The first out, gay teenager in a Disney movie is hitting the big screen soon — and he will played by none other than Jaboukie Young-White.
Strange World, the forthcoming film from Disney Animation Studios, premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday (November 15). It follows the Clade family, a “legendary family of explorers,” who attempt to “navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures,” per Disney.
That family includes dad, Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal); his father, Jaeger (Dennis Quaid); Searcher’s partner, Meridian (Gabrielle Union); and Callisto Mal, the leader of the exploration party (Lucy Liu). Young-White plays Searcher’s 16-year-old son, Ethan, who is described as someone who “longs for adventure.”
Beyond that, he also longs for his crush, Diazo. According to Variety, Ethan is a “biracial, openly gay teenager who gets completely tongue-tied when he’s near his crush,” making him one of only a handful of LGBTQ+ characters throughout the animation studio’s history.
In an interview with Yahoo, Young-White shared that he thought his character “was pretty cool.” “It was a beautiful thing to be a part of, and something I wish I could have seen when I was that age,” he said.
The actor further specified that Strange World “isn't a coming out story, and it's not him looking for acceptance of his identity.”
“That's just who he is, and it's not underlined or made to be a big deal,” Young-White told Yahoo. “It's an aspect of Ethan and one of the many things that makes him who he is. I thought that was amazing.” In fact, Yahoo further specifies that Ethan’s experience with his elders is positive, with all three of them accepting who he is.
Gabrielle Union additionally shared with Yahoo that although Disney has previously been guilty of downplaying queer storylines (including in the live-action Cheaper by the Dozen remake that she starred in), Strange World makes Ethan’s identity “very clear.”
“I just love that we have created a space where you can show a loving, affectionate family that creates enough loving space for everyone to chart their own course in life,” Union said. “I'm absolutely honored to be a part of telling that story.”
Strange World will hit theaters on November 23.
This story originally appeared on Them and has been lightly edited.