T : You were saying Disney allows you to be whoever you want.
L : Yeah so you'll see people at Disneyland that are obviously queer and trans but it's not the focus of why everyone’s there. On Halloween I saw an amazing gay couple dressed up as Yzma and Kronk from the Emperor's New Groove and nobody cared, everyone was just talking about how cool their costumes were. Them being gay was just a normal thing that was.
T : Oh so you can wear costumes on Halloween?
L : Yes, only at the Halloween party. So yeah people were really excited to see those costumes because they were super well done, technically one was dressed up as Eartha Kitt (who voiced the role) but like, nobody minded that. So that's kind of what we see, we'll see people wearing whatever they want and people are just excited about their actual clothes and don't really focus on that. Actually it might be kind of nice to focus on that.
T : Which part?
L : Focus on the fact that people are actually gay. Because it isn’t like they’re not acknowledging it, but it isn’t the focus of the thing if that makes any sense. It’s very accepted, I’ve not run into anyone that doesn’t think gay people shouldn’t be at Disney, not the younger generation anyway, but it’s also not the focus, unless it’s a Gay Day. And then that’s a specific group going to Disney that one day of the year.
T : How you identify? And what pronouns do you use?
L : I'm a queer and femme, my pronouns are she and her. And I’m also a Disney person.
T : Do you have a particular early Disney memory or imprint?
L : My very earliest Disney memories were fairly traumatic, because the films for my generation all started with a gunshot. I'm from the Bambi, and Fox and Hound generation where in the first 5 minutes the mother gets shot, so that wasn’t fun. Going back and watching those movies now, yeah they're still as terrible as I remember. Like Dumbo is still traumatic. Bambi is still traumatic. The Mothers died very violently for like the whole 1980s. ( laughs)
T : So what's that about?
L : Disney mothers didn't survive in general until, or they were evil, they were either evil or dead. Step mothers were generally evil, real mothers were generally dead. The Princess and the Frog is actually one of the first Disney movies where the mom survives, AND is good. That was also something that people pointed out - that there was no evil stepmother, there was no competing women thing, in Princess and the Frog which is really nice. It was one of the first Disney movies that moved away from that. And it took until 2009. ( Laughs.)
T : Do you have a particular movie, or princess, or character, that you really identify with?
L : I really identify with Tiana, from Princess and the Frog. She was the first black princess, the only one still. She just celebrated 10 years and that was just really amazing and magical. To get to have that on screen, and whenever I am at Disneyland I try to go see her.
I also really identified with Lilo from Lilo & Stitch because that was the first Disney movie that kind of brought me back to Disney after a hiatus in my teens and early twenties. Disney movies didn't really mirror real life, but Lilo is in this really messed up family and is getting into fights with kids because her home life is a mess and she doesn't know how to express it. It was the first Disney character that seemed like a real person, and reminded me of me as a kid.
So that movie I think is really important for a lot of people because it showed a family that wasn't perfect, and it wasn't because there were magical influences, they just had a lot happening and they were trying their best. And it's a really good story, I think it's a really good story for a lot of kids who don’t come from those kind of, standardized, standardized families.
T : Do you cosplay or disneybound when you go to the parks?
L : I do. I'm pretty much always disneybound while I'm at the park it's a really good creative outlet for me I think. I like to sew, and I like to make things and so it gives me a kind of focus and it's an interesting challenge to figure out how to do a character so that people know what character you are but so that you're also allowed into the park. You actually can't cosplay at Disney Parks so it's a really hard fast rule I think if you're over 14 is the cutoff. You can’t wear costumes. If it's an exact costume they're going to tell you that you can't be there.
T : Have you ever been turned away?
L : I have not, but I have had some… last time when I went to Disney World, Disney World is actually stricter than Disneyland which makes total sense, because California is pretty like..... Whatever about things. Honestly I’ve seen some things at (California) Disneyland that are like “that's a costume but whatever”. But Disney World is really really strict, so in Disneyland you can wear character onesies, I see a lot of people do that when it's cold. You can just be rocking your full on Winnie the Pooh onesie. But at Disney World that's not a thing. I almost got a character onesie for one of my partners, cuz we were going to Disney World, we are going to meet all the Winnie the Pooh people and I almost got them a character onesie. I couldn't find anything specifically in the rules about them, but I asked some of the people I know on Instagram who are passholders at Disney World and they told me “absolutely not you will get told to go home”. So I'm glad I didn't do that.
