Disney+ Middle East looks set to appease regional cultural sensitivities when it comes to its content.
The Hollywood Reporter understands that, although there is no legal requirement, Pixar’s Lightyear, which failed to reach cinemas across the Gulf and beyond for featuring a same-gender kiss, won’t be appearing on the streaming platform, nor will the Disney+ series Baymax, which includes LGBTQ characters.
Disney has had a series of run-ins with Middle East censors over the last 12 months. Alongside Lightyear, films including Thor: Love and Thunder, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, West Side Story and Eternals all failed to reach cinemas in various territories for the inclusion of LGBTQ scenes and topics. In many of the occasions, according to sources, censors requested cuts to the films that Disney refused to make.
But with far less regulation and censorship in place for streaming than theatrical releases (Netflix’s Arab-language adaptation of Perfect Strangers, featuring a LGBTQ storyline, was a huge hit), some in the industry had suggested that Disney would simply focus on Disney+, which launched in the Middle East in June, for these releases.
Not so. At least, not entirely.
While kids-focused content, such as Lightyear and Baymax, won’t hit Disney+ Middle East, THR understands that older-skewing titles, such as Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, will. The move seemingly aligns the release strategy for the platform in the region with the cinema standards of United Arab Emirates. While the films listed above were stopped from hitting cinemas outright in territories such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, in the UAE culturally sensitive content for more mature audiences has managed to reach the big screen. The Doctor Strange sequel successfully released in UAE theaters, as did Eternals, although Chloe Zhao’s film was edited to remove all public displays of affection (which was the last time Disney chose to cut its releases for the region).
“Content offerings differ across our many Disney+ markets, based upon a number of factors. Content available should align with local regulatory requirements,” a Disney representative told THR in a statement, while also stressing that the platform offers parental controls to allow families to determine what their family members watch.
But for parents in the Middle East at least, the decision has already been made when it comes to Lightyear, which landed in most other territories earlier this month.
News of Lightyear not appearing on Disney+ Middle East and the platform’s local strategy was first broken by Esquire Middle East.