The Walt Disney Company is embracing LGBT pride month for the first time ever and hosting a gay pride parade in its Disneyland Paris park in France.
The massive corporation has been moving toward a more liberal approach to sexual identity over the last decade, but the “Magical Pride” parade, set to take place on June 1, 2019, is the first time the Disney Parks have openly embraced and endorsed the shift.
The event will take place right at the beginning of global pride month — June — and will feature a “Magical March of Diversity Parade,” reportedly involving DJs, live music performances, and themed photo opportunities for visitors to the Disneyland Paris park, according to Queerty.
Gay pride events in Disney Parks are not new. The “Magical Pride” celebration has been an “unofficial” event at Disneyland Paris since 2014. Disney parks located in the United States — Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California — have both hosted unofficial LGBT events including “Gay Days,” an unofficial weekend celebration for gay couples and same sex parents. The first Gay Days celebration took place in the mid-to-late 2000s.
In the late 2000s, LBGT groups also began chartering Disney cruises.
Disney has been inching closer to a cultural shift over the last decade, slowly incorporating openly LGBT characters into its television shows and animated features (including an LGBT background character in Frozen). The upcoming Disney live action film, Jungle Cruise, based on the Disney parks attraction of the same name, will feature the first openly gay character in a Disney live action feature — though the character in question will be played by a straight actor will embrace some unsavory stereotypes of gay culture.
But the decision to make a shift in theme park operation by recognizing Disneyland Paris’s pride celebration may be driven more by profit than any commitment to social justice. Both Gay Days and the LGBT-specific cruises are major draws for Disney. Gay Days typically pull in more than 150,000 gay and lesbian visitors to Walt Disney World theme park in Florida alone making it, according to the event’s official Facebook page, one of the single largest pride-related gatherings in the world.
But the Disney theme parks have until recently been less than accommodating to “unofficial events,” keeping “Gay Days” and other LGBT-specific celebrations mostly at arms length. Last year, though, Disney began the process of cashing in: the Walt Disney World theme park debuted a collectible pair of “gay pride,” rainbow-colored souvenir Mickey Mouse ears just before Gay Days.
In Anaheim, California, Disneyland unofficially celebrated “Gay Days” with rainbow-themed food, including a rainbow-frosted, Mickey Mouse-shaped puffed rice treat, and a “rainbow” cake which guests could buy by the slice. When the rainbow-colored merchandise sold well at Walt Disney World, the Disney company rolled out a similar line of items for Disneyland’s celebration, including themed tee shirts, mugs, pins, and headbands.