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While Disney fans continue longing for a same-sex romance on the big screen, Sven Bonnichsen, Director of the Northwest Animation Fest — an annual international animated film festival in Portland, Oregon — has turned us onto five gay animators who’ve put same-sex relationships front and center in their work. Their work shows off an interesting cross-section of animation styles and storytelling methods, from music video and documentary to abstract symbolism completely without language.
“Audiences are absolutely craving LGBTQ animation,” says Bonnichsen. “It’s still extremely rare to see an animated short that tells the story of a cis, white, gay or lesbian person. But audiences want more — and are clamoring to see stories about queer people of color, non-binary gender identities, gender queers and pansexuality.”
He continues, “I hope that the current generation of animation students will rise to the challenge, and begin portraying a wider spectrum of sexual identities on the silver screen.”
Here is the work of 5 contemporary gay animators who represent the best of our community:
1. HORA by Yoav Brill
This documentary brilliantly illustrates the considerations gay Israeli men make when deciding to hold hands in public. Brill himself studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, Israel, and describes himself as a part-time journalist — that’s how he got these men to open up about their romantic experiences and neuroses.
2. In a Heartbeat by Esteban Bravo and Beth David
You’ve probably seen this heartwarming short about two schoolboys falling in love. It quickly went viral after its 2017 release, gaining 2.4 million views in a single day. Its two creators originally planned a boy-meets-girl story but changed it to a same-sex love story when they realized how seldom such stories are animated. Together, they raised more than $14,000 on Kickstarter to complete the film.
3. Farfisa Song by Looper (Official video) by Iain Gardner
Mustard and Ketchup, the gay badgers in this music video, look pretty androgynous, but they’re in a full-fledged relationship: They dance, kiss, share a bed and make a music video on a shoestring budget together. The music itself serves up a nice bit of indie-electro pop with a catchy retro-keyboard and airy vocals. As for Garnder, he’s an award-winning animator who works as the short-form animation programmer for the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
4. Plugin by Sergio Di Bitetto
In a dystopic technocratic society powered by heterosexual unions, two men find that they don’t fit within the structure — but their love could completely change society. Di Bitetto studied animation at the Vancouver Film School and later worked in commercial animation after spending his childhood dreaming about animating Disney and anime films.
5. uuuuuu by David Delafuente
When you kiss someone, your focus shifts to individual parts of the experience. Delafuente deconstructs and creates the sensation by breaking kissing down to its basic elements and abstracting it in a series of black-and-white sketches. He’s based in New York City.