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U.A.E. Bans ‘Lightyear,’ Disney Film with Same-Sex Kiss


Disney’s recent movie “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 incorporates a kiss between two women. The animated film opens around the globe this week.

The United Arab Emirates has banned “Lightyear” from public screenings, and Malaysia has asked Disney to chop several scenes from the film before it could be shown in local cinemas, in accordance with officials within the Muslim-majority countries.

In Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, the chairman of the Film Censorship Board told The Recent York Times on Wednesday that the kissing scene could potentially violate a law that prohibits movies that show “deviant sexual behavior.”

“The Film Censorship Board doesn’t wish to be drawn into the vortex of debate over pro L.G.B.T. versus anti-L.G.B.T.,” said the chairman, Rommy Fibri. “But that kissing scene is sensitive.”

Disney didn’t reply to repeated requests for comment.

The international backlash against “Lightyear” is a fresh public relations headache for Disney, whose growing willingness to publicly defend L.G.B.T.Q. people has made it a somewhat unlikely cultural lightning rod in america.

Disney has described “Lightyear,” which was created by Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Angus MacLane, because the “definitive origin story” of the character Buzz Lightyear, an area ranger who starred within the 1995 film “Toy Story” and a number of other sequels.

“Lightyear” focuses on the friendship between Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) and one other space ranger, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). Alisha marries a girl, and in a single scene she greets her wife with a kiss.

Disney’s chief executive, Bob Chapek, got here under intense pressure earlier this yr from lots of the company’s employees to take a forceful stand against anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws that was moving through the legislature in Florida, which is home to the Disney World resort.

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

The international backlash to “Lightyear” has generated far less public attention in america than Disney’s clash with Mr. DeSantis. However it’s a reminder for the corporate that cultural clashes over children’s content don’t end on the U.S. border.

Within the United Arab Emirates, the federal government’s Media Regulatory Office said on Twitter this week that “Lightyear” was not licensed for screenings in domestic cinemas since it had violated the country’s “media content standards.” The agency didn’t elaborate or reply to a request for comment.

In Malaysia, “Lightyear” will be screened in its current form on Netflix, however the Film Censorship Board has asked Disney to alter several scenes, including a “romantic” one, before it could be shown in cinemas, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In Indonesia, Mr. Rommy of the Film Censorship Board said officials there had flagged the kissing scene to Disney and were waiting for the corporate to send the finished film, with subtitles, for censorship review. “We aren’t saying that we reject the movie,” he said.

A movie with a homosexual kissing scene would likely not pass a censorship review in Indonesia due to a 2019 law that prohibits movies with “vulgar sexual intercourse” or sexual content that’s “deviant” or “unreasonable,” Mr. Rommy added.

Openly gay, lesbian and transgender people face persecution across the Islamic world. In Malaysia, laws targeting them is rooted in religious courts and British colonial-era prohibitions for Muslims and non-Muslims. In Indonesia, where nearly nine in 10 of the country’s 270 million individuals are Muslim, some politicians have tried to associate L.G.B.T.Q. individuals with immorality, disease and the subversion of Indonesian culture.

Italia Film International, an organization that distributes Disney movies within the Middle East and has promoted “Lightyear” on its website, didn’t reply to requests for comment.

It was unclear as of Wednesday how the movie would fare in other countries across the Middle East and Asia. The film censorship authorities in Saudi Arabia and China, a serious marketplace for Hollywood studios, didn’t reply to requests for comment.

In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said in a press release this week that viewers must be 16 or older to view “Lightyear.” It described the film because the “first business children’s animation to feature overt homosexual depictions,” and said that Disney had declined its suggestion of releasing two versions of the film, including an edited one for younger viewers.

“While it is a wonderful animated film set within the U.S. context, Singapore is a various society where we have now multiple sensibilities and viewpoints,” Cheryl Ng, who chairs the agency’s film consultation panel, said within the statement.

Muktita Suhartono and Liani MK contributed reporting. Li You contributed research.

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