Walt Disney's blockbuster Beauty and the Beast will finally be screened in public cinemas in Malaysia, complete with the controversial 'gay moment' which was a major bone of contention in the Muslim-majority country.

The Appeals Committee of the Malaysian Film Censor Board relented following an appeal filed by the film's local distributors to review the board's decision seeking a four and a half minute cut to some 'gay scenes' in the movie.

The movie, which was initially set for release on 16 March, was pulled by Disney after it refused to comply with the censors' request for the cut, choosing instead to completely pull the movie from Malaysia.

Homosexuality, although not illegal in Malaysia is discouraged and sodomy is a criminal offence.

In a statement made on Tuesday (21 March), Walt Disney said: "We are pleased to announce that Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' has now been approved to be released in Malaysia with no cuts, with a PG13 rating."

A PG13 rating means parental guidance is recommended for children under 13 years old. Channel News Asia said the censor board was not immediately available for comment.

Censors vote 9-8 to leave movie 'uncut'

Beauty and the Beast
A notice is displayed regarding the release of the film 'Beauty and the Beast' at a Golden Screen Cinemas theatre in Kuala Lumpur Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

Local daily Sin Chew Daily said that the appeals committee had narrowly approved the decision to allow the movie to be screened without any cuts, after a five-hour long discussion.

Scenes deemed inappropriate for Malaysian audiance:

  • Male character, Le Fou, hugs another male character Gaston from behind;
  • Suggestive lyrics with sexual innuendoes in song;
  • Scene at the end of the movie but reasons withheld due to spoiler reasons

The newspaper said that the heated discussion saw those opposing the uncensored release citing religious arguments and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issue. However, those who fought against censorship insisted that the alleged "gay moments" do not really show any homosexual feelings.

The vote was finally in - nine votes in favour and eight against which paved the way for the movie to be released without any cuts.

The board's chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid had defended the cuts to the film, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, saying that it could not ignore its rules, especially on scenes with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elements.

Beauty And The Beast
Laurie Sparham / Disney Enterprises

"If we let these scenes go, people will wonder if Malaysia recognised LGBT. People can call us stupid or ignorant for the censorship we have imposed. I can accept it, but I don't have to respond to it," he said.