UAE bans ‘Lightyear’, Disney movie with same-sex kiss

Disney’s new movie “Lightyear,” an offshoot of the “Toy Story” franchise, is facing bans or restrictions in parts of Southeast Asia and the Middle East over a scene featuring a kiss between two women. The animated film opens worldwide this week.

The United Arab Emirates has banned public screenings of “Lightyear” and Malaysia has asked Disney to cut several scenes from the film before it can be shown in local theaters, according to officials from Muslim-majority countries.

In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, the chairman of the Film Censorship Board told The New York Times on Wednesday that the kiss scene could potentially violate a law that bans movies showing “sexual behavior.” deflected”.

“The Film Censorship Board does not want to get caught up in the vortex of the pro-LGBT versus anti-LGBT debate,” said Chairman Rommy Fibri. “But that kissing scene is touchy.”

Disney did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The international backlash against “Lightyear” is a new public relations headache for Disney, whose growing willingness to publicly defend LGBTQ people has made it an unlikely cultural lightning rod in the United States.

Disney has described “Lightyear,” which was created by Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Angus MacLane, as the “definitive origin story” for the character Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger who starred in the 1995 film “Toy Story” and several sequels.

“Lightyear” centers on the friendship between Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) and another space ranger, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). Alisha marries a woman and in one scene she greets his wife with a kiss.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under intense pressure earlier this year from many of the company’s employees to take a strong stand against anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through the legislature. in Florida, where the Disney World complex is located.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed the bill into law in late March, and Disney publicly condemned it. Later, the Florida House of Representatives voted to revoke Disney World’s special tax designation, a privilege the theme park near Orlando had held for more than half a century.

The international reaction to “Lightyear” has generated much less public attention in the United States than Disney’s clash with Mr. DeSantis. But it’s a reminder to the company that cultural clashes over children’s content don’t end at the US border.

In the United Arab Emirates, the government’s Media Regulatory Office said on Twitter this week that “Lightyear” was not licensed for national theater showings because it had violated the country’s “media content standards.” The agency did not elaborate or respond to a request for comment.

In Malaysia, “Lightyear” can be shown in its current format on Netflix, but the Film Censorship Board has asked Disney to change several scenes, including a “romantic” one, before it can be shown in theaters, a spokesman said. of the Ministry. indoor.

In Indonesia, Rommy of the Film Censorship Board said officials had flagged the kiss scene to Disney and were waiting for the company to submit the entire film, with subtitles, for censorship review. “We’re not saying we reject the movie,” he said.

A movie with a gay kissing scene is likely to fail a censorship review in Indonesia due to a 2019 law that bans movies with “vulgar sexual activity” or sexual content that is “deviant” or “unreasonable,” Rommy added.

Openly gay, lesbian, and transgender people face persecution throughout the Islamic world. In Malaysia, the legislation directed at them has its roots in religious courts and British colonial-era bans on Muslims and non-Muslims. In Indonesia, where nearly nine out of 10 of the country’s 270 million people are Muslim, some politicians have sought to associate LGBTQ people with immorality, disease and the subversion of Indonesian culture.

Italy Film International, a company which distributes Disney movies in the Middle East and has promoted “Lightyear” on its website, did not respond to requests for comment.

As of Wednesday, it was unclear how the film would fare in other Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Film censorship authorities in Saudi Arabia and China, a major market for Hollywood studios, did not respond to requests for comment.

In Singapore, Infocomm’s Media Development Authority said in a statement this week that viewers must be 16 or older to watch “Lightyear.” He described the film as the “first commercial children’s animation to feature overt homosexual depictions” and said that Disney had rejected his suggestion to release two versions of the film, including one edited for younger viewers.

“While it is an excellent animated film set in the American context, Singapore is a diverse society where we have multiple sensibilities and viewpoints,” Cheryl Ng, who chairs the agency’s film advisory panel, said in the statement.

Muktita Suhartono Y Liani MK contributed report. li you contributed research.

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