Disney tried to kill Nimona, but Netflix proved that LGBTQIA+ films are here to slay

By Mason Berlinka

Published Jul 15, 2023 at 09:15 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

3D animation is back and stronger than ever, just look at the response films like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish have been getting from critics and audiences alike. This time though, the spotlight is on Nimona, an all ages sci-fi fantasy adventure that sees a disgraced knight teaming up with a mischievous, shape-shifting teen to prove his innocence. The film was stealth dropped onto Netflix on 30 June 2023 and it has since managed to break into the streamer’s global Top 10 film ranking.

So why is Nimona so special, and why has it managed to capture gen Z’s heart? It’s largely due to the fact that in spite of an increasingly hostile world for the LGBTQIA+ community, the film has managed to create an accessible experience that is able to champion queer themes and even include a same-sex romance.

Despite the acclaim and praise the film is currently receiving online, Nimona’s journey onto our screens wasn’t an easy one, and was marred by alleged disapproval from Disney before being abandoned upon the closure of Blue Sky Studios, the team helming the project back in 2021.

Former Blue Sky employees claim that Disney’s leadership objected with the queer elements of the movie, in particular a same-sex kiss that features near the end. In the struggle for queer representation on our screens, the move feels like par for the course in the fight in the ongoing fight.

Subsequently picked up by Netflix and Annapurna Pictures, the film finally had a slightly more accepting new home but even at Netflix, it failed to receive widespread marketing or promotion in comparison to other of the streaming giant’s productions which have so often been relentlessly shoved down our throats.

 This should start raising some flags, especially when you consider that Nimona is filled to the brim with acclaimed actors like Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Nightcrawler) and Chloë Grace Moretz (Kickass, Let Me In) in the titular role—RuPaul even makes an appearance. With names like this, you’d expect a little more fanfare would have been in order leading up to the release.

Although it met a quiet release on Netflix, Nimona was able to avoid having to shy away from its queer protagonists, nor did it attempt to disguise the powerful themes that run through it, like the clear trans allegory of the shape-shifting eponymous character.

It’s clear that the deck was stacked against the animated film from the get-go, and yet it has managed to amass an immensely engaged audience, as well as a wealth of critical praise. Film critic Heather Hogan calls Nimona “unmatched queer storytelling,” but despite its queer lens, the animated movie remains accessible to pretty much everyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity.

So why was the film put through the ringer before it could even reach our screens? In the wake of an increasingly authoritarian America, it makes sense that Disney would struggle to find a place for it—or perhaps the giant was too scared to take a stance. A shame, given the success of its recent diverse remakes like that of The Little Mermaid.

Again, we also saw Netflix afraid to give the film a firm fighting chance, with a severe lack of hype leading up to its release. It’s confusing too, given the success the platform has had with other queer series like Heartstopper.

It feels like the fact that Nimona had to essentially sell itself is proof that all ages queer storytelling is something that both Hollywood and the film industry at large need to sort out. We’re being drip fed, and though Nimona had the community eating good, the hesitancy around the film’s release still evokes frustration.

What we can take away from the success of this extravagant and endearing outing is that producers need to open their eyes and see that queer inclusion is essential for the industry moving forward, and a failure to acknowledge this is letting audiences down.

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