What is it about Disney movies that the LGBT community loves?
Is it the message of being yourself? The underdog and misfit lead characters? Or just the idea good will triumph over evil and there will be a happy ending?
Thousands of LGBT people and their families regularly attend Gay Days at the Disney theme parks, where they wear red, have a good time and spread visibility for a company that has done very little in supporting them back – at least openly.
But while the movies are great (well, some of them), there has never been an explicitly gay, bi or trans character in an animated Disney children’s movie.
There are some characters that Disney could have intended to be gay, or characters that use gay stereotypes or even just has a large gay following.
So let’s take a look back on our childhoods and see exactly who are the 16 most ambiguously ‘gay’ Disney characters:
DISCLAIMER: This is all up for interpretation and in no way should be seen as a factual representation of what the filmmakers intended.
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Perhaps the most famous example of a direct tie to the LGBT community, Disney created the iconic villain Ursula the Sea Witch using the likeness and personality of drag queen Divine.
In The Little Mermaid, she seduces, she manipulates, she’s theatrical. And most of all she does it all while remembering the most important thing – body language.
Scar (The Lion King)
Why include Scar in this líst? Sure he’s effeminate, sardonic and at the end of the movie appears to not have had a relationship with any of the lionesses while Simba has run away, eaten bugs and grown up. But that doesn’t make him gay, right?
Scar is an example of a ‘coded gay’. This means by using a clues to a character’s sexuality, filmmakers can reference a time when being gay was depraved by using similar behavior, demeanor and dress. That way, audiences understood the character was meant to be queer even if there was no actual same-sex love interests.
This is far more common in Disney films than you might think, but is perhaps best represented by…
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Disney villains come in all shapes and sizes, but the one they always come back to is the fop.
Back in 17th century England, the word ‘fop’ was used to negatively describe ‘fashionable’, effeminate, cowardly man. The modern gay male stereotype.
It’s an archetype used for decades in Hollywood cinema, with the contemporary fop often being effeminate, power-hungry and almost always played by a British actor or with a refined English accent.
Ratcliffe is also played by gay actor David Ogden Stiers. While this certainly does not mean gay actor = gay character, it adds an extra dimension. Why did the filmmakers want Stiers to play Ratcliffe as a fop, rather than the way he played Major Winchester in M*A*S*H?
But even before you see Ratcliffe calling the Native Americans savages, the audience already loathes him because of his ridiculously camp haircut.
Disney used this type of villain time and time again, with too many to put on this list. But for other examples, Disney fops include Jafar from Aladdin, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Prince John from Robin Hood and even going all the way up to Doctor Facilier in The Princess and The Frog. There are several others.
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Don‘t remember the film? Professor Ratigan is the Moriarty to lead character Basil the detective’s Sherlock Holmes.
Made clear from the outset the two are archenemies, movie critics suggested there could be sexual tension between the two. Ratigan’s ‘Goodbye So Soon‘ is practically a love song.
Ratigan’s name could also be a tribute to 20th century gay playwright Terrence Rattigan.
A more modern take on a US fop in this 1990s film, as Hades is like every girl’s sassy gay best friend.
For a good example, just take a look at this video below:
Timon and Pumbaa (The Lion King)
Coded gays don’t have to be villains, Lion King comic relief Timon and Pumbaa are flamboyant, fun and even make a pretty good argument for same-sex parenting.
Timon is voiced by gay actor Nathan Lane, and unlike Scar it is exactly the gay stereotypes that makes him and Pumbaa appealing to children.
Also, Hakuna Matata is a song about being free from your worries. Sounds like Pride.
‘Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know/ Well now they know!’
‘It’s funny how some distance/ Makes everything seem small/ And the fears that once controlled me/ Can’t get to me at all!’
It’s the coming out anthem that will go onto define many young LGBT lives, Let It Go was all about shaking of the shackles of confinement, the closet, and being free to be empowered. It doesn’t hurt that while there’s male love interests a plenty for her sister, Elsa has no guy in sight whatsoever.