T : Do you have a particular character or characters that you like to disneybound as?
L : I try to do a different one every time. I think if I repeated a character it would probably be someone that I really really like that has multiple outfits. Tiana has three different outfits so I'll probably do her again. It could also be a character that has appeared multiple times, like I did Brandy as Cinderella for Halloween, and I'll probably do Cinderella and Charming from the movie Cinderella at some point.
T : Do you have a sweetie that you do it with?
L : I have been known to dress people up to go with me, and my friends and partners and lovers are really patient with me about that. They end up getting excited about it, but I also try and make sure that they're comfortable. I know that there's some people who will want to wear something really fussy with me, and there's some people they're going to want to be more casual. So I'll adjust the disneybounds accordingly - I did a really casual Sleeping Beauty and made a real casual Maleficent outfit for my friend. We did like a really punk rock and casual Peter Pan and Wendy Darling at Disney World .
T : I love your pictures from that trip.
L : I really wanted to make sure that they were warm and that they were comfortable, because if they were not comfortable they were not going to be wanting to be around the park all day. I mean they would probably do it for me, but you know...
T : I saw that and started thinking maybe I want to be Peter Pan…
L : Yeah the casual outfits especially you can just wear them out, there are multiple cool t-shirts that went into that outfit and a cool button up that they can just wear out to places now. They've actually worn a couple of shirts to leather bars and leather clubs because hey it's black and it has pirates and skulls on it.
T : Do you have a process for choosing who you're going to be? Is it based on your mood, or what you're into or your particular goals for that park visit?
L : It could be based on my mood, it could definitely be based on who I'm going with. If I'm going with someone I'll often asked who their favorite characters are because if you have someone that is excited to be dressed up as the thing, then they're going to be more into dressing up in general. One of my partners is really into Disney dogs, so one day we were Lilo & Stitch so they could be Stitch. And the next day we were Cruella De Vil and Patch from 101 Dalmatians.
L : Which... I would never actually do Cruella de Vil on my own because she's a garbage human. I love Disney villains, except for her, she's one of the ones who is just an irredeemable person. I can't see her motivation, like I can with most of the villains. Her motivation is just “I'm rich and terrible”, so it was just actually kind of hard for me to get into that character.
T : She's a very modern villain though.
L : I guess, she's just not a good person, just not at all. There's no reason to kill a hundred... Anyway.
T : When did the movie come out?
L : A long time ago. I think early sixties, late 50s. (1961) It's Aristocats era, the art looks almost identical to Aristocats. They did a cat movie and a dog movie at the same time.
T : Is there a kinky or play aspect your outfits with people?
L : There can be, I know when we went to Disney World. Wendy Darling is like a big mommy character, my friend is actually wrote a whole book about Peter Pan through a kink lens called Lost Boi where Wendy is very specifically a queer leather Mommy. And so that's kind of the direction we were going with that, because we have a mommy/boi relationship. So we were at Disney World doing that and it was a kind of cool way to acknowledge that relationship without it being obtrusive. Because Disney World is still a park full of children.
T : Of course.
L : So that was kind of a cool thing too because if you've seen Peter Pan they’re literally looking for a mommy - that's where they kind of sort of kidnap Wendy. That’s like… 50% coercion, 50% kidnapping…
T : It's a complicated story…
L : It is very complicated. (laughs) They do let her go home eventually.
Oh one other thing, my partner is pup identified which is why they like Disney dogs. Technically we were doing some kinky disneybounding for a few days. They were awfully smitten with how bossy Cruella De Vil was when we met her!
T : Can you elaborate a little bit more about your connection with the characters?
