Disney rejects cuts to Beauty And The Beast in Malaysia

A Beauty And The Beast poster in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 14, 2017.
A Beauty And The Beast poster in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Disney has refused to release a censored version of its film Beauty And The Beast in Malaysia after the authorities in the Muslim-majority nation cut a "gay moment" in the movie.

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, Disney said, "the film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia", effectively shelving plans to release it in the South-east Asian country.

The film, featuring Harry Potter star Emma Watson, has raised hackles worldwide among religious groups angered by its depiction of Le Fou, the sycophantic sidekick to antagonist Gaston, as a gay man, making him Disney's first ever LGBT character.

Malaysia's censorship board earlier said it had approved Beauty And The Beast for a P13 rating after requesting cuts of about 4½ minutes from a subplot with a "gay moment", Mr Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, the film board chairman, told Bloomberg in a text message. Theatres can screen the film at any time after the deletions, he said.

The film was originally slated to be released on Thursday in Malaysia.

Director Bill Condon has revealed that the movie contains Disney's "first exclusively gay moment", although some critics have said the reference is extremely mild and fleeting.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, where laws criminalising sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.

The movie has also come under fire from religious figures in neighbouring Singapore, with Christian clergy attacking Disney for deviating from "wholesome, mainstream values".

At least one theatre in the US state of Alabama has refused to show the film while Russia slapped an adults-only rating on the movie last week following pressure by an ultra-conservative lawmaker who was pushing for a ban.

Despite the controversy, the movie has already become the fastest-selling family film in history, outpacing previous record-holder "Finding Dory", according to online ticket seller Fandango, ahead of its release this week.