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Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ has been banned in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Malaysia because of lesbian kiss

Pixar’s “Lightyear” has been banned in multiple counties due to the animated feature depicting a same-sex kiss between two characters — a scene parent company Disney initially lashed out at, but reinstated after complaints from offended staff.

As of Monday, a total of nine countries have barred citizens from seeing the Toy Story spin-off, which will hit theaters later this week.

The ban has been largely confined to the Middle East, affecting markets in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar – but it also extended to other Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

The scene in question reportedly depicts the female lead in the film, voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, kissing her “female partner” — a display that the nations’ governments object to as it goes against their culture and religion.

Early Monday, tThe UAE – home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai – was the first to reveal that they had banned the photo, in which actor Chris Evans voices the inspiration for Tim Allen’s action figure Buzz Lightyear, made famous in the ‘Toy Story’ movies.

Pixar's 'Lightyear' has been banned in multiple counties due to the animated film showing a same-sex kiss between two characters — a scene parent company Disney initially slammed, but reinstated after complaints from offended staff.

Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ has been banned in multiple counties due to the animated film showing a same-sex kiss between two characters — a scene parent company Disney initially slammed, but reinstated after complaints from offended staff.

As of Monday, a total of nine countries have barred citizens from seeing the Toy Story spin-off, which is set to hit theaters later this week.

As of Monday, a total of nine countries have barred citizens from seeing the Toy Story spin-off, which is set to hit theaters later this week.

The country made the announcement through its Media Regulatory Office of the country’s Ministry of Youth and Culture, saying the film would not open on Thursday due to the violation of rules imposed on the national media.

The film “is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE, due to the violation of the country’s media content standards,” the office wrote.

The media watchdog further claimed that the ban was intended “to ensure the safety of the content distributed according to the appropriate age rating”.

The UAE, like the other countries mentioned, is Muslim-run and criminalizes same-sex relationships.

Other countries in the Middle East quickly followed the Emirates’ lead, with Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar all implementing their own ban on Monday.

The film was reportedly never submitted to censorship in Saudi Arabia, as the producers assumed it would fail due to the country’s outspoken disapproval of homosexuality.

The scene in question reportedly depicts the female lead in the film (right), voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, kissing her

The scene in question reportedly depicts the female lead in the film (right), voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, kissing her “female partner” — a showing that the nations’ governments object to as it goes against their culture and religion.

Other West Asian areas with predominantly Muslim populations, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, also announced they would not broadcast the photo — one of the most anticipated of the year.

Malaysia recently had similar qualms about gay scenes in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ and Elton John biopic ‘Rocket Man’.

The scene in question, where Aduba’s The lesbian character Alisha and her partner who start a family together and greet each other with a kiss on the lips, were originally cut from the film by Disney earlier this year.

However, it was reinstated in March, after Pixar staffers complained about the censorship in an open letter Variety received.

The scene in question reportedly depicts the female lead in the film (right), voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, kissing her

The scene in question reportedly depicts the female lead in the film (right), voiced by actress Uzo Aduba, kissing her “female partner” — a showing that the nations’ governments object to as it goes against their culture and religion.

The letter criticized the company’s CEO Bob Chapek for his handling of the matter, accusing him of attempting to censor “homosexual affection.”

The note further criticized its handling of Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in which the company initially took a cautious stance on the bill before succumbing to public pressure and condemning it.

The bill prohibits teaching sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to third grade.

The massive nixing comes on the heels of a social media campaign using the Arabic hashtag ‘Ban Showing Lightyear in the Emirates’.

They described showing a lesbian couple on screen as against their culture and religion.

Early Monday, the UAE - home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai - was the first to reveal that they had banned the photo, in which actor Chris Evans voices the inspiration for Tim Allen's action figure Buzz Lightyear, made famous in the 'Toy Story' movies.

Early Monday, the UAE – home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai – was the first to reveal that they had banned the photo, in which actor Chris Evans voices the inspiration for Tim Allen’s action figure Buzz Lightyear, made famous in the ‘Toy Story’ movies.

The US State Department warns that Islamic – or Sharia – law in the UAE could include the death penalty for same-sex conduct, while Dubai could face up to 10 years in prison and Abu Dhabi up to 14 years.

Such persecutions are rarely reported, however, and LGBTQ individuals live in the skyscraper-studded city-state of Dubai, home of the airline Emirates.

The $200 million Lightyear is expected to be a major draw for Disney, with analysts estimating it could bring in more than $100 million in its first weekend.

Studios have historically allowed censors to cut movies in worldwide distribution for content, including in the Middle East market.

The nine countries that ban ‘Lightyear’ because of gay kisses

  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Saudi Arabia

Recently, Disney has faced protests from activists and its own staff over what they described as CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

A newspaper in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf has similarly speculated that the film will not be shown there.

Officials from the Malaysian Film Censorship Board and the Ministry of the Interior, as well as The Walt Disney Company, were not immediately available for comment.

It comes as the company faced backlash for tweaking their content to avoid angering leaders in other countries, where US-made movies bring in billions of dollars a year.

In a case of self-censorship, Marvel Studios, which was acquired by Disney in 2009, reportedly added a scene to the 2013 Chinese version of Iron Man 3, showing Chinese doctors trying to save Iron Man’s life.

A report however, written in 2020 by acquittal nonprofit PEN America, it revealed that Chinese regulators were allowed to visit the film set while filming and “advise” on certain creative choices.

It also notes that another Disney movie, the superhero movie Dr. Strange, an important Tibetan character, shelved for fear it would jeopardize the film’s chances of making money in China.

Aside from removing or revising their content, Disney has also been known to manipulate other media, especially those that advertise their titles abroad.

In 2015 and 2018 respectively, the company changed the movie posters of two of its most popular productions, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Black Panther, to appeal more to a Chinese audience.

However, the changes implemented sparked outrage among many in the US, as many believed the logic behind the changes was rooted in racial prejudice.

For example, in the Chinese version of the Star Wars poster, it appeared that color characters were intentionally omitted or downplayed in the ad.

John Boyega, a black British actor who starred in the film and featured prominently on the American poster, was inexplicably shrunk on the Chinese version. Meanwhile, other characters are played by non-white actors, including Lupita Nyong’o, a black woman; and Oscar Isaac, a Latino, were left out entirely.

Such cases prompted US Attorney General William Barr to criticize Hollywood’s largely liberal film industry last year, saying executives are “all too willing to partner with the Chinese Communist Party.”

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