Now this is how the sausage really gets made. Of course Disney, being a cautiously conservative mega-corporation that trades mostly in children’s media, is obnoxiously hands-on about the content they put out. But we rarely get to see behind the curtain of what goes into monitoring their creatives.
Thanks to Gravity Falls’ Alex Hirsch, we now have a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes, and it’s… pretty bonkers. Hirsch has been celebrating the Disney Channel cartoon’s 10-year anniversary, and he concluded the festivities with some of the messages he exchanged with the network’s Standards & Practices department during the series’ tenure.
“One last treat. Ever curious about the fights I had with the censors on Gravity Falls?” He wrote on Twitter. “I probably shouldn’t share this buttttt here are some REAL NOTES from DISNEY S&P and my REAL REPLIES. You are not prepared #10YearsOfGravityFalls”
The back-and-forth is as boggling as Hirsch promised, from warning that the word “‘chub’ has a sexual connotation” (“This is silly. It’s an image of a fat dog.”) to fretting that a line “about dressing as a giant teddy bear” might remind the audience of a “‘furry’ fetish.” (“Do I even have to respond to this?”) In one hilariously stuffy note, censors requested Hirsch revise a limerick about “a man from Kentucky” because “S&P is worried that unsavory rhymes could be gleaned from it.”
The S&P complaints even include a predictable whiff of homophobia regarding a moment where Blubs, a cop, puts his arm around his partner Durland. “As noted in previous concerns, their affectionate relationship should remain comical versus flirtatious,” read the censor note. “Nope. They’re… buddies. Chill out,” Hirsch replied. “The gesture is approved in this context,” the censors grudgingly conceded.
“I have literally *thousands* of these. Each one still haunts me,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet. To his credit, Hirsch valiantly pushed back on the mind-numbing censorship, from simply bemoaning “How is this my life” to heroically arguing, “Why should we be held hostage to whatever imaginary knee-jerk career complainers who would conceivably go out of their way to pretend to be offended by this?” (This earned him a, “Will review in context.”)
Seems like thwarting ridiculous S&P notes is a full-time job on its own. If you’ve ever thought Disney content felt incredibly sanitized, well, now you know why.