In 1978 Harvey Milk, who would have turned 90 today, urged his “gay brothers and sisters” that they “must come out. Come out to your parents…once and for all, break down the myths. Destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.” Over four decades later the act of coming out, particularly to ones parents, can still be a daunting one.
Fittingly on Harvey Milk Day, director Steven Clay Hunter’s heartwarming animated short film Out arrived on streaming platform Disney+. Under Pixar’s SparkShorts banner, Out was made as part of an “indie” program that enables budding Pixar filmmakers to create personal work over several months on a smaller scale than the studio’s usual output.
‘Based on a true story’, according to the opening title card, it’s moving day for Greg (Kyle McDaniel) and his boyfriend Manuel (Caleb Cabrera). Affectionate towards one another and evidently in love, they are preparing to leave town. Only then, Greg says, will he be comfortable enough (and far enough away from his parents) to display a gorgeous framed photo of the couple from a camping trip: “once we’re in the city I’ll hang it right out in the open.” When Greg’s parents unexpectedly arrive to help with the move, pizza casserole in hand, Manuel is quickly shooed out of the house (a routine he’s clearly all-too-familiar with and tiring of) and the photograph which had been hidden away in Greg’s sock drawer is hurriedly once again placed out of sight.
Fortunately the situation is being watched over by a magical pink dog and purple cat named Gigi (Matthew Martin) giving us some It’s A Wonderful Life realness. The pair’s entrance at the start of the film is almost as fabulously queer as Glinda’s giant bubble in The Wizard of Oz, with the unlikely canine and feline duo appearing from the sky, transported by a glittery rainbow (with their own soulful up-tempo theme song, Pink & Purple, performed by Natahsa Adorlee) to cause some mischief that will help Greg finally be honest about who he is. A body swap comedy, in the tradition of Big and Freaky Friday ensues, with Greg (now in the body of his adorable dog Jim) frantically attempting to hide evidence of his relationship with Manuel from his mother.
There’s an endearingly winsome storybook quality to the animation style that creates an emotional warmth and makes the characters easy to empathise with, along with affecting, subtle work from the voice cast. The recurrence of pink and purple in the film’s palette, perhaps representing love, as seen in Manuel’s purple t-shirt, the photo frame, the magical dog collar, trippy space sequence, and Greg mother’s pink top, is visually striking. There are some fun details throughout like the ‘Men on Fire’ calendar we get a glimpse of, featuring a cat on hunky Mr January’s lap, and a cameo from penguin that looks a lot like Toy Story 2’s Wheezy. If men with beards do it for you, there’s plenty of sexy facial hair to enjoy here, with Greg’s think ginger beard, while his father is definitely giving some serious lumberjack daddy vibes with his full jet black beard and plaid shirt. A man of few words, Greg’s father has no dialogue, just two grunts, but gives a meaningful, very touching hug.
Emmy-nominated composer Jake Monaco’s score uplifts at times and helps ramp up the tension at others, but there’s also some great use of silence when Greg’s mother reflects on her son moving far away and her inability to express how she’s feeling about the situation, “what’s wrong with me?” she asks herself, echoing her son’s earlier words about not being able to come out to her.
Out is a really special film and it being available so widely on a platform like Disney+, alongside some of the most beloved animated classics of all time, feels like a pretty important moment for LGBTQ representation. Hopefully it will help young viewers on their journeys of self-acceptance and start some meaningful conversations in households across the country.
By James Kleinmann
Out is streaming on Disney+ now.