Disney’s ‘Onward’ banned in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia over tiny reference to a lesbian relationship

Lena Waithe Onward

Disney/Pixar’s new animated movie Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because it includes a brief mention of a lesbian relationship.

The warmhearted children’s film has been celebrated for featuring Disney’s first ever openly LGBT+ character – a gay cyclops cop voiced by lesbian actor Lena Waithe.

The reference to the character’s sexuality is subtle and is only expressed in a single line: “It’s not easy being a new parent – my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?”

Director Dan Scanlan has said that he wanted Onward to “represent the modern world”, and he loved Waithe’s contribution so much that he wished she had a bigger presence in the film.

Sadly, less tolerant countries didn’t agree with him. While Russian distributors unsurprisingly opted to censor this line from the film, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have taken the wildly disproportionate step of banning the movie altogether.

The film was released regionally this week, but is nowhere to be seen on cinema schedules in those territories. However, fellow Middle Eastern markets including Bahrain, Dubai, Lebanon, and Egypt have agreed to show the film in its entirety.

Preview screenings for Onward launched in North America on Thursday night with $2 million. It’s expected to dominate the US box office this weekend and collect between $40 million and $45 million at 4,310 different theatres.

The film’s success flies in the face of the right-wing Christian group ‘One Million Moms’, which predictably urged a boycott of the film.

They claimed Waithe’s character was evidence of Disney’s efforts to “indoctrinate children with the LGBTQ agenda discretely [sic] and now more overtly”.

Citing recent and fleeting examples of LGBT+ inclusion in Finding Dory, Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars Resistance and Toy Story 4, they asked readers to warn fellow parents that the film studio is trying to turn their children gay.

“These scenes are subtle in order to desensitise children. But now Disney has traded its subtlety for intentionality,” they said.

“Disney has decided to be politically correct instead of providing family friendly programming. Disney should stick to entertaining, not pushing an agenda.”

Critics have loved the movie though, with Empire praising it as a “heart-pumping, resonant, and positively harmonious” example of Pixar’s most elegant storytelling.