Oftentimes I look at my dog Zelda, a beautiful pet AmStaff troublemaker, and wish we could switch places just for a while to take a break from our complicated human world.
That is precisely what happens to Greg in writer/director Steven Clay Hunter’s short film Out, part of Pixar’s experimental project “SparkShorts,” a program “designed to discover new storytellers, explore new storytelling techniques, and experiment with new production workflows.”
Out tells of a gay man still in the closet, who struggles to come out to his parents during a surprise visit from them during moving day. Their visit prompts Greg to ask his boyfriend to go out the backdoor, which was met by a stern response commanding Greg to tell his parents the truth. In a hilarious twist of magic, Greg switches places with his dog Jim through the help of two sparkly fairy pet parents. Greg now must simultaneously figure out a way to switch back, all while hiding a photo of him and his boyfriend from his mother.
Greg’s character is a milestone for Pixar, as he is the first gay main character to be featured in a Pixar production. The film itself underscores the struggles that can come from not being “out” with loved ones and the fear of not knowing what the reaction can be when “coming out.” The short film also uses the switch in perspective to show that sometimes we underestimate people’s ability to accept and love others for who they are.
Out marks the first time we see images from the acclaimed studio depicting scenes of affection between characters of the LGBT+ community. Speaking to the Associated Press, Hunter (Director), who has been animating at Pixar for 23 years said, “The first time I drew Greg and Manuel holding each other in the bedroom, I was bawling my face off. All this emotion came welling up because I realized I had been in animation for decades and I had never drawn that in my career. It just hit me.”
The industry has been slow to show mainstream inclusion of the community on screens large and small. Pixar has dabbled in representation with a line from the movie “Onward,” where a cyclops character references her girlfriend when speaking about being a new parent. Due to this mention, Onward received a ban in four countries and censorship in many others by simply changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner,” and removing any reference to the character’s sexuality. This certainly hurt the pockets at Pixar, however, it showed they were ready to advance representation of the LGBT+ community for which they have been lagging far behind. Nonetheless, they are making strides.
Jeremy Blacklow, GLAAD’s Director of Entertainment Media said of the film, “Out represents the best of Disney and Pixar’s legacy as a place for heartwarming stories about finding one’s own inner strength in the face of life’s challenges.”
There is a real struggle individuals in the LGBT+ community face when it comes to having the conversation of their sexual identity with the loved ones that raised them and this short film expresses that beautifully. At one point, Greg looks at his dog Jim and asks “What is wrong with me?” By the end of the film, he realizes that which we all know, “nothing” at all.
The nine minute film is a joy to watch from beginning to end with heartfelt emotion, exhilarating fun and a meaningful story about courage, love and perspective. It is now available to stream on Disney+