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

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

The United Arab Emirates has banned “Lightyear” from public screenings, and Malaysia has asked Disney to cut several scenes from the film before it can be shown in local cinemas, according to officials in 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 kissing scene could violate a law banning films that depict “sexually deviant behavior.” .

“The Film Censorship Board does not want to be dragged into the vortex of the pro-LGBT versus anti-LGBT debate,” said President Rommy Fibri. “But this kissing scene is sensitive.”

Disney did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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

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

“Lightyear” focuses 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 Chief Executive 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 that was moving through the Florida legislature, which is home to the Disney World resort.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in late March, and Disney publicly condemned it. Later, Florida House 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” generated far less public attention in the United States than Disney’s confrontation with 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 UAE, the government’s Media Regulatory Office said on twitter this week that “Lightyear” was not licensed for national theaters because it 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 form on Netflix, but the Film Censorship Board has asked Disney to alter several scenes, including a “romantic” one, before it can be shown in theaters, a spokesperson said. of the ministry. of Internal Affairs.

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 complete film, with subtitles, for censorship review. “We’re not saying that we reject the film,” he said.

A film with a homosexual kissing scene would likely not pass a censorship review in Indonesia because of a 2019 law banning films with “vulgar sexual activity” or “deviant” or “irrational” sexual content, Rommy added.

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

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

It was unclear on Wednesday how the film would fare in other countries in the Middle East and Asia. Film censorship authorities in Saudi Arabia and China, an important market for Hollywood studios, did not respond to requests for comment.

In Singapore, the Infocomm 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 Disney turned down his suggestion to release two versions of the film, including one edited for younger viewers.

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

Muktita Suhartono and Liani MK contributed reports. I read you contributed research.

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