SINGAPORE — Walt Disney's new Pixar movie Lightyear, which features a same-sex couple sharing a brief kiss, has been rated NC16 in Singapore due to "overt homosexual depictions".
Media regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) made the announcement on Tuesday (14 June), two days before the animated spin-off from Toy Story opens in Singapore.
The rating, which would restrict entry to those aged 16 and up, is the highest in Singapore for a children’s animated film.
IMDA said that Disney, the film distributor, had turned down its request to consider the option of releasing the film in two versions, under its Simultaneous Rating Release (SRS) mechanism.
The mechanism, introduced in 2003, would have allowed a lower-rated version to be released at the same time. It has been applied to 2019's Hellboy, which was classified as M18 and also edited for a PG13 release.
"The aim is to provide consumers with choice, in terms of which version they want to watch, and open Lightyear to a younger audience," said IMDA.
The regulator said that it arrived at the NC16 rating for Lightyear by following key guidelines, including the need to be "sensitive to social norms and values that are generally acceptable to members of the public".
It added that it also sought the views of its advisory committees, including the views of parents with younger children.
"While it is an excellent animated film set in the US context, Singapore is a diverse society where we have multiple sensibilities and viewpoints," said Cheryl Ng, IMDA’s films consultative panel chairperson.
A "significant" number of the panel members felt that the overt depiction of same-gender marriage would warrant a higher rating, she added.
"Even among members who were willing to consider a lower rating, some were uncomfortable that this would mean it can be shown unedited, to a broad-based audience on Free-to-Air TV," Ng said.
The brief kiss scene on the lips between a new lesbian space ranger character named Alisha, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her partner – who are starting a family – had been originally cut from the film by Disney.
It was later reinstated when Pixar animators spoke out against Disney in an open letter that stated that the latter had demanded cuts to censor “overtly gay affection” and in protest against Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s handling of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to Variety.
Singapore's rating came hours after Reuters reported that Disney has been unable to obtain permission to show Lightyear in 14 Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and that it is unlikely to open in China, the world's largest movie market.
The United Arab Emirates on Monday banned Lightyear from screening in cinemas as "it violated the nation's media content standards".
Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have on Tuesday also banned the film. Apart from the gay scene, authorities reportedly said the screening of the film would negatively affect bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, without giving further details.
At the movie's red-carpet premiere in London on Monday, producer Galyn Susman told Reuters, "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."
Actor Chris Evan, who voices the lead character Buzz Lightyear, said, "It's great that we are a part of something that's making steps forward in the social inclusion capacity, but it's frustrating that there are still places that aren't where they should be."
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