L : I tend to do characters that I really like, and that really speak to me in some way. With Cruella de Vil as the exception. I did Marie from the Aristocats because she is just the most femme character that Disney has ever made ever, and she's great and I love everything about her. It's one of the first Disney movies that I bought for myself so I could watch her all the time. She's just fantastic. I also like Dutchess from that movie, so I'm probably going to do her mother at some point too because she's also fabulous.
I love princesses in general so I've done a couple different Disney princess looks. I did Belle as well because I like books a lot the way she does. I also have a lot of issues at Beauty and the Beast, but through a kink lens it's kind of hot so I think I like that aspect of it.
T : Can you talk about that a little bit?
L : I really don't think the movie should be shown to children at all, but if you're looking at it as an adult, it's got this great kidnapping fantasy long drawn-out D/s weird coercive relationship. They're obviously in this extreme edge play relationship where she's not allowed to go home.
T : And the Beast being this...
L : The dominant kidnapper, this extremely violent, temperamental mood swings, destroys things, all the things you know, and at the same time is going ‘LOVE ME’. So you know it's all messed up. Superhot if that's what you wanted, but like holy crap.
T : I feel like Phantom of the Opera has similar vibe.
L : It's almost the same story. It's very thematically similar. Also should not be shown to children.
Because both of them have the initial reaction of ‘I want to leave’, and then eventually that person falls in love with their kidnapper which is not really great message.
T : Stockholm Syndrome…
L : It's a lot, there's a lot. It’s like the 1990s and late 80s princesses there's a lot wrong. Like Ariel also I dislike, I love Ursula, I’ve done Ursula because I think she’s fantastic.
She's an opportunist and businesswoman, and if Ariel is going to be stupid enough to do the thing that she did then she's just going to take advantage of it. That's what's just going to happen. I understood that motivation immediately like she's dumb so that's why Ursula took her voice. That's why she took her voice.
Ariel came to her, Ursula didn't go find her. She was like “Yeah Come On In, You Want To Sign A Bad Deal, Go For It”. She was very upfront about the terms of the contract.
But like losing your voice, for a guy you don't know.. giving up being a mermaid princess, why? That one’s a bunch of question marks. Most of the princesses are a mess actually.
T : Do you know about the origin of The Little Mermaid story? The theory is that It was written as kind of a love letter to this guy that the writer was in love with and it was about unrequited same-sex love. They reference this in the ballet of The Little Mermaid, he is in love with his best friend and then he has to stand there and watch his best friend get married, and at some point he confesses his love, which does not go well. So he was The Little Mermaid character, in the end when she dissolves into seafoam, or in the ballet, goes crazy with grief. It's about longing loss, and pining for someone that you'll never have.
L : That makes so much more sense than the Disney version.
L : I think Jasmine is the only 90s princess that is a good “would show to children” princess. She's pretty great, and she does end up falling for someone who's a little duplicitous, but she also refuses to just... Like she falls for him on her own terms rather than just being “Oh A Prince Is Here That's Great.”
T : “Oh I Was Unconscious And He Kissed Me So I Guess I’ll Marry Him.”
L : Right? That's fine. “I've Met Him One Time And We Are In Love Forever.” Ugh.
T : So you said you took a little break from the fandom, what got you back into it?
L : I saw Lilo & Stitch, which is great. That's the first one that got me back into it. The Princess And The Frog came out a couple years after that. Then, going to the parks, Disneyland especially. I like Disney World, but Disneyland is a really magical place where you can just be yourself. It encourages everyone to play which is really nice, no matter how old you are. They don't treat that as weird.
T : Are you an annual passholder?
L : I'm not, because I live too far away. And also I want to go on long weekends, and those are always blocked. And also holidays. I went on Halloween last year, and that would have been possible as a passholder but difficult. And then I went on Labor Day weekend, and Memorial Day weekend of last year as well, which would have been blocked unless I had them very expensive $8,000 pass that’s the highest tier.
T : Wow.
L : Yeah, that's the VIP level pass. If I lived down there, I would absolutely be a passholder though.
T : How many times a year do you go roughly?
L : Maybe four times a year, I think this year I went five times. Because I went to Disney World which was kind of an unexpected trip, but it was really fun.
T : Do you feel as a queer person there's something specifically about Disney that speaks to you?
