In the movie, about two teenage elf brothers in a mythical world who embark on a quest for magic, there is a passing reference to an LGBTQ relationship between two secondary characters.
In the scene, the two lead characters, voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, are disguised as their mother’s centaur boyfriend, Officer Bronco, and get into a conversation about parenting with two female police officers. The purple cyclops officer named Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, commiserates with Officer Bronco and says. “It’s not easy being a new parent – my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?”
Waithe’s character has been heralded as Disney’s first openly gay character.
But the reference hasn’t gone down well with censors in some countries, sources have confirmed. Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all banned the film due to the reference. The film, released regionally this week, is nowhere to be seen on cinema schedules in those territories. Other Middle East markets such as Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.
Russia, another territory with recent history for banning or censoring LGBT content, censored the Onward scene by changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner” and the local version avoids mentioning Specter’s gender.
Russia last year censored scenes in Rocketman and Avengers: Endgame due to LGBT references. In 2017, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was banned in markets including Kuwait and Malysia due to an LGBT “moment.” Russia slapped the film with a 16+ rating.
We have reached out to Disney and Disney’s MENA distributor Italia Film for comment.
Onward kicked off its North American theatrical run Thursday night making $2 million in previews.