"The Owl House" "The Owl House"

Cartoon Network executives aren’t the only ones to have resisted queer representation in family animation. The creator of The Owl House, which is currently running on Disney Channel, has revealed the difficulties she faced after proposing gay and bi characters for a recent episode.

Dana Terrace took to Twitter to explain: “In dev I was very open about my intention to put queer kids in the main cast. I’m a horrible liar so sneaking it in would’ve been hard haha. When we were greenlit I was told by certain Disney leadership that I could NOT represent any form of bi or gay relationship on the Channel.”

She added, “I’m bi! I want to write a bi character, dammit! Luckily my stubbornness paid off and now I am VERY supported by current Disney leadership.”

The episode in question, “Enchanting Grom Fright,” aired on August 8. It suggests a budding romantic relationship between two female characters: Luz, the show’s protagonist, and her classmate Amity.

Terrace’s comments were echoed by Alex Hirsch, creator of Gravity Falls, which ran on Disney Channel and Disney XD from 2012 to 2016. Commenting on one of Terrace’s tweets, he wrote, “Back when I made [Gravity Falls] Disney FORBADE me from any explicit LGBTQ+ rep. Apparently ‘happiest place on earth’ meant ‘straightest.’”

Alongside an image of Luz and Amity holding hands, he added, “In 2012 the Disney censor note on this image would have been: ‘inappropriate for channel, please revise, call to discuss’ (to avoid a paper trail).”

Chris Nee, creator of Doc McStuffins, chipped into the discussion. Responding to Hirsch, Nee wrote, “Love it. I had to go to the mat to get my two mom episode of Doc. So happy to see the line keep moving.” Doc McStuffins ran on Disney Channel and Disney Junior from 2012 to 2020. The episode “The Emergency Plan,” which aired in 2017, features a lesbian couple as parents.

These three creators are speaking about their experiences with Disney, but creators elsewhere have faced similar hurdles. In a recent interview, Rebecca Sugar (Steven Universe) and Noelle Stevenson (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power) spoke about their struggles to convince executives to approve the depiction of queer relationships. Steven Universe was produced at Cartoon Network; She-Ra by Dreamworks Animation for Netflix.

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