L : I think Disneyland especially. Disney World was great too but Disneyland you see a lot of visibly queer people there, working there, queer and trans people working there. That automatically makes me feel safer. You'll see a lot of queer couples on dates, it's like the cute teenage queer date place in Southern California which is really adorable. It's just so cute to see baby gays on dates at Disneyland, it's the cutest thing to me. Because they know that they're totally safe there.
You'll see a lot of marriages and honeymoons that are celebrating, you’ll see gay families in general, like it's just a really nice calm feeling which is cool. So I really like that aspect. There's also, I think there's some kink groups that go in Florida but in California there's definitely a lot of kink groups that go and Disney doesn't really care, as long as your behavior is fine you're not doing anything inappropriate. If you go wearing a leather patch or something they're not going to be the least bit worried about it.
T : It feels rare for something so quintessentially American, and with such a tie to Americana also be so welcoming to queer, trans, and gay people.
L : I think it's because of where it is, in Southern California. Because again Disney World did not have the same vibe. We didn't run into any trouble or anything over there, but it definitely did not have the same chill, everyone's welcome vibe. It wasn’t as diverse.
Disney World has a bunch of parks so they kind of put their diversity all over in Epcot Center. That's where the "Christmas Around The World" and all the other displays are. But Disneyland knows that it has a bunch of guests from different cultures that are there all the time, so every year there's a big Lunar New Year's celebration, and every time they will have part of their big firework show to songs from Coco, sung in spanish. That is still the highest grossing movie in Mexican history.
T : That was an amazing movie.
L : It's absolutely beautiful. And everyone who has kids knows Coco backwards and forwards. As soon as the first guitar chord plays from Coco and the castle lights up, everyone is excited. It's just really great to hear the family singing, they put Coco's lyrics in spanish every time at Disneyland, because they know they have a lot of families there who speak spanish. I think that's the main difference that we have diversity built in. Same with queer people - there's just always a lot of queer people at Disneyland - and there's some at Disney World but there were so few and far between that it seemed a little odd.
T : Would you be as big of a fan had they not embraced diversity? It’s only ten years since the first black princess…
L : Probably not. I think what is making me such a fan is I see them making really good steps in the right direction. They're really listening to feedback and criticism, they're kind of like Barbie in that way. They're really listening to people nowadays and being like “Oh we should maybe change some of these things”.
Frozen for example is a great princess movie, it's a really great princess movie to show children. The romance in it… well there's two romances in it, one shows you exactly what happens when you trust someone you've known for exactly one day, and the other one is a genuine friendship where she got to know this person in a completely non sexually charged or romantically charged way, and then realizes that she likes him. And he actually asks before he kisses her, she's the first Disney princess to get asked before she gets kissed, which is so nice.
T : That's a good update..
L : They're just really working hard to fix a lot of things. I always get excited when there's a new movie coming out because they really are trying to make things better. Literally better, you can see the improvement. And also Frozen didn't really have a villain, but the villain was not a magical women, so that was nice.
T : No magical evil woman?
L : They had actually written Elsa to be the villain. As the story progressed they realized that she didn't need to be and it actually made more sense to do it a different way, so yeah it's a great story. I brought someone to see it on a date who was not really excited to see Frozen with me, or any Disney movie at all really. He left like, “wow this was really great” so yeah Disney was really getting there. There was also this other person who hadn't been to a Disney movie in 20 years and was actually just expecting another Sleeping Beauty level "comatose princess gets non-consensually kissed then married". Which of course was the storyboard for multiple years.
T : Moana also really blew me away.
L : Yeah Moana is great, another great princess movie.
T : I need to see the Princess and the Frog still. Rolling back to what you were saying about how her mom wasn't evil. Given that this was their first movie about black princess I feel like that was a really important change and statement, to subvert that trope with that movie.
L : Yes, her mom was not evil and was still around. Her father was loving and they were a family unit. The only reason he wasn't around was because there was a war. They show a picture of him in his uniform with his metal, so it's kind of implied that he died in the war. It's not like he took off, I mean he did have a random tragic death but it drives her more than it disenfranchises her. She doesn't spend the entire movie in some weird situation and helpless because her father died, like Cinderella.
