Toy Story spin-off Lightyear will not be released in Saudi Arabia due to the inclusion of a same-sex kiss, the latest in a string of Hollywood films that have been banned in the Middle East over LGBTQ+ content.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the scene in question involved a space ranger called Alisha (voiced by Uzo Aduba) and her partner who greet each other with a kiss on the lips. Variety reports that Lightyear was not submitted to censors in Saudi Arabia, as it was anticipated it would not pass due to the country’s total prohibition of same-sex relationships.
However, the Pixar film was submitted to censors in the comparatively more liberal United Arab Emirates, but the film’s licence was revoked after complaints on social media.
The scene in question had earlier triggered controversy inside the producing studio Disney, after a group of LBGTQ+ Pixar employees published a letter protesting that material containing “overtly gay affection” was being removed from all animated films by studio executives.
The protest was provoked by internal anger at Disney’s corporate stance on Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill, which saw the company agree to pause political donations after staff walkouts. Lightyear’s same-sex kiss was subsequently reported to have been reinstated after being cut.
Lightyear’s problems in the Middle East are the latest in a string of difficulties faced by films containing LGBTQ+ content in the region.
The 2020 Pixar film Onward was banned in Kuwait, Oman and Qatar as well Saudi Arabia after a character voiced by Lena Waithe implies she is a lesbian, while Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was refused release in a number of Gulf countries due to the inclusion of teenage lesbian character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez).
Saudi Arabia, which legalised cinemas in 2018, also banned the recent West Side Story remake as it contained a transgender character. Black Panther did achieve a screening in the country, the first following legalisation, after Disney agreed to 40 seconds of cuts including two kissing scenes.