Animated film Abