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Disney’s run-in with Gulf censors has added another chapter.
Lightyear is the latest film from the studio to be banned in various Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Sources tell THR the decision is linked to the inclusion of a same-gender kiss in Pixar’s Toy Story prequel spinoff. The scene, involving the female character Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) and her partner, was originally cut from the film but reinstated following the uproar surrounding a statement from Pixar employees claiming that Disney had been censoring “overtly gay affection” and Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The UAE’s Media Regulatory Office announced June 13 that the movie — due for release June 16 — was not licensed for public screening due to its “violation of the country’s media content standards.”
Lightyear now becomes the latest in a growing list of major Disney features that have faced issues in Gulf countries due to scenes involving LGBTQ references or topics, which often fall foul of censors for theatrical releases due to homosexuality being officially illegal across the region.
In April, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wasn’t given a theatrical license, reportedly due to the introduction of the character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) who, as per her portrayal in the comics, is gay. This followed on the heels of Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, which was banned across much of the Gulf in November following the inclusion of a same-gender couple in the film and the MCU’s first gay superhero. At the time, THR understood that censors had requested a series of edits that Disney was not willing to make. An edited version did screen in the UAE, however.
In January, West Side Story was also stopped from reaching cinemas in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. This time, regional sources told THR the decision was due to the character Anybodys, written as transgender in the new adaptation and played by nonbinary actor Iris Menas.
THR has reached out to Disney for comment.
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