Pixar's new animated short "Out," released Friday, follows the journey of Greg and his curious pup, Jim, and Greg's boyfriend, Manuel, on moving day.
Where one might expect the contemporary tale of "Boy meets boy," we're met with the often-ignored dilemma and subplot of "Boy tells parents about boy."
It's the studio's first project featuring a gay main character and storyline.
In the short, we first find Greg and Manuel preparing to head to the big city together to start fresh, to dream big, to escape the reach of parents and live a life together openly.
But when Greg's mom and dad show up unexpectedly to help with the move, it becomes clear that Greg's secret has created a huge void in his life: a real connection with his parents. It's time to come out to his parents, boyfriend and all. But he just can't bring himself to do it.
"What's wrong with me?" Greg asks himself.
It's a question that will resonate throughout the film.
Going as far as making Manuel leave the house before Greg’s parents can see him, the film's creators give us a front row seat to the based-on-a-true-story roller coaster of emotion and anxiety involved in confiding in your parents that you're different.
The plot of the story thickens when Greg concedes to his dog, Jim, that he would rather be a dog than to share his truth and life with his mom and dad. As Greg and his dog magically swap bodies, we're given a lesson in owning one's authentic self versus simply navigating around it, and that the universe has a funny way of teaching us lessons along the way and to be careful what we ask for.
When Greg, in his dog's body, bites his mom to keep her from seeing a photo of him and Manuel together, he learns that his greatest fear, unharnessed, begins to hurt the people around him that he loves.
Greg ends up going through great lengths to keep the truth from his parents, and we we find Greg's mom, frustrated by the day's events, questioning her own motherhood and how she's struggled with the growing distance between her and Greg over the years.
"What's wrong with me?" she asks.
And it's here that we are reminded, in a nine-minute animated short, that coming out is for parents, too.
Directed by Steven Clay Hunter, who also worked on "WALL-E," and "Finding Dory," "Out" is part of the Spark Shorts project launched by Pixar with the launch of Disney+.
Pixar describes Spark Shorts as "artists' projects," designed to discover new storytellers and explore new storytelling techniques from across the studio.
"These films are unlike anything we've ever done at Pixar, providing an opportunity to unlock the potential of individual artists and their inventive filmmaking approaches on a smaller scale than our normal fare," said Jim Morris, president of Pixar Animation Studios.
While "Out" is a Pixar first, and includes the studio's first on-screen same-sex kiss, the animated short follows a somewhat recent directive from Disney executive chairman Bob Iger for the company to create stories to reflect the world we live and do business in. "The more we infuse that in our stories, the better we are," Iger has said.
Moments of diversity and inclusion have been featured in a number of recent Disney projects, from a same-sex kiss at the end of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," to a mention of a female cop having a girlfriend (voiced by Lena Waithe) in Pixar's "Onward," to "Black Panther," Marvel's first feature film with a black superhero.
Looking to the future, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said earlier this year that LGBTQ+ representation is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "The Eternals" will feature Marvel's first out gay character, who will have a husband and family.
While "Out" gives us a chance to empathize with those who deal with having to come out, the animated short is a look into the perpetual challenge of facing yourself no matter what stage of life you might be in, what you identify as or who you love.
And when it comes to the question, "What's wrong with me?" the freeing yet inevitable answer is, Truly nothing at all.
Watch Pixar's "Out" exclusively on Disney+.
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