2023 was a spectacular year for inclusivity in animation. We said goodbye to many legendary queer characters and said hello to the new who captured our hearts. Across the film and television landscape, whether aimed at kids or adults, 2023 in animation took things to the next level. Nimona was finally set free through her fantastic movie, Harlivy had a daughter (more or less), and Scott Pilgrim’s updated anime rewrote Ramona’s bisexual identity for the better.
Here are ten *looks at Velma.* NINE, nine queer animation WINS from this year. I’m sorry there aren’t any anime or RWBY here, I don’t have a Crunchyroll account and you can’t convince me to get one.
Captain Laserhawk Makes Ubisoft Go Ubihard
Captain Laserhawk is a badass adult-action animated series that takes all the Ubisoft properties (FarCry, Assassins Creed, Rayman) and goes full Roger Rabbit in terms of originality meets internal property, with an edgy Suicide Squad premise. A rogue, cybernetic metahuman finds himself working as a mercenary for the government with a motley crew of criminals after his boyfriend/crime partner betrays him and leaves him for dead. As if you’re in a purple-infused techno rave on poppers, its 90s-retro, cyberpunk environment is full of exhilarating action and humor. It’s an environment where family-friendly Rayman goes on a murderous rampage, and you don’t even bat an eye at it at all.
Fionna & Cake Canonizes Gary and Marshall Lee’s Yaoi Romance
Adventure Time had been playing with multiverses long before Jobu Tupaki touched her first everything bagel, or Spidey swung to change animation history. In the millennial-oriented series Fionna & Cake, the gender-reversed versions of iconic girlfriends Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, Marshall Lee (voiced by Donald Glover) and Gary (voiced by Andrew Rannells), stir up in a heartwarming affair in the cityscape version of Ooo. While their mutual best friend, Fionna, is on a traumatizing multidimensional adventure across time and space, they eventually encounter each other and hang out. A blossoming slow-burn relationship between them forms in the wake of her absence. Its winter setting evokes a cozy Richard Curtis-like feel. I’ve never seen Love Actually, so Marshall Lee and Gary falling for each other throughout a few episodes will suffice.
Nimona Got Her Goddamn Movie Made, and It’s Great
In 2021, Disney’s homophobic asses shut down Blue Sky Studios, which was deep into production Nimona, the story about the little shapeshifting girl getting her anti-hero boss acquitted for a crime he didn’t commit, based on the comic by ND Stevenson. Cut to shortly after, a mere few months, and Nimona was resurrected by the British (DNEG Animation) faster than her body could even decompose. Her movie is a transgressive triumph that pushes the means of identity and tolerance with a phenomenal trans allegory, bottled in a heartful steampunk gay ol’ thrill ride. While she flies high on 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, the latest Disney animated release, Wish couldn’t even climb to a fresh ranking — sitting at a whopping 48%. Wish is the first negatively reviewed Disney flick since Chicken Little. Nimona got her last laugh.
Steven Universe Turned Ten
Wow, the crystal gems are gay elders now. Yup, Steven Universe turned ten years old. Say what you will about Rebecca Sugar’s sci-fi pacifistic charged series, but it was groundbreaking for LGBTQ+ visibility in children’s media. Sugar battled through thick and thin with their ukelele to explore complex LGBTQ themes revolving around same-sex relationships and gender inclusivity, making iconic strides in animation history. Fans like myself can rest knowing its story is definitively concluded and won’t have to suffer a strenuous hiatus for episode drops.
Todd Ingram Falls Into a Wells
Everyone I know speaks about Envy Adams in the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World movie as the foreshadowing of their bisexuality. The character’s boyfriend, Todd Ingrim, kissing Wallace Wells sparks his own bi-flame within the confines of the remarkable anime, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. During the mockumentary-styled episode “Lights. Camera. Sparks?!” Wallace slyly enchants Todd while shooting the in-universe Scott Pilgrim movie. Let’s say Wallace banged the vegan out of him, leaving Todd down so bad he proclaims to be in love with Wallace Wells for three days longer than he felt with Envy in their over a decade as a couple, revealing a tattoo of him on his body. And all while Envy was present for that declaration! Sadly, those sparks weren’t reciprocated, but I’m here for the Todd and Wallace OTP.
Ramona and Roxie Get a Rewrite
Significantly updating its source material, the excellent Scott Pilgrim Takes Off episode “Ramona Rents a Video” rewrites Ramona Flowers’ bisexuality from more than a bi-furious punchline (as iconic as it is). Ramona and Roxie duke it out in a video store, but this time, Ramona atones for her past mistakes. We get a glimpse of their romance while they were roommates, emphasis on “mates.” She apologizes and receives closure. I can spend a thousand words detailing how “Ramona Rents a Video” is a remarkable turning point for the show’s direction and tonal maturity, but alas, this will be a big ol W of its own.
The Owl House Casts a Perfect Spell With Its Finale
The Owl House creator Dana Terrace had to go through their demon realm at the Mouse House in the past few years to tell a complex tale about a queer teenage human becoming a witch in their manner. Despite the show’s increasing popularity, Owl House was given three 45-minute specials masked as a third season to wrap up its tale. Through its final slew of episodes, Terrace and her team stuck the landing in completing Luz’s arc to becoming the good witch she trained to be in an epic climax. Between having their first bisexual lead and striking the first same-sex romance for the Disney Channel with Luz and Amity, The Owl House will be the most progressive, transgressive series that’ll go down in Disney Channel history. Disney never deserved Luz Noceda in the first place.
Neytiri. No, Not the Avatar Character, Harley and Ivy’s Daughter, Duh!
When Harlivy started, Showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker said they’d never break up. Season 4 is another testament to that declaration as the series continues its strong streak in delving into Batman’s rogue’s gallery of villains facing identity dilemmas. Harly Quinn season 4 takes Harlivy into the future, where they meet their daughter, whom they called Natiryi. Another Schumacher and Halpern W right there. Granted, they fought her because of apocalypse stuff, but hey, Harly and Ivy procreated, and it’s canon. Or it’s not because they ended up preventing the apocalypse from happening. They have or HAD a daughter.
Pixar’s Globby, I Mean Lake
Perhaps it was the worst timing for Disney to announce that they have a minor non-binary water character in Elemental right off the heels of The Other Two’s biting Disney satirical takedown with a pile of glob. That being said, Pixar has been fighting for queer visibility in their movies for a long time (cc: Alisha Hawthorne’s onscreen kiss in Lightyear). Despite Wade Ripple’s sibling Lake, voiced by a non-binary voice actor Kai Ava Hauser, having little screen time, they are indeed the first Pixar non-binary character. If only Pixar could have some future stories that center around out-queer characters. No shade to my favorite sea creature, son Luca. He is innocent.