Pixar Studios’ latest animated film, “Buzz Lightyear,” which contains a fleeting kissing scene between two cohabiting women, has been denied release in fourteen countries and territories across the Middle East and Asia, we learned. Tuesday from a source with access to the file.
According to this source, the list of these countries, overwhelmingly Muslim, is as follows: Malaysia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates United.
“Buzz Lightyear” traces the birth of the intrepid astronaut made famous by the “Toy Story” saga. In the film, Buzz and his fellow space rangers, including his leader and best friend Alisha Hawthorne, crash into a hostile planet.
At one point in the film, Alisha’s character can be seen briefly kissing his wife, a scene originally cut by the Disney Pixar Studios subsidiary.
But Pixar and Disney employees rose up, criticizing the attitude of the world’s number one entertainment company, accused of failing to defend the rights of LGBTQ + people.
The controversy was further reignited after the passage in Florida of a controversial law banning the teaching of sexual orientation in public schools. Bob Chapek, the chief executive of the company that employs more than 75,000 people at Disney World theme park in Orlando, in the southeastern state of the United States, found himself in turmoil after saying he hesitated to oppose this law.
Under pressure, Bob Chapek had finally publicly denounced this law.
According to Hollywood media, it was following this controversy that the kissing scene was reintroduced into “Buzz Lightyear”. It now appears in all versions of the film, regardless of the country of destination.
The film’s producer, Galyn Susman, broached the subject in early April by presenting the film to the press.
“Being able to get that kiss back was important to us. It’s a touching moment” with great plot significance, as it allows Buzz to realize that, unlike his friend, he doesn’t have to be loved or a child, has explained.
But the producer insisted that “we always had the lesbian couple” formed by Alisha and his wife, who had despite the initial cut “have always been a part of the movie”.
The UAE Media Regulatory Bureau announced Monday a ban on animated films “due to a violation of the country’s media content standards.”
Authorities did not say how “Buzz Lightyear” violated those standards or whether the kissing scene between two women was specifically to blame.
The posters of the film had already been plastered on the streets of the emirate of Dubai, which belongs to the Emirates.
The rich Gulf state has a Ministry of Tolerance. It is relatively liberal compared to its neighbors, but remains governed by many restrictions on political and social issues.
Censorship is a widespread practice in the Arab world, especially in the very conservative Gulf region. Films that contain scenes considered damaging to morals are often cut or even banned completely.
“Buzz Lightyear” should also not be screened in Indonesia or Malaysia, two countries in Southeast Asia with ultra-majority Muslim populations.
“We suggested that the owners of the film think about their audiences in Indonesia, where kissing between LGBT people is still considered sensitive,” Rommy Fibri Hardiyanto, head of the censorship commission at the Ministry of Education and Culture, told AFP.
The film is not strictly banned in Indonesia, but authorities say they are still awaiting the required “final version” from Disney, particularly with subtitles. “The ball is in their court,” said Rommy Fibri Hardiyanto.
In Malaysia, the censorship board has asked Disney to cut two scenes “which are not suitable for children,” an interior ministry official told AFP who asked to remain anonymous.
The request was made last week and Disney has not yet responded to Malaysian authorities, the official added, who did not specify which two scenes were involved.