Disney-Pixar's newest film, Lightyear, scheduled to be released on June 16th in the United Arab Emirates, was banned "due to its violation of the country's media content standards."
While the government body didn't specify the part of the movie that caused the violation, Executive Director Rashid Khalfan Al Nuaimi said it was banned due to the inclusion of homosexual characters.
The Media Regulatory Office announced that the animated film Lightyear, which is scheduled for release on 16th June, is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE, due to its violation of the country’s media content standards. pic.twitter.com/f3iYwXqs1D
— مكتب تنظيم الإعلام (@uaemro) June 13, 2022
The Media Regulatory Office of UAE announced on Monday, June 13th, that the movie would be banned. The office tweeted, "the film is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE." The office added that it "confirms that all films screened in cinemas across the country are subject to follow-up and evaluation before the date of screening to the public, to ensure the safety of the circulated content according to the appropriate age classification."
Earlier this year, Disney's big releases, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" and "The Eternals," faced a similar scenario as these films were denied screening in some Gulf countries over LGBT+ content.
The UAE has banned the movie despite announcing that the country would no longer censor films last year. To attract foreign investors and talent, the government is modernizing reforms such as decriminalizing premarital sex and shifting the Islamic weekend (Friday-Saturday) to the global norm of Saturday and Sunday.
The Muslim nation of UAE and most of the Gulf countries follow stringent religious laws. Having a same-sex relationship in these states is seen as a criminal offense that may lead to the death penalty. The portrayal of such a relationship in the media is usually not tolerated.
The movie is reportedly banned in 14 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Star, Malaysia's top English-language newspaper, cited an anonymous, non-government source that Lightyear will not be shown on the Malaysian screens.
The movie is also unlikely to hit the Chinese theatres as well. A producer of Lightyear said that the authorities of China wanted to make specific cuts in the film, a proposal that Disney had declined. China had also rejected movies depicting same-sex relationships in the past.
The movie is a prequel spin-off to the popular Pixar animated franchise. Actor Chris Evans provides the voice of the lead character, Buzz Lightyear, a legendary space ranger who inspired the action figure in the original Toy Story. Another character, Hawthorne, voiced by the actress Uzo Aduba is reported to be in a same-sex relationship in the movie. A brief kiss between the character and her lesbian partner is most likely the reason that prompted the ban.
The same-sex kiss in Lightyear was supposed to be excluded from the final cut by Disney. Still, the scene was restored after the Pixar employees protested and sent an open letter criticizing Disney's response to Florida's anti-LGBTQ+ "Don't Say Gay" bill.
In Lightyear's red carpet premiere at London's Cineworld Leicester Square, Producer Galyn Susman said Disney would not cut anything out of the film. Evans criticizing the ban, added, "It's great that we are a part of something that's making steps forward in the social inclusion capacity, but it's frustrating that there are still places that aren't where they should be,"