LOS ANGELES • An evangelist preacher is calling for a boycott of the Walt Disney film Beauty And The Beast because it features a gay character, saying the company is trying to promote a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) agenda to children.
Franklin Graham, the North Carolina-based son of evangelist preacher Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, called for the boycott in a Facebook post last Thursday.
By last Friday, the post had been shared more than 88,000 times and a theatre in Alabama said it will not screen the film. "They're trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children - watch out!," Graham wrote.
He said Disney was making an attempt to "normalise this (gay) lifestyle".
Earlier last week, the film's director Bill Condon told British gay lifestyle magazine Attitude that the movie will feature a supporting, gay character - LeFou, played by American actor Josh Gad and the goofy sidekick to the film's main villain Gaston - for the first time in Disney's history.
"LeFou is somebody who, on one day, wants to be Gaston and, on another day, wants to kiss Gaston," he says.
"He's confused about what he wants. It's somebody who's just realising that he has these feelings. It is a nice, exclusively gay moment" at the end of the film.
The moment Condon appeared to reference comes in the final scene, when (spoiler alert) LeFou is shown - for about three seconds - dancing with another fellow.
Walt Disney, which has long been known for its animated movies and other films aimed at families, did not immediately return requests for comment last Friday.
The movie, a live-action remake of Disney's animated classic film, will begin its worldwide rollout on March 16.
The film tells the story of a prince, who is transformed into a beast, and a young woman who is imprisoned in his castle as he tries to win her love. British actors Emma Watson and Dan Stevens play the title roles.
Starring Watson as the young Belle who falls in love with the terrifying-looking beast, it is one of the most buzzed about movies this season.
According to some box-office analysts, it could bring in upwards of US$100 million (S$141 million) in North America on its opening weekend.
"I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney," Graham said in his Facebook post, asking supporters to let Disney know their feelings about the movie.
For much of the movie, Gad plays LeFou as a slightly effeminate man with a pretty obvious crush on the dashing villain Gaston.
The owners of the Henagar Drive- In Theatre in Henagar, Alabama, announced their decision to boycott the film in a Facebook post last Thursday. Describing themselves as Christian, the owners said: "We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches.
"You can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language."
The owners appeared to be censoring a film they had not seen, said The New York Times.
The decision to update a Disney classic drew criticism in other quarters, with one commentator in an online discussion forum saying "gender politics has no place in children's entertainment. Leave the classic stories alone".
This is not the first time Disney has drawn a mixed reaction by updating its films to reflect changing times.
In a drive to promote racial diversity on screen, Disney featured its first black princess in the 2009 film, The Princess And The Frog. Reaction was mixed; some critics voiced concern that the depiction only strengthened racial stereotypes.