She uses that as motivation, like “my father's dream was to open a restaurant, so I'm going to save up the money and do that, like he wanted to do. I'm going to keep going towards his dream.” Kind of a really cool shift towards somebody.. first of all, she's the first princess to have an actual job. She has a job, a business plan, life goals that have nothing to do with getting married. She's a very different kind of princess, this was the first movie that kind of ushered in the new types of princesses that we are seeing.
We have Rapunzel as well - her reaction to a strange man coming into her tower was to hit him as hard as she could with a frying pan. Which is the correct reaction. She was one of the first ones too who said “This is not acceptable, get out of my house.” That was the first generation of those princesses, and I think they're getting better as we go on as they think their way through more what this is actually teaching children.
T : And young women, and… adults.
L : Well really everyone now because Frozen was a phenomenon, like every kid saw Frozen, for last maybe five years, every child that I know that's allowed to watch television of any sort has seen Frozen. It was also teaching boys, you don't want to be this manipulative type of guy, he's the bad guy. You want to be the guy who is helpful but not creepy and taking over. He lets Anna go the way she's going and helps her along the way.
The new Frozen is also great because there's a situation where Anna is in trouble and he says “what do you need” rather than just taking over the entire thing. I think it's great all around, Disney could do even more towards undoing toxic masculinity. I think part of the reason that Disney has had the shape itself up was Pixar.
Because Pixar was doing such a great job that Disney was starting to look a little shabby. So first of all they bought them, because who likes competition, but then they had to raise their own game to meet Pixar where they were, because Pixar was very progressive. I think Cars is one of the best movies Pixar has ever done because it is in the wheelhouse of people that would be raising their children to be toxic masculinity indoctrinated, and it teaches you how to undo that and not be that guy. So Pixar has been doing that not even subtly for over 20 years now.
Merida from Brave was a great Pixar princess. Brave is a great movie; she is not getting married, she doesn't want to do that, so she just does whatever she wants to do. I think that's when Disney saw people react positively to that, because that was before Disney purchased them. I think Disney saw that people were really ready for that kind of princess.
T : I need as an interesting evolution between how gay and queer people are much more out than we ever have been before. and the evolution of these stories. There's a huge history of gay and queer people working at Disney, a lot of the early animators and songwriters were gay but definitely were not allowed to be out of the closet at work professionally or personally.
L : A lot of the voice actors were gay. The man that played Peter Pan was gay, and he ended up, he didn't have a tragic death necessarily but once he was outed he had to leave acting. He ended up doing something random like used car sales. he just couldn't come back to Hollywood for anything.
T : I just think it's interesting that we get these stories that start off where like the Little Mermaid type of story where the origin is sorrow, and then what happens when you project gay sorrow and longing and you project onto a woman... Look, I am from the nineties, I love Ariel but it's a toxic story. She's not a great role model. That's is changing so much and people are allowed to be themselves and people are allowed to maintain their power and so now we're getting these more empowered princesses, we're getting empowerment and adventure stories rather than longing fantasies.
L : We're also getting princesses who aren't necessarily straight. We don't know what Moana's sexuality is. We don't know what Elsa's sexuality is. There's a whole Disney theory that Elsa is actually a lesbian and Disney just hasn't figured out how to put that on screen. Elsa definitely is now queen from the second Frozen, a queen two times over, and is not even the least bit interested in getting married. She could, but she is like whatever.
T : I get really strong competent butch vibes off Moana.
L : Also they made Maui very non-traditional - Maui is actually problematic in Moana, because that's not what he’s supposed to look like. But, they made him extremely attractive and at no point is Moana like “Oh You're Very Attractive Let's Hear From You.” She just avoids it she's like “No, We're Doing This Thing That I Came Here To Do.”
I think there was a new trend of not making deferring to man the default. Right now we're at the point where if that means the princesses aren't sexual at all, that's fine these are children's movies. We don't actually have to marry everyone off at the end of every children's movie but I think giving the kids the option to not be straight, or to do something else is fantastic