have joined their colleagues from Pixar in writing an internal letter saying that company leadership’s “lack of action” in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill suggests Disney’s commitment to diversity “may be as toothless as we feared it would be.”
The DMED team on Wednesday sent its statement to Disney leadership (as shared in full on Instagram by an employee) in response to CEO Bob Chapek’s first official comments condemning the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that has now passed the Florida legislature. It took issue with the previous internal statements by Chapek and by chief diversity officer Latondra Newton, saying it was inappropriate to ask LGBTQ+ employees to wait for DEI meetings on March 22 and another on April 12 for a response.
The latter date is when Chapek said in his internal memo that Disney would reassess its political contributions, some of which have gone to sponsors and co-sponsors of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida. The DMED group is now calling on leadership to immediately withdraw their funding to such politicians and “forcefully denounce these efforts as antithetical to the ethics of TWDC and its employees.”
“The response from TWDC leadership has been lackluster at best and trying to play both sides at worst. Asking thousands of queer and questioning employees to wait for a DEI summit on March 22 and April 13 is not the appropriate response, nor is it promising the world that ‘inclusive content’ will be our solution,” the letter reads. “Queer folks are used to this sort of hollow promise of allyship and inaction – the difference this time is The Walt Disney Company’s recent dedication to inclusivity and diversity.”
Also on Wednesday, Pixar employees sent leadership a similar letter but also accused Disney brass of asking to remove signs of affection from queer characters in LGBTQ+ content, even when employees and other Pixar leadership have protested.
“We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were,” the Pixar letter read. “Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
DMED’s letter noted that Disney, in recent years, has made commitments to support diversity, equity and inclusion and even added “inclusion” as one of its “keys” or pillars of its values. But in the letter, DMED argued that the lack of action over “Don’t Say Gay” indicated that those commitments may be “toothless” and that a chief diversity officer should “hold the company to account,” rather than release “statements that toe the company line.”
It also took issue with Chapek’s assertion that diverse content will send a stronger message than a formal company statement.
“It seems Bob Chapek does not understand our intersectionality as a community and believes any sort of diverse content should satisfy the whole. We are not a monolith. Grouping all diverse groups together without acknowledging our differences is offensive, ”he reads. “Frankly, the content that represents our community truly isn’t there, and to claim that is and always has been dishonest. The content we are represented in routinely relegates us to side characters and often simple cameos that may get cut in foreign markets.”
A representative for Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday, Chapek and a group of LGBTQ+ leaders met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to express their concerns, although the governor indicated that his intention to sign the bill into law has not changed. Chapek also said during Wednesday’s shareholder meeting that he had privately lobbied against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill but was unsuccessful. And they agreed to offer $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and joined a list of companies opposing it, only for the HRC to refuse Disney’s donation until real action was taken.