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Pixar's 'Onward' banned in several Mideast countries over lesbian reference

In the new Disney-Pixar animated film, a purple cyclops voiced by Lena Waithe mentions her "girlfriend."
Lena Thwaite voices a purple cyclops officer named Specter in \"Onward.\"
Lena Thwaite voices a purple cyclops officer named Specter in "Onward."Disney / Pixar via Variety

Several Middle East markets have banned Disney-Pixar's family adventure movie "Onward" due to the film's reference to a lesbian relationship.

The movie centers on a pair of teenage elf brothers — voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — on a quest to resurrect their dead father, who had arranged for them to receive a magic staff with a spell that will bring him back for only 24 hours so his sons can meet him.

A scene from "Onward."
A scene from "Onward."Disney / Pixar

In the film, the brothers disguise themselves as their mother's centaur boyfriend, Officer Bronco, and get into a conversation about parenting with a purple cyclops officer named Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, who says, "It's not easy being a new parent - my girlfriend's daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?"

Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all banned the film due to the reference. Russia, which has a history of banning or censoring LGBTQ content, censored the scene by changing the word "girlfriend" to "partner."

Speaking to Variety at the premiere of her new series "Twenties" this week, Waithe explained that the line — which makes her character the first openly LGBTQ figure in Disney-Pixar's history — was her idea. "I said, 'Can I say the word girlfriend, is that cool?'" Waithe asked at a recording session.

"I was just like, 'It sounds weird,'" Waithe recalled. "I even have a gay voice, I think. Like, I don't think I sound right saying 'husband.' They were like, 'Oh yeah, do that.' They were so cool and chill. And it ended up being something special."

"Onward" launched with $2 million in North America on Thursday night in preview shows. It's expected to dominate domestic moviegoing this weekend and collect between $40 million and $45 million at 4,310 sites. Internationally, the film is opening day and date in many territories other than Italy, South Korea and China.

Disney had no immediate comment about the ban, which was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

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