While Frozen fans are still holding out hope that Elsa gets a girlfriend in the Disney film's pending sequel, animation students Esteban Bravo and Beth David are putting a gay character front and center in their short film.
Bravo and David are fourth-year computer-animation students at Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida, and they are collaborating on their final thesis project, a short film titled In a Heartbeat.
In the film, "a closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams," according to Bravo.
"Sherwin is a closeted middle school student and he has trouble coming to terms with his sexuality and then his heart comes out of his chest, because he wants Sherwin to be with the boy that he likes," Bravo added. "It follows a little adventure where the heart is leading Sherwin towards his crush and Sherwin is trying to find it."
Bravo said the film was originally going to feature a boy and a girl, but then the idea shifted to featuring two boys.
"It developed into the same sex [storyline], because it's something we could identify with and we thought made more sense within the story, and it definitely raised the stakes, so we really wanted to tell the story," Bravo said.
Bravo and David said that, so far, TV and film animation has lagged in including LGBTQ characters and they hope that changes.
"Overall, there are small steps being made in the industry," David said. "I know in Steven Universe there are two female characters that are in a relationship with one another."
She said other Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows have also included LGBTQ characters.
"It is happening, but in very small doses right now," David said. "I hope in the future there are feature films that have these kinds of relationships being shown in the spotlight and in a positive way."
In fact, this summer's Finding Dory movie may have marked the first time a same sex couple appeared in a children's animated film, but Pixar, the studio behind the film, would not confirm that the women were in fact a lesbian couple. Even its star, Ellen DeGeneres, played coy in her responses to inquiries about the ladies in question.
"That was something that was speculated when it came out," David said, "That it would be a groundbreaking thing, but it fell through I guess, with the hype that was around it and I think that type of thing happens a lot. People think something is going to be progressive and then it's sort of halfway there. Not just in animation, but in general in TV."
Bravo added, "We've been told by several people that it's a brave thing to be doing and we understand where that statement is coming from. It's still a topic that is sensitive to broad audiences.
"We think one of the reasons why there isn't enough of this is because people are trying to cater to all audiences and the LGBT spectrum might not align with some people. It is something that slowly the industry is breaking into."
Bravo and David just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, where they raised more than $14,000 for the film. Their goal was to raise $3,000.
"We met our goal in three hours and hit our stretch goal in another four hours," David said.
The funds raised will go to hiring musicians to create the film's score, and the extra money will be used for film festival and competition submissions.
In a Heartbeat will be made available for free this summer, most likely via Vimeo.
"We are targeting it to all audiences," Bravo said. "This is a film we wanted to make because it is something we wish we'd have seen growing up. We are hoping to help young people and anyone struggling to identify as LGBT.
"We also hope with this film anyone who watches it will be able to understand a little bit more from our protagonist that this is not something he chooses, it's not a choice."
Visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/688971352/in-a-heartbeat-animated-short-film to learn more about the film .