Next week, Disney+ will release its second annual variety special for Pride month — featuring a parade of talent celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community “through song and storytelling.”
Asked why “Say It With Pride” will not be distributed on Disney+, a company spokesperson declined to provide an explanation. Note that last year’s “This Is Me: Pride Celebration Spectacular” from Disney+ also streamed only on YouTube and Facebook.
According to Disney+’s announcement, the upcoming special “aims to uplift voices from the community to discuss their journeys, celebrate the achievements and contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community, and look toward a future that embodies diversity and unity with PRIDE.”
Why doesn’t that fit into the Disney+ programming lineup? One way to look at this is that “Say It With Pride” is, essentially, an infomercial for Disney+ — a vehicle to tout the LGBTQIA+ characters and stories on the service. As a content marketing pitch aimed at non-subscribers, it makes sense that the Disney+ Pride special would be off-platform and available free to watch. In a similar vein, the company produces “What’s Up, Disney+,” a promotional weekly talk show about the streaming service that goes up on YouTube and Facebook (and not Disney+).
To be sure, Disney+ currently features a “Celebrate Pride Month” content collection, stocked with such movies and series as “Trevor: The Musical” (premiering June 24), “Love, Victor,” “Glee,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” “Better Nate Than Ever,” Pixar’s short “Out,” the studio’s first project with a gay main character, and “West Side Story,” starring Ariana DeBose, who this year became the first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar for the role.
Still, why wouldn’t Disney+ put the “Say It With Pride” special on its own service? The Mouse House obviously isn’t shy about self-promotion. For example, there’s the 14-minute Marvel Studios 2021 Disney+ Day Special on the platform, mainly a supercut of shows like “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki” that also teased Marvel’s upcoming releases on Disney+.
The optics are that Disney wants to show support for LGBTQIA+ employees and creative partners with the celebratory Pride special — but avoid angering “anti-woke” conservative types by leaving it off Disney+.
The company has a fraught history on LGBTQ issues. Disney was mum on Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law — then came out in opposition to the legislation, prompting a backlash that culminated in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a bill to eliminate Disney’s self-governing tax district in Orlando. This month, Pixar’s “Lightyear” was banned in several West Asian countries and territories because of a fleeting same-sex kiss in the “Toy Story” spinoff (which Pixar restored after employees accused Disney of censoring “overtly gay affection” in its films). The scene also spun some American right-wingers into a tizzy about the media conglomerate’s extraordinarily brief acknowledgement that gay people exist. In this context, by keeping “Say It With Pride” off Disney+, the company may be hoping to minimize the predictable fury from reactionary critics.
Talent appearing in Disney+’s “Say It With Pride” special includes legendary composer and EGOT Alan Menken, Alex Newell (“Glee”), Angelica Ross (“Pose”), Disney Music Group’s a cappella singing group DCapella, artist Jack Hughes, Jenny Lorenzo (host of “What’s Up Disney+”), Jessica Darrow (“Encanto”), ESPN features writer Katie Barnes, Nina West (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” and host of Disney+’s 2021 Pride special), Reuby Wood (“Better Nate Than Ever”), Topher Ngo (“Turning Red”), Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, and Victoria Alonso, Marvel’s president, physical and post production, VFX and animation production.
Tee Vaden directs the special, which is produced in partnership with Disney Music Group and the Disney Pride Employee Resource Group. Watch the trailer for Disney+’s “Say It With Pride” special: