As has been the case with most films under the Disney umbrella, Pixar‘s films have been lacking in meaningful LGBT representation. There are “blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em” moments like the two moms in the background of Toy Story 4 or a brief line in Onward, but moments like these are so minor that they can easily be edited out for international release in countries where same-sex relationships are still unjustly vilified.
The first of these minor moments in Pixar’s feature films arguably was one involving side background characters in Finding Dory. They are never identified as being part of any LGBT group, but many fans assumed they were a same-sex couple taking care of their kids from their brief appearance. According to an interview with co-director Andrew Stanton in USA Today, the couple “can be whatever you want them to be.”
However, one recent theory that popped up on Reddit suggests that the first LGBT characters in a Pixar production didn’t appear in a feature, but one of the studio’s short films. In fact, the theory points directly to a short film that had only premiered two years prior to Finding Dory.
In 2015, the critically-acclaimed Inside Out was preceded by one of Pixar’s most heartwarming short films, simply known as Lava. The seven minute short, which premiered previously at the 2014 Hiroshima International Animation Festival, tells the story of a heterosexual anthropomorphic volcano couple, but the theory posited by Reddit user u/Crispy_Jay_Jay doesn’t concern them at all. Rather, the keen-eyed theorist suggests that one of the animal couples the male volcano is seen admiring from afar is openly gay.
As the volcano looks down upon various couples, he sees two adult sea turtles cuddling on the beach. While the turtles themselves may look visually different enough to suggest that they are two different genders, the Reddit user points out that adult male sea turtles are almost never seen returning to land after hatching. Females regularly surface in order to lay their eggs, so by that logic, the two turtles are more than likely female.
As the two are seen cuddling affectionately, it is reasonable to assume that they are in a relationship. This is where it gets a bit more complicated. The user also takes care in legitimizing their claim by refuting some of their theory’s potential holes. As they point out, a conflicting theory concerning the same turtles suggests that the one on the left bears a striking resemblance to Pixar’s most famous turtle character, Crush from Finding Nemo. The Disney Fandom Wiki even lists his “appearance” in the short as a cameo, even though it has never been confirmed by anyone associated with the production.
Utilizing another article’s claim about Crush’s identity, the Reddit user confirms that it cannot be Crush that is seen in Lava, as his species does not exhibit many of the same visual characteristics as the ones in this short. The user suggests that these turtles may be a sub-species of the Green Sea Turtle, and possibly members of the Black Sea Turtle family. They specifically reference the facial markings and overall coloring of the turtles to justify this reasoning. They also take care to reference the tendency for female sea turtles to not have easily-visible tails (males usually have much longer tails), although none of the turtles that have appeared in Pixar films have easily-visible tails. So maybe Crush is in Lava after all, but he was assigned female at birth?
Until Pixar provides direct and meaningful LGBT representation, this theory, if proven true, might be the studio’s most satisfying portrayal of same-sex relationships. Even if it is confirmed as true, however, it’s still another unfortunately-brief moment that only stands out because the standards are so low.
KEEP READING: Pixar Hints at Classic Toy Story Easter Egg
A new fan theory has a biological explanation for why a Pixar short film might have the company's first on-screen same-sex couple.