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Not Just Queer Coded, These Disney Villains Were Designed by a Gay Man

Not Just Queer Coded, These Disney Villains Were Designed by a Gay Man

Meet the animator behind some of our favorite Disney villains.

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Disney has felt the heat as of late as fans call on the company to publicly condemn Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, which just passed through the state senate. "The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here, and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community," CEO Bob Chapek wrote in an internal memo to employees. 

But fans believe that is hypocritical as representation has been minimal at best over the years. As of today, Pixar animators are speaking out against the company, sharing in an open letter that corporate offices "have demanded the removal of 'nearly every moment of overtly gay affection … regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar,'" according to The Advocate.

The controversy led some fans to point out that LGBTQ+ folks have always been a part of Disney's success. One Twitter thread showcased the contributions of Andreas Deja, an animator that's been with the company since 1985 and is responsible for some of our favorite characters.

Deja's first gig was The Black Cauldron. He proceeded to work on classics like The Little Mermaid, Oliver & Company, Hercules, Lilo & Stitch, and many more over the years. His credits include Supervising Animator for three iconic villains that later generations have described as queer coded: Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, and Scar in The Lion King.

Queer-coding villains was an easy way for 1900s animation to designate a character as different, usually saddling them with a bunch of cliché, homosexual stereotypes that the audience digests and associates as evil, playing off of history's real-life stigma against LGBTQ+ folks. But the gays have reclaimed these villains! And all these years later, it's nice to know the queer coding was more literal than we imagined. 

Not to say this was good LGBTQ+ representation. Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar said it best in a conversation with Insider.  "If you can only exist as a villain or a joke, I mean, that's a really heavy thing to be saturated with as a kid." Thankfully, gays aren't just the villains anymore as we have a growing amount of positive representation in animation these days. 

It's nice to see the internet giving Deja credit where credit is due! The 64-year-old currently runs a blog where he shares his old and new work, early ideas and sketches for Disney characters we know and love, as well as highlighting other illustrators he admires. Check it out here.

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!