The film and the character Nimona have been through hell to finally be seen by the masses. Despite a story encouraging curiosity over prejudice, the film was nearly forever shelved after the project was canceled by Disney, allegedly due to its LGBTQ representation. Thankfully, Nimona is here to set the record straight about the dangers of intolerance.
In Nimona, Ballister Boldheart (voiced by Riz Ahmed), a low-born and dark-skinned child, wants nothing more than to become a knight in a kingdom where only descendants of knights are allowed to serve. In a shocking move, the Queen of the realm allows young Ballister to train so that he may one day be knighted alongside the “true” knights. When the day comes for the knighting ceremony, the queen is killed with Ballister’s sword. Now, he’s on the run, determined to find the true culprit and clear his name. Meanwhile, the titular character Nimona (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) is resigned to a lonely life of villainy, but when they hear of another criminal outcast, Nimona joins Ballister on his quest.
There is so much to love about the film — the witty dialogue, the unique animation style, the ever-twisting story – but it's the groundbreaking inclusion of LGBTQ characters in a children’s movie that makes Nimona beloved.
Although the film is not unique in its theme of love and acceptance, I’ve seen no family movies with explicit LGBTQ representation like Nimona. The film is not subtle in its metaphors and it makes no apologies for it. Nimona is a character who is uncomfortable in their skin. Their most common form is a spunky female teen, but they also at times shift into a little boy, an ostrich, a rhino, and Ballister himself. Nimona even says, “I’m not a people” and explains that they are happier to remain fluid in their appearance.
The film also is not subtle in the portrayal of the relationship between Ballister and his fellow knight, Ambrosius Goldenloin (voiced by Eugene Lee Yang). In a scene from the movie’s prologue, Goldenloin tells Ballister that he loves him as he comforts Ballister. They are two lovers at odds throughout the film, striving to find their way back to each other.
Watching the film, I kept waiting for the homophobic remarks or the inevitable coming-out storyline. I’m still waiting. It’s been a dream for so long to have an inclusive children’s film that is truly inclusive – for it not to be just straight white characters to get happily ever afters.
Nimona is a fairytale about how easily misconceptions and bigotry can spread, but that change and acceptance are possible.
It’s no wonder Disney scrapped the project.
The public message is that Nimona was shut down because of the pandemic, but former employees are speaking out. Blue Sky Studios, the company that worked on Nimona and brought us the Ice Age Franchise, was shut down by Disney in 2021. Anonymous employees at Blue Sky spoke about Dinsey’s alleged pressure to remove the LGBTQ content in Nimona in an article with Business Insider: “The pushback started during a meeting in mid-2020 between the leadership teams… Blue Sky leadership felt enough pressure in this meeting to leave the kiss out of future presentations to Disney, despite hoping to ultimately include it in the film.”
Another former Blue Sky staffer told BuzzfeedNews: "That [the studio’s shutdown] is heartbreaking because we are not only losing our jobs, we’re losing our family, our workplace, we’re losing the closure of being able to send Nimona out into the world, where it could change kids' lives."
Luckily, despite its initial cancellation, Nimona found a new home at Netflix and was available to stream on June 30th. One week later, the film shot up to third on Netflix’s Weekly Top Ten chart with over 6.7 million views.
Both the film and the story of Nimona teach audiences the power of curiosity. Asking questions about things we don’t understand and trying new things is how we grow as a society. Netflix took a chance on a non-traditional film just like Ballister took a chance on a lonely kid. And just like Ballister the world is a better place for it.
Viewers can watch Nimona now on Netflix and can read more about the characters in the comic that inspired the film, Nimona by ND Stevenson.