'Lightyear' banned in Saudi Arabia for featuring Pixar's first same-sex kiss

Sometimes, love finds a way. In March, Pixar restored a same sex kiss to the upcoming Toy Story "sidequel," Lightyear, which features Chris Evans as the Space Ranger voiced by Tim Allen in the company's beloved animated franchise. The move followed a a strongly-worded letter to Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek from Pixar's LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies sent objecting to his decision not to push back more forcefully against Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) will reportedly share a same-sex kiss in the Pixar animated feature, Lightyear. (Photo: Courtesy of Pixar)
Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) will reportedly share a same-sex kiss in the Pixar animated feature Lightyear. (Photo: Courtesy of Pixar)

But the decision to restore the scene could impact Lightyear's financial success. According to Variety, the film has been banned in the Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, where homosexual conduct is still illegal. Lightyear is following in the footsteps of the Disney-owned Star Wars franchise, which famously featured its first same-sex kiss in 2019's The Rise of Skywalker. Similarly, Marvel's recent hit, Eternals, included that studio's first same-sex kiss. And while fans cheered both moments, they also made those movies targets of overseas censorship.

Lightyear stars Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear — the "real" version of the Space Ranger toy that Tim Allen voices in the Toy Story series. Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba voices one of Buzz's fellow Rangers, Hawthorne, who is depicted as having a "meaningful relationship" with another woman.

It's the second time that a lesbian couple has been overtly alluded to in a Pixar movie. The 2020 animated hit Onward featured Lena Waithe as Officer Specter, who talked about co-parenting her "girlfriend's daughter" in one scene from the film. (Specter's girlfriend and her daughter were never shown onscreen.) In the case of Lightyear, Disney reportedly didn't object to the identity of Hawthorne's partner, but did overrule Pixar on including a kiss. After the employees' letter, though, the scene was added back to the film, which premieres in theaters on June 17.

Variety reports that Disney didn't submit Lightyear to Saudi censors, anticipating that they'd meet the same resistance that greeted Eternals. Interestingly, the film was originally cleared to play in U.A.E. theaters, but that decision was revoked after a social media campaign accused the film of denigrating Islam and Muslims.

Outside of the Gulf, Lightyear has also been banned in Malaysia over Hawthorne's storyline. The local censorship board, the LFP, reportedly asked Disney to edit the film, but the studio declined. Last year, Eternals star Angelina Jolie angrily spoke out about nations that are choosing to ban films with LGBTQ content. "I’m sad for [those audiences]," Jolie said at the time, adding that she was "proud" that Disney refused to acquiesce to censors' demands. "How anybody is angry about it, threatened by it, doesn’t approve or appreciate it is ignorant."

This story has been updated to reflect reports of Lightyear being banned in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations

Lightyear premieres June 17 in theaters.