Due to the inclusion of a same sex kiss in Pixar’s new Toy Story spinoff Lightyear, the film has been banned in over a dozen Middle Eastern and Asian countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Kuwait. And, according to Reuters, a Chinese release seems unlikely.
What’s the background here? In the scene, new character Alisha, a fellow space ranger to Buzz, shares a kiss with her partner. Originally, Disney cut the scene before employees at Pixar published an open letter accusing the company of demanding cuts and censorship of any “overtly gay” affection in its kids and family films. After the letter went public, the scene was quickly restored.
Were the bans expected? According to a report by Variety, Disney never allowed Saudi censors access to the film, knowing it would not be approved for release in that country. Initially though, it was approved for release in the U.A.E. where censors have begun lightening their criteria slightly in recent years. However, that license to exhibit the film in the U.A.E. was revoked after a social media uproar in the region which accused the film and the studio of insulting Muslims and Islam by refusing to remove the scene. Malaysia has been trending in the oposite directions, increasing censorship of films seeking theatrical releases.
Has there been a response? Disney has not yet commented publicly on the issue, but the film’s banning seems to imply that the company was unwilling to cut the scene a second time just to gain access to the offended markets. That theory is backed up in the Varietyarticle, which claims the Malaysian censorship authority asked for edits to the film, which Disney declined to make.
The big picture. The cutting and reinstatement of the Lightyear kiss scene are emblematic of Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s turbulent time in charge at the company. His handling of issues regarding LGBTQ Disney employees and fans has been a source of tremendous criticism from all angles. After the Pixar employees’ open letter went public, the executive issued an apology, in which he promised to “become a better ally,” and spoke out against Florida’s controversial Florida Parental Rights in Education bill (critically known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law), which had recently been announced at the time. Florida governor Ron DeSantis then initiated a barrage of vitriolic public attacks against Chapek and Disney, which was followed by a massive piling on from the political right.