Pixar’s Lightyear Won’t Release in Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, and Kuwait Over Same-Sex Kiss

Pixar’s Lightyear won’t be released in several Middle Eastern countries after backlash over a same-sex kiss. Per Variety, the scene in question involves a space ranger named Alisha Hawthorne, voiced by Uzo Udoba, who shares a kiss with her partner and talks about starting a family. Hawthorne is a new character who’ll be the commanding officer and best friend of Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans).

Apparently, Disney didn’t even bother submitting Lightyear to Saudi Arabian censors, knowing it would not be cleared. However, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also banned Lightyear for violating media content standards. Homosexuality is still a crime and even punishable by death in some Gulf countries.

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Lightyear joins the growing list of films that have fallen victim to censorship in the Middle East over the inclusion of LGBTQ references. Marvel’s Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and West Side Story suffered similar fates when Disney refused to edit the disputed scenes. Eternals featured a same-sex couple and Marvel’s first gay superhero, while Doctor Strange 2 was banned due to America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) mentioning her “two moms.” Although, the character is also gay in the comics and in the film.

While it’s commendable that Disney chose to pull the release instead of editing Lightyear, the company’s stance on the subject was much different till a few months ago. The lesbian kiss was initially cut from Lightyear, reportedly at Disney’s behest, but in light of CEO Bob Chapek’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay bill” and Pixar staff’s scathing allegations about Disney censoring “overtly gay affection” in movies, the scene was restored. Many other Pixar films, including Luca, Soul, and Inside Out, were also censored by Disney over LGBTQ content. Hopefully, the studio practices what it preaches and will allow Pixar creative freedom in the future.

Lightyear Early Reactions Call It One of Pixar’s Best Movies Ever

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While Lightyear has not been without its fair share of controversies, whether it be Chris Evans’ casting or the necessity of a Toy Story spinoff about Buzz Lightyear, not the toy, but the in-universe space ranger who inspired the toy, the upcoming film aims to prove the naysayers wrong. Lightyear will be the first Pixar film since 2020 to debut in theaters instead of Disney+, and it promises a delightful blend of stunning visuals, space adventure, and hilarity.

Directed by Angus MacLane from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jason Headley, Lightyear boasts an ensemble cast featuring the voices of Keke Palmer as Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn as Sox, and James Brolin as Emperor Zurg. Taika Waititi, Efren Ramirez, Uzo Aduba, Dale Soules, Mary McDonald-Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. also star in the film.

Lightyear is receiving rave reviews from critics who’ve caught an early screening of the film, with some even calling it one of Pixar’s all-time best movies. It appears that replacing Tim Allen with Chris Evans paid off for Lightyear. But in a way, it was also necessary to impart some uniqueness to the Space Ranger. Here’s what director Angus MacLane says about the decision.

“We needed a new voice for Buzz. He needed to have a nice, rich sound, able to be both dramatic and comedic – and most importantly, he needed to be heroic without coming off as arrogant or dense. That’s a tall order, and we immediately knew we had to ask Chris.”

Lightyear premieres in theaters on June 17, 2022.