Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch has never been shy about the censorship he faced from Disney while making the cartoon. But now, he’s exposing more details than ever before, sharing real emails he exchanged with Disney’s Standards and Practices (S&P) department.
Gravity Falls, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, follows twins Dipper and Mabel Pines as they learn the paranormal secrets of a small town in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a beloved show, but it’s not known for queer representation — which makes it especially ironic that it’s included in a new “Pride” collection on Disney+.
Gravity Falls did manage to include some queer content: notably, its finale strongly suggested a romantic relationship between characters Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland. But other queer narratives Hirsch tried to include were censored by Disney, a hypocrisy he was quick to point out when he saw the company was promoting the show for Pride Month.
Hirsh replied to a fan on Twitter who also pointed out the irony of Gravity Falls being listed in the “Pride” collection.
“I still have the email where Disney explicitly banned me from having LGBTQ characters in Gravity Falls,” Hirsch wrote. “It’s brain-breaking that years later they’re trying to get pride points for this.”
Oh totally! My comment was directed at Disney. I still have the Email where Disney explicitly banned me from having LGBTQ characters in Gravity Falls. It’s brain-breaking that years later they’re trying to get pride points for this
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 4, 2022
Though Hirsch didn’t share that specific email, he was apparently still inspired to keep exposing Disney’s over-the-top censorship practices. He shared a five-minute video of real emails he received from Disney’s S&P department, which included requests to cut words like “poopface” and “hoo-ha.” The censorship is often silly, but it’s also frustrating, particularly one exchange Hirsch included in the video that asked for an allusion to queerness to be cut.
One last treat. Ever curious about the fights I had with the censors on Gravity Falls? I probably shouldn’t share this buttttt here are some REAL NOTES from DISNEY S&P and my REAL REPLIES. You are not prepared #10YearsOfGravityFalls pic.twitter.com/EioKU8gIJJ
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 16, 2022
“Please revise the action of Blubs putting his arm around Durland,” the S&P department wrote, referring to the characters who would ultimately be the show’s sole queer relationship. “As noted in previous concerns, their affectionate relationship should remain comical versus flirtatious.”
“Nope,” Hirsch replied. “They’re … buddies. Chill out.”
“The gesture is approved in this context,” S&P concluded.
In that instance, Hirsch beat out the censors, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2020, Hirsch revealed that a gender-inclusive symbol and a lesbian couple were cut from the episode “The Love God.”
“Are these storyboards real?” a fan asked on Twitter, sharing storyboards of the episode that included queer content, next to images from the actual episode where the content had been replaced. “Did Disney censor this or is it fan-made?”
@_AlexHirsch are these storyboards real? I was talking to my friends about the episode and was talking about how Love God might represent “traditional” views on love where Mable might represent more “progressive” and then I found these. Did Disney censor this or is it fan-made? pic.twitter.com/rGfIFthJwd
— Leo is a Lion 🦁 (@nerdwithadog) July 5, 2020
“Disney censored this,” Hirsch replied. “They were total cowards on LGBTQ+ stuff when I worked there.”
Disney censored this. They were total cowards on LGBTQ+ stuff when I worked there
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) July 5, 2020
Hirsch also came for Disney’s anti-LGBTQ+ tendencies last Pride Month, when the company shared an image of its characters with a Pride flag background and the caption, “There’s room for everyone under the rainbow.”
Hirsch quote-tweeted the graphic, writing, “Disney privately: Cut the gay scene! We might lose precious pennies from Russia & China! Disney publicly: 🤡 Honk honk we put a rainbow bumper sticker on Lightning McQueen today CONSUME OUR PRODUCTS TEENS.”
Disney privately: Cut the gay scene! We might lose precious pennies from Russia & China!
Disney publicly: 🤡 Honk honk we put rainbow bumper sticker on Lightning McQueen today CONSUME OUR PRODUCTS TEENS https://t.co/1eco8YgaoP
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 2, 2021
“To any creative at Disney TV, Feature, Publishing or Streaming: please mercilessly spam your execs with ‘there’s room for everyone under the rainbow’ next time they tell you to ‘please revise’ your LGBTQ+ character for ‘not being Disney appropriate,’” he continued.
To any creative at Disney TV, Feature, Publishing or Streaming: please mercilessly spam your execs with “there’s room for everyone under the rainbow” next time they tell you to “please revise” your LGBTQ+ character for “not being Disney appropriate”
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) June 2, 2021
It’s sad to think of all the queer representation we missed out on in Gravity Falls and other shows. But hopefully, with folks like Hirsch putting pressure on the company, they’ll be less heavy-handed with their censorship. Please, Disney: just let queer people and storylines exist. I promise we’re not that scary.