Disney’s Recently Canceled Animated Movie Could Be 1 of Its Biggest Mistakes

Disney formally acquired 20th Century Fox in March of 2019, and along with the hallowed studio came the once-prominent animation house, Blue Sky Studios. Or, at least, it did for a little bit. Long enough to release Spies in Disguise (remember that one?) before shutting it down in February.

Blue Sky may not have been the peak of the industry by the time Disney snatched it up, but it once rode high on the back of the Ice Age franchise and films like Rio. There might not have been much financial reason for Disney to keep the studio open after years of mediocre box office returns, but the closure did result in the cancellation of a promising project that could have brought the company some much-needed acclaim.

What is ‘Nimona’?

Blue Sky Studios was closed last month before it could finish 'Nimona.'
Blue Sky Studios was closed last month before it could finish ‘Nimona.’ | Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Image

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Blue Sky’s next film was slated to be an animated adaptation of Noelle Stevenson‘s celebrated comic, Nimona. What started as a webcomic posted from 2012-2014 to great acclaim eventually became a full-in graphic novel published by Harper Collins in 2015. The adaptation was scheduled to hit theaters in January 2022.

Stevenson parlayed the success of Nimona and their other comic, Lumberjanes, into a much larger career. This included work with Marvel and DC Comics, as well as acting as showrunner for the beloved Netflix series, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Nimona follows the titular character, a rambunctious shape-shifter in a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid world, as they team up with Ballister Blackheart, a would-be villainous mastermind whose plans are constantly foiled by the virtuous Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. As Stevenson’s work is deeply suffused with LGBTQ themes, Nimona casts Blackheart and Goldenloin as former romantic partners torn apart by circumstance.

‘Nimona’ would’ve been Disney’s first release with queer leads

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According to a report from Collider, Blue Sky’s adaptation of Nimona would’ve stayed true to the LGBTQ themes of the source material. Staff members who worked on it revealed that the onscreen Blackheart and Goldenloin would’ve explicitly declared their love for one another and shared a kiss at one point.

Nimona would therefore have been a major first for Disney, even if wasn’t technically a film they made themselves. None of the company’s past animated films have featured queer lead characters or very many explicit depictions of queer romance at all.

In fact, many have criticized the company for tiptoeing around the significant inclusion of such elements. Disney has had a bad habit recently of declaring major milestones for representation off the back of extremely minor references to LGBTQ themes.

Nimona could therefore have been a major win for the company, giving them an unabashed win for inclusion. Letting the film slip through its fingers will no doubt be looked upon as a huge blunder in years to come. It’s unclear at this point if Disney had any reservations about the film’s content or if the cancelation was purely due to Blue Sky’s financial situation. Collider’s report notes that staff members saw “no clear connection between the film’s content and the studio’s closure.”