The latest Walt Disney Animation Studios blockbuster is just a few months away, with Strange World poised to debut in theaters later this fall. The film's first trailer has already dazzled audiences with its action-adventure plot and its homages to the realm of classic pulpy sci-fi — and it sounds like the film itself might also become noteworthy for another reason. Sequences from Strange World were recently screened at France's Annecy Animation Festival, and (according to a report from Variety) one of the scenes showcased sets up an LGBTQ+ teen romance in the film. In particular, one scene reportedly featured Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) flirting with a boy named Diazo "while friends from school look on, teasing in a friendly and warm-hearted way." Ethan's dad, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) then joins in, reportedly "embarrassing his son with an overeager show of acceptance."
The news of this storyline in Strange World comes amid an array of headline-making developments regarding Disney's public relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, both in terms of onscreen representation and in terms of a response (or lack thereof) to controversial legislation like Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill. In recent years, a number of Disney characters or relationships have been dubbed as "firsts" with regards to LGBTQ+ representation, only for the actual breadth of that representation to be lacking within the film itself. Most recently, Disney/Pixar's Lightyear made headlines after the studio added an LGBTQ+ kiss between Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) and her wife back into the film, causing it to be boycotted in several countries.
"I'm glad that it's there," Aduba shared with Yahoo. "This movie is opening up a whole new world to how stories can be told, how stories can be revisited. And I think it's amazing that Disney-Pixar has chosen to take that space to not only include moments like that, but include so many different faces, and so many stories into a film so that every kid -- young and old -- sitting in those audiences can see a piece of themselves in the story."
With all of that in mind, it will be interesting to see how prominent Ethan and Diazo's LGBTQ+ relationship factors into Strange World, and what effect that could ultimately have on the film's release. Strange World is an original action adventure that journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission. Gyllenhaal and Young-White are joined by Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu in the film.
Strange World will be released exclusively in theaters on November 23rd.