'Lightyear' Banned From Release In 14 Countries After Disney Refused To Delete Lesbian Kiss


 Difficult takeoff for Lightyear. Pixar's animated film about the origins of Buzz Lightyear, the interplanetary explorer from Toy Story, has become the battlefield in the fight for LGTBI rights. After causing an internal revolution at Disney, the film adds a new controversy days after its world premiere, on Friday, June 17. Censorship will prevent one of the most anticipated films of the summer from being seen in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and in a handful of Asian countries, such as Malaysia. The ban responds to a sequence in which Alisha, an explorer married to a woman, kisses her partner on the mouth.

The executives of Disney, the company that has owned Pixar since 2006, asked to cut that sequence in the review of the tape. This sparked a scandal within the entertainment giant in March. Hundreds of employees denounced the censorship in a letter, as part of a strategy that sought to get the company's leadership to leave the lukewarm and raise their voices against what they consider a discriminatory law in Florida, where Disney owns six theme parks. This measure, promoted by the Republicans, prohibits teaching in schools about gender and homosexuality issues to younger students.

The employees asked their company to fight back in Florida. "We at Pixar have seen beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate verification in a crumbled version of what they were," said the text addressed to Bob Chapek, CEO. He tried to maneuver to reduce the damage and promised his employees to defend his voice. Thus, one of the first actions was to reintroduce the sequence origin of the controversy in the film directed by Angus Maclane. “It's hard not to be frustrated that this is still up for debate, that this is news. I think the goal is for us to get to a point where this is the norm, where this is not uncharted territory, where this is what it is…” Chris Evans, who provides the voice of Buzz, said at the London preview of Buzz. recovering from Alisha's kiss.

However, that is not the norm in many of the markets where Pixar intends to release Lightyear. This is the first film that the animation studio opens in theaters in two years after Soul, Luca and Red were shown in streaming. The new release of the saga that began 27 years ago comes at a time when studios are testing the response of the public in theaters after the pandemic hit. At the moment there are promising signs that the appetite has been whetted to return to the cinema, as the second part of Top Gun has shown.

It is common in Hollywood for studios to do their best to circumvent the censorship systems of the different markets in the world in the fight to get a bigger box office. Pixar had not submitted the new installment to the Saudi Arabian censorship, knowing that it would not get the go-ahead. According to Variety, the surprise came in the Emirates, which had given an initial yes and has now refused to take it to its 200 screens. In a tweet, the body that regulates content in that territory has assured that the film did not obtain a license to be screened because "it violates the country's standards", without giving further details. Censors have already prevented recent Marvel movies, such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, or The Eternals from being released.

In total, there are 14 countries that have vetoed it, including Indonesia, Egypt or Lebanon, in addition to those mentioned. In many of these homosexuality is considered a crime. The release in China, one of the biggest film markets, is in the air. Chinese censors are among the strictest in the world. They often demand cuts or modifications to studies to avoid prohibited topics, such as homosexuality, references to Taiwan independence or criticism of the regime. Studios often give in to protect the box office.

In the case of Lightyear, the production company has reported that it has not yet received a definitive answer from Beijing. "We're not going to cut anything, especially something as important as the loving and inspiring relationship that shows Buzz what he's missing out on by the decisions he makes, so that's not going to be cut," producer Galyn Susman told Reuters at the red carpet preview in London.

After the crisis caused by Lightyear in the United States, it is unlikely that Disney will give in to the Chinese or other local censors. The company has already refused to modify the film for Malaysian authorities, who had suggested the Star Trek-like space adventure, in which a team of pilots and explorers visit planets, violated policies on "homosexuality and unnatural sex." These same reasons prevented the premierein the country of the Elton John biopic, Rocket Man.

From Pixar a message of tranquility is sent. Despite the magnitude of the Asian market, the Chinese box office only accounted for 3% of the worldwide collection of Toy Story 4, which exceeded one billion dollars (947 million euros). Lightyear's early reviews have received it lukewarmly. Perhaps his most remembered battle is the one he gave against censorship in several countries around the world.

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