In a tweet posted on Monday (13 June), the UAE’s Media Regulatory Office – part of the country’s Ministry of Youth and Culture – announced that Lightyear “is not licensed for public screening in all cinemas in the UAE, due to its violation of the country’s media content standards”.
The film had been scheduled to release in the UAE on Thursday (16 June).
“The office confirms that all films screened in cinemas across the country are subject to follow-up and evaluation before the date of screening to the public, to ensure the safety of the circulated content according to the appropriate age classification,” the organisation stated.
The tweet included an image of the film’s poster, with the profile image of its main character Buzz Lightyear with a “no” symbol over it in red.
Cinemas in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, had already started advertising showtimes for the film.
The movie sees actor Chris Evans voice the inspiration behind the Buzz Lightyear action figure from the Toy Story films. It reportedly includes a character voiced by actress Uzo Aduba who at one point another woman with whom she is in a relationship.
The UAE, like other nations in the wider Middle East, is a Muslim-led country that criminalises same-sex relationships.
The US State Department warns that Islamic – or Shariah – law can include the death penalty for same-sex conduct. In Dubai it can carry a 10-year prison sentence and Abu Dhabi allows for up to 14 years.
However, such prosecutions are rarely reported and LGBT+ individuals do live in the skyscraper-studded city-state of Dubai, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates.
The £162m Lightyear is expected to be a major draw for Disney, with analysts estimating it could gross more than £82m in its first weekend.
Earlier this year, the Disney/Marvel release Doctor Strange in the Muliverse of Madness was denied a release in Saudi Arabia and other countries over LGBT+ content.
Additional reporting by PA