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Nimona: A New Era of Queer Representation

Nimona, Netflix’s newest animated movie, takes kid-friendly queer representation to a whole new level. So why did Disney pass it up?

Netflix © 2023

Netflix’s newest animated hit, Nimona, doesn’t shy away from LGBTQ+ representation. Starring a genderfluid shapeshifter and a gay knight, this film promotes the age-old message that we shouldn’t judge based on appearances—with some new modern-day twists.

Disney’s Missed Opportunity

Slowly but surely, kids’ movies are ushering in a new era of queer representation. In most cases, this is done “Disney-style,” in which characters are ambiguously queer-coded. For example, they may share a significant look with a potential love interest (or a dance, like LeFou in live-action Beauty and the Beast).

Disney also made waves recently for its animated movie Strange World, which depicted a teenage character, Ethan, having a crush on another boy. Predictably, the movie upset homophobic protestors, who even caused a Florida teacher to resign after showing the movie in class.

Ethan Clade in Disney's 'Strange World.'
Ethan Clade in Disney’s Strange World (Disney©2022)

For this reason and many more, Disney canceled Nimona in 2021 after shutting down Blue Sky Studios and acquiring Fox. Animators who worked on the project stated that the company was uncomfortable with the film’s overtly queer themes.

While Disney may latch onto Pride for marketing opportunities, the studio has always missed the mark when it comes to real representation. As long as maximizing profit and minimizing backlash is at the heart of Disney’s goal, they can’t risk alienating any part of their audience. Consequently, fans and employees alike have been disappointed with the company’s inaction against homophobic laws and their continued censorship of queer films.

However, passing on Nimona might just be one of the biggest mistakes Disney has ever made.

A Triumph of Storytelling

Nimona is exactly the type of story the world needs right now. It’s fun, it’s fresh, and it sends an excellent message. Everyone deserves love and acceptance, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. Nimona, our titular character, doesn’t fit in with the rest of the kingdom. She can shapeshift into any creature at will, and she has no desire to tamp down on her power for the sake of anyone else’s comfort.

It’s pretty clear that Nimona’s story is a trans allegory. Nimona is gender non-conforming, fully embodying any form that she shifts into. Shortly after their first meeting, Ballister, Nimona’s partner in crime, asks her: “Can you just be you, please? …Girl you.” Nimona playfully responds: “But I’m not a girl! I’m a shark.”

While Nimona is fully comfortable in her own identity, the rest of the kingdom isn’t. Even Ballister, who is alienated for being the first commoner to become a royal knight, is put off by Nimona’s constant transformations. He tells her it would be “easier to be a girl.” He asks constant questions about how she came to be a shapeshifter or what it feels like to transform. To the latter, Nimona replies: “Honestly? It feels worse when I don’t do it.”

Ballister and Nimona in Netflix's 'Nimona.'
Ballister and Nimona, Nimona (Netflix©2023)

“What if you held it in? If you didn’t shapeshift?”

“I’d die.”

“That’s horrible!”

“Don’t be so gullible. I wouldn’t die die. I just sure wouldn’t be living.”

Ballister and Nimona, ‘Nimona’ (2023)

Ballister himself is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community. His relationship with his fellow knight, Ambrosius Goldenloin, is one of the most touching aspects of the film. Better yet, there’s no Disney subtleties here. The pair are openly affectionate on screen, not shying away from physical contact or verbal displays of affection. They’re here, they’re queer, and they’re adorable.

Nimona’s Reception

There’s no doubt about it: Nimona is a hit. And it’s no wonder! Aside from the movie’s queer representation, it also boasts an entirely unique premise, stunning animation, and an enthralling world of futuristic medievalism. With an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics and fans alike adore Nimona. The graphic novel sold out quickly after release, and there’s already talk about the film’s journey to the Oscars.

The verdict: people are desperate for representation. In contrast to Disney’s low-performing movies, such as Elemental and Lightyear, films like Nimona tell stories that the world is begging to hear. It’s time for Disney to stop straddling the fence and start taking risks. Not just with representation, either—newer animation techniques, such as the ones in Nimona and Into the Spider-Verse, were massively successful, with both movies outperforming similar Disney releases.

Regardless of what Disney chooses to do, it’s refreshing to see so much new talent and heart in the film industry. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter how big the company is or how much money they have—it’s the content of their character that counts. Just like Nimona taught us!

To read more about Disney controversies, click here.

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Written By

Haven, she/her, 21 year old English student from University of Florida.

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