The film Onward, coming to theaters everywhere on March 6 from Disney and Pixar Studios, will include a character openly in a same-sex relationship.
Office Specter (spelled Spector in some reports) is a police officer cyclops voiced by out actress and screenwriter Lena Waithe, known for starring in Netflix’s Master of None and writing the 2019 blockbuster Queen & Slim. She will apparently only appear in one scene, but “her role is vital to the emotional arc of the story.”
The main story in the animated fantasy follows Ian and Barley (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, respectively), two elf brothers who are on a quest to try to use magic to see their father one last time. When the journey begins to go awry, they end up crossing paths with Specter.
So far, the character’s barely mentioned or seen in any of the promotional material, and doesn’t appear in any official trailers. Advanced reviews, however, reveal that Spector does say in passing that she has a girlfriend. “My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out,” Specter reportedly says while she pulls over a driver with her fellow cop, voiced by Ali Wong.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer also lend their voices to the movie.
— Disney and Pixar's Onward (@pixaronward) February 22, 2020
Directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae (who are billed as “the team behind Monsters University“), the moment is apparently not harped on, and it “passes unremarked, because in this world, it’s accepted as a fact of life,” according to Slate. Scanlon commented that “It’s a modern fantasy world and we want to represent the modern world.”
“It just kind of happened,” Rae said of the scene. “…when we wrote it, was kind of fitting and it opens up the world a little bit, and that’s what we wanted.” Rae says of Waithe, “she’s an amazing actress and writer — I think we improvised for about an hour for a small part.”
Waithe did not appear at the film’s premiere or in cast pictures, based on pictures from social media posts at the event. Disney and Pixar have remained quiet so far, but there are indications that Waithe has already penned a spin-off focused on Officer Specter that executives are considering. “You do think afterwards, ‘Oh man, I want to make a movie with [Lena] as the lead,’” Scanlon told Yahoo.
“I want to make a whole new movie about Officer Specter, we already have the material. [Waithe] basically wrote it all and gave us a backstory,” Rae also said following the news breaking.
While Officer Specter is being credited by some as the first openly LGBTQ character in an animated Disney film, has a long, checkered history of including (or not) LGBTQ characters in its media, such as a scene featuring a same-sex kiss in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or the much-speculated romance between two women in the Ellen DeGeneres-led animated film Finding Dory.
Reports also note that Officer Specter’s girlfriend does not appear on-screen, “so whatever intimacy the two of them might share happens only in the viewer’s imagination.”