Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.
“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.
“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”
He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.
There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.
Marvel Studios is owned by Disney.
Disney’s “family friendly” criticism
There has been some criticism recently after Disney moved the Love, Simon spin-off series from the Disney+ streaming service to Hulu, which it also owns.
Called Love, Victor, the show is a based on the film and is about a teenage boy who comes out as gay at high school.
Variety reported that it wouldn’t fit in with “family-friendly” shows on Disney+.
A gay character was planned to appear in the revival of the Disney star’s show.
Other shows on the streaming service do feature gay characters.
At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.
As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”
She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”.
A petition on the Citizen Go website entitled: “Stop LGBT indoctrination at Disneyland” has just over 400,000 signatures.
Disneyland Paris hosted a pride event last year and this year’s celebration is currently scheduled for June.
New Disney-Pixar film Onward includes a reference to a lesbian couple – which led to it being banned in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
There have also been brief references to gay characters in other big Disney-owned franchises.
Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo played the minor role of “grieving man” in the 2019 blockbuster.
And Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features (spoiler) the first same-sex kiss in the franchise’s history – described by a reviewer as “a brief flash of two women kissing… among a crowd of characters”.
In January, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said there will be an openly transgender character “in a movie that we’re shooting right now.”
And Phastos, the character played by Bryan Lee Henry in The Eternals, was announced to be openly gay – with a husband and kids.
Haaz Sleiman, who plays Phastos’ husband in the upcoming film, recently said the film features “a beautiful, very moving kiss. Everyone cried on set.”