“Mom, Dad, I’m…This is my boyfriend, Manuel”, practices Greg, Disney Pixar’s first queer protagonist, in front of his dog, while holding up a picture of himself with his boyfriend. Aptly titled, Out is one of the nine short animated films released by the production house in 2020 via Disney+Hotstar, their streaming platform. I found it to be a heartwarming one, as were Float and Pearl.
Disney+ Hotstar is not the streaming service that comes to mind when I think of inclusive content. Earlier this year, the OTT platform went ahead and released Laxmii, an Akshay Kumar-starrer, despite being widely panned as transphobic by the community. In sharp contrast, Disney’s Pixar is being celebrated internationally for finally sharing the centre stage with the queer community. As an Indian viewer, this dichotomy did make me question whether the company is interpreting its cultural and social stances differently in India than it is abroad.
Out, which was created and intended for international release, is as aesthetically appealing as it is heartwarming. There is nostalgia in its style of animation, with every frame making one feel as if they are looking at a canvas painting gifted years ago by an old lover. This is fitting considering that the narrative evokes the feel of reminiscing old memories on a rainy afternoon with a warm cup of tea in one’s hand. Told from the perspective of a magical cat and dog, Out is the story of Greg, who is about to move to the city with his new family – his adorable dog and loving boyfriend. However, he is not out to his parents yet and has apprehensions about how they might react to this news. While Manuel and Greg pack, Greg’s parents unexpectedly turn up at the door to help him move, causing him to panic even as Manuel urges him to give ‘the conversation’ a go.
Perhaps the best part of the film is the very good boy that is Greg’s dog, Jim. There is something adorable about the way the movie embraces his naughtiness as well as lovability, especially when he tries to help an anxious Greg breathe while he tries to prevent his parents from finding out about his boyfriend. There are also some laugh-out-loud moments featuring Greg’s dad who has settled himself in his backyard. Nothing comes close, however, to the heart-to-heart conversation between Greg and his mother. From the moment that woman comes through the door with food for her son, you know she means business when it comes to being there for him – and spoiler alert – this story has a happy ending.
Written and directed by Steven Hunter, the film is beautiful in the way it represents a duality in its interpretation of magic. On the one hand, there is a literal magical occurrence that adds hilarity and a touch of otherworldliness to the story. On the other, we get a glimpse at the magic of love and acceptance that melts the heart and makes everything softer about the world that we live in. What is also really interesting is that the literal magic is used not to provide a resolution, but to push the plot forward. The ending remains dependent on the humanity of the characters and their real ability to understand and be there for each other. Being just nine minutes long, the film leaves you wishing you had more time with them.