From Mickey to the MCU and 'Star Wars,' Disney Offers Pride-Themed Merch

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday May 28, 2022
Originally published on May 20, 2022

From Mickey to the MCU and 'Star Wars,' Disney Offers Pride-Themed Merch
  (Source:Walt Disney Co.)

Unbowed by the punitive actions of anti-LGBTQ+ Florida lawmakers, Disney has introduced a Pride-themed line of merchandise that spans the Magic Kingdom's entertainment empire, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The Disney Pride Collection was created by LGBTQIA+ employees and allies at The Walt Disney Company and is a reflection of their incredible contributions and place at the heart of the company," the Times quoted from text on the company's website. "We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ community everywhere."

A more personal message was posted by the senior vice president of global marketing for Disney Parks, Lisa Becket, according to political news site the Hill.

"As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and a longstanding Disney cast member," Becket wrote in a blog post, "I greatly appreciate the consistent opportunity for my voice to be heard."

It's not that the company never sold any Pride-themed merch prior to now, Yahoo! News clarified. "The collection, previously referred to as the Rainbow collection, was first launched in 2018 but until now had not used Pride-specific language," Yahoo! said.

Along with that rebranding, Disney's putting the proceeds where its mouse is: Squarely on its allyship.

"One hundred percent of profits from sales until June 30 — including Star Wars- and Marvel-themed clothing, toys, dog leashes and other accessories in the collection — will be donated to organizations that support LGBTQ youth and families," Yahoo! detailed.

Though long known to be LGBTQ+ friendly — the company's theme parks are the sites of annual "Gay Days" events that outside organizations put together, but that Disney allows to take place — the Times pointed out that the "big branding move" comes even as Disney "has become a conservative target for its support of LGBTQ+ rights."

Not that it took much for Florida GOP lawmakers — followed by a wider swath of American conservatives — to focus their ire on the company. After keeping quiet on Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill (now a law being copied in other states), Disney CEO Bob Chapek, catching heat from the company's employees and in the wake of headlines revealing that the company had funded the political campaigns of the bill's sponsors, finally offered faint criticism of the measure.

That was enough to open the floodgates: Conservatives have now mounted a crusade against the company, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accusing Disney of being "woke" and having too-close ties to China. State lawmakers in Florida rushed a bill to DeSantis' desk revoking Disney's long-held right to act as a government on its own property in the state, effectively welshing on an original agreement that had lured the company there in the first place.

It might turn out to be an expensive form of revenge. Critics, and Disney itself, have noted that the legal ramifications of the hasty law could stick Florida taxpayers with a tab of more than $1 billion.

More attacks on Disney from the GOP have followed, with Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri taking aim at the company's copyright over its most iconic IP: Mickey Mouse. Justifying this attack, Hawley said in a statement that "The age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over," and went on to add: "Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists."

It remains to be seen what "big business," which has long underwritten GOP politicians (as Disney itself did before it "suspended" its political donations in Florida) will have to say about that.

Meanwhile, Disney has come back more forcefully than before in its critiques. After the bill was signed into law by DeSantis, the company vowed to work to see the measure repealed.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.