Spinning off the classic “Toy Story” franchise, “Lightyear” is arguably the most highly-anticipated animated movie to hit theaters this summer. The film dives into the origin story of the Space Ranger named Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) the man that would come to have a line of toys named after him, one of which would be a protagonist and voiced by Tim Allen in the “Toy Story” series.
With “Lightyear” being released almost three decades after the first “Toy Story” movie in 1995, there is an obvious shift in a new animation and rendering style with technology having advanced so much within those long years. Another new element to the “Lightyear” movie that was not in the first “Toy Story” movies was diversity. Along with meeting the human Buzz Lightyear, we are introduced to a new character named Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), a fellow Space Ranger and friend of Buzz. Importantly, Alisha is a Black woman, a racial demographic that has, until “Lightyear,” not been represented in any previous “Toy Story” movie. Another important identity that has not been featured in many mainstream animated movies until recent years is that she is also a lesbian. In one of the recent trailers, we see Alisha open a door to see a young boy run into her arms as she embraces her unnamed female partner with a loving look.
While Alisha is not the first Disney character to be confirmed as an LGBT+, she is the first prominent character to be LGBT+ in a Disney and Pixar animated movie. No kiss between Alisha and her partner has been featured in the trailer (and yet to be known if the embrace is followed by a kiss at all). Several Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have banned the film. The UAE’s Media Regulatory Office has banned the movie due to the “violation of the country’s media content standards.”
Due to religious, social, political and cultural standards spanning hundreds of years, LGBT+ rights and the topic itself is something that is not to be discussed or approved of in any context in many Middle Eastern countries. In some countries such as Egypt and Oman, partaking in homosexual activities is punishable by prison.
With the international box office money taking importance or sometimes priority for the release of movies, many studios that feature homosexual representation on-screen will bend their knee and edit or cut out scenes so the film can be released in those countries. According to Variety, Disney had done this in the past with their property Marvel Studios and the movie “Eternals” and their gay kiss scene.
Previous Disney animated movies have included minor gay characters such as the cop named Specter (Lena Waithe) from “Onward” (2020) — another movie that was banned and edited because of a single line regarding her homosexuality. Big waves were made when two women, unnamed and without lines, in “Finding Dory” (2016) were claimed by fans to be a lesbian couple without any real evidence other than one of the women having a pixie cut. These two lackluster attempts of LGBT+ representation in children’s media are the result of Disney wanting to be inclusive without jeopardizing their box office money from large countries that have more strict censorship rules.
Alisha Hawthorne will be an important character for generations. Being an ambitious and smart, Black, lesbian mother and wife in STEM is pivotal, especially for children and people of all ages sharing those same underrepresented identities.
“Lightyear” is available to watch only in theaters.