• A "Lightyear" producer said Chinese censors asked to cut some scenes from the movie before its release.
  • Disney, which owns Pixar, refused to make any cuts, including a scene depicting a same-sex kiss.
  • China has banned on-screen depictions of same-sex relationships in the past.

The latest animated film in Pixar's "Toy Story" franchise may be shut out from the world's largest movie market.

"Lightyear," a prequel to the "Toy Story" franchise, is expected to hit US screens later this week. It features a same-sex kiss between two female characters.

But on Monday, "Lightyear" producer Galyn Susman told Reuters that Chinese censors asked to cut some scenes from the movie before releasing it in the country. Walt Disney Company, which owns Pixar, refused to make the cuts. The article did not specify which scenes the censors were referring to.

Susman told Reuters Disney was still waiting for Chinese regulators to confirm if the movie was cleared for distribution in China.

"We're not going to cut out anything, especially something as important as the loving and inspirational relationship that shows Buzz what he's missing by the choices that he's making, so that's not getting cut," Susman told Reuters.

Actor Chris Evans, who voiced Buzz Lightyear, the movie's titular character, said it was frustrating the same-sex kiss was a point of contention.

"It's tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion. That it is this kind of 'news.' The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn't have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is," Evans told Variety on Monday.

China was the world's largest movie market for the second year in a row in 2021, with movie-goers spending $7.3 billion at box offices around the country, according to widely cited numbers released in January from movie consultancy Artisan Gateway. North America, the next-largest market, took in $4.5 billion in revenue that year, per the Motion Picture Association, citing figures from Comscore.

Despite China's clout in the movie industry, a source told Reuters the country is not a "make or break" market for Pixar. The country accounted for only 3% of global revenue for "Toy Story 4," Reuters reported, citing Comscore data.

Pixar and Disney did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

China has banned on-screen depictions of same-sex relationships in the past

China is known to impose strict quotas on foreign films to protect its homegrown industry from Hollywood's might. Beijing allows a maximum of 34 Hollywood films to screen each year in China in a "revenue-sharing" arrangement, per a Variety article published in January. Alternatively, foreign studios can sell the rights to their movies to a Chinese distributor, but they have to surrender all box-office revenue to the distributor.

China has banned on-screen depictions of same-sex relationships or of characters who do not conform to gender stereotypes in the past. Hollywood movies centered on gay relationships, such as "Call Me By Your Name" and "Brokeback Mountain," were banned from being screened in China. In September, China's National Radio and Television Administration said TV broadcasters must "resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics."

Some studios have agreed to cut scenes depicting same-sex relationships to get their movies on the big screen in China.

Warner Bros. recently bowed to Chinese pressure to remove a six-second dialogue clip from "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" that showed its two central male characters were in a romantic relationship, per an April article from The Hollywood Reporter. "We want audiences everywhere in the world to see and enjoy this film, and it's important to us that Chinese audiences have the opportunity to experience it as well, even with these minor edits," a Warner Bros. spokesperson told the outlet.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has already banned "Lightyear." In a tweet, the UAE's regulator said the movie violated the country's media content standards, without explaining how "Lightyear" breached its guidelines. Another 13 countries did not give the necessary approvals for the movie to screen in their markets, a source told Reuters. 


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