Disney's Pixar Looking to Cast a Trans Actress for New Movie

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 22, 2021
Originally published on April 22, 2021

Pixar may be looking to cast a transgender voice artist for an upcoming film about a trans teenager, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The animation studio recently put out notices looking for a performer who can voice Jess, described in the casting notice as "a 14-year-old transgender girl. She's compassionate, funny, and always has your back."

"The casting call is looking for actresses from age 12 to 17 who 'can authentically portray a 14-year-old transgender girl,' verbiage that sounds a little awkward, but has likely been tweaked to avoid any legal allegations of discrimination," the Chronicle noted.

Word of the casting call was posted at Twitter by Trans March.

Pixar has dealt in winning fashion with several serious subjects, noted AV Club, and has been edging into LGBTQ territory with features such as "Onward," in which Lena Waithe voiced a secondary character, Officer Specter, who is LGTBQ.

A gay protagonist was featured in the short film "Out," the Houston Chronicle noted, a first for Pixar. In the nine-minute short, which was released straight to streaming platform Disney+, the main character, Greg, "struggled to share his sexual identity with his parents." The film was written and directed by Steven Clay Hunter.

Disney films have for years flirted with LGBTQ inclusion, though the results have, so far, disappointed audiences hoping for substantial representation. It's been left to voice actors to find - or invest - LGBTQ nuances in the characters they portray. Keli Marie Tran, star the recent Disney film "Raya and the Last Dragon," suggested to Vanity Fair that the film's titular lead, Raya, and her nemesis, Namaari, voiced by Gemma Chan, might have been same-sex lovers at some point.

In the film, Raya - a princess, naturally, though one unafraid to get rough and tumble in defense of her kingdom - faces off with Namaari and, before they begin combat, lets fly with a sardonic comment: "Hey there, Princess Undercut. Fancy meeting you here."

Asked by Vanity Fair about that specific line, Tran answered with enthusiasm, saying that her reading of the line suggested "some romantic feelings going on there".

However, the article cautioned, "Tran was eager to add that just because she interpreted the Namaari and Raya relationship as something more than platonic, that wasn't the official Disney line."

"Raya and the Last Dragon" also had the distinction of featuring the first out trans actress to be cast in a Disney film, Patti Harrison, who played a character called Tail Chief.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.