Disney Pride Merchandise Starts Major Controversy

in Disney, Merchandise

Mickey Mouse and Bob Iger edited in front of the Lesbian Pride Flag.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Months after its release, the Disney Pride merchandise collection is drawing controversy.

The 2023 Disney Pride Collection premiered in May amid a heated battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which began in 2022. Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek denounced the Parental Rights in Education Act, popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. In response, the Republican Governor went on a political tirade against Walt Disney World Resort, culminating in multiple ongoing lawsuits.

Despite legal trouble, The Walt Disney Company stood with the LGBTQIA+ community. Disney Cast Members marched in pride parades worldwide. The corporation vowed to create new Pride merchandise year-round instead of exclusively in June and started officially referring to its Rainbow Disney collection as “Disney Pride” in 2022.

Two Disney Pride pins that feature Mickey Mouse heats filled in with the Lesbian Pride Flag.
Credit: shopDisney

But a few of those Disney Pride items are now under public scrutiny. Emily Gwen, the designer of both popular lesbian pride flags, went viral this week with a tweet about Disney’s usage of their design.

“Did you know Disney sells lesbian flag pins?” they said, linking their Ko-Fi and online store. “Bob Iger profits off the flag I designed for our community! On another note, I can’t afford to pay for my medication this month! Any help would be appreciated.”

Gwen’s website states that designers are free to use the lesbian pride flag for free but recommends that large businesses and corporations donate to an LGBTQIA+ charity when doing so.

“The lesbian flag I, Emily Gwen, designed (pictured above) is FREE for both personal and commercial use,” it reads. “You do not need to seek permission for any use of the flag. It belongs, first and foremost, to the lesbian community. I will never require payment or permission for anybody to use it.”

The Walt Disney Company donated profits from the 2022 Disney Pride collection to LGBTQIA+ charities but neglected to do so this year.

The lesbian pride flag, which features six shades of orange, pink, and white.
Credit: Emily Gwen

“The Disney Pride Collection was created by members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community,” they stated. “The Walt Disney Company proudly works with nonprofits throughout the year to support the LGBTQIA+ community globally.”

Gwen drew more attention on Tuesday when they clarified that while the flag is free to use, it feels frustrating to struggle to survive while a major corporation makes money from their design.

“I wanna clarify something,” Gwen wrote. “I don’t want to stop anyone from selling lesbian flag products. The flag is for the community and that was always my intention. But I’m sure it’s easy to understand why I feel frustrated living in poverty while f**king Disney sells lesbian flag pins?”

Gwen met some criticism, but users were overwhelmingly supportive.

“Honestly I would definitely expect you to get paid like it’s wild that’s not happening,” said @kemimarie.

“I feel like big corporations should pay designers of our flags as a way to give back to the community,” @mossy_skies agreed. “Since they’re making pure profit off of a design they didn’t make, it’s only fair that they credit the original designer by giving them their share.”

“Totally valid,” @FeralChild42 replied. “This is why it’s important to me to shop from local artists and community members instead of buying corporate pride merch.”

Have you purchased any Disney Pride merchandise? Share your thoughts on the collection with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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