Lightyear will not be allowed to play in theaters in a few Middle Eastern countries due to an LGBTQ moment in the Disney/Pixar film.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have banned the Toy Story spin-off, which stars Chris Evans as Space Commander Buzz Lightyear, because of a same-sex kiss featured in the film. The scene comes during a montage of Space Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) where she starts a family with her wife. In the montage, the character is seen sharing a kiss with her wife and later becoming pregnant and welcoming a son.
The UAE’s Media Regulatory Office tweeted Monday that Lightyear is “not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE, due to its violation of the country’s media content standards.”
BBC News reported that another recent Disney film, Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, also didn’t play in Saudi Arabia after the country asked for the “LGBTQ references” to be removed.
Citing a source close to the production, Variety reported in March that the Lightyear kiss was put back in the movie after at one point being cut. This was reportedly in response to Disney and Pixar staff uproar over Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s initial response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
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At the time, the outlet obtained a letter written by Pixar employees claiming that Disney censored same-sex affection in some of their recent movies, like Turning Red. “We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
Evans, 41, told Vanity Fair earlier this month of the Lightyear kiss being reinstated in the movie, “It’s great that it’s back in the film. I think it’s a shame that it’s such a story. It should be more normalized, but I’m glad we are making those steps.”
Added Aduba, 41, “It’s incredible, and a real hats off to Disney and Pixar for having that kiss be a part of this story. The kiss is a greeting and a gesture of love that is tender. It does establish who they are as people, but it is not the singular identifier for who either of them are. Seeing a loving gay couple in a meaningful way is important for everybody.”
Galyn Susman, a Lightyear producer, told Vanity Fair that it was “important” to “represent everybody” in the movie: “Representation is huge for us, and we want to make connections with as many people as possible. Alisha and her wife have a relationship that lasts an entire lifetime. We don’t have enough movies that show relationships that last an entire life, and that’s aspirational.”
Lightyear — which is directed by Angus MacLane and also stars Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and James Brolin — is in U.S. theaters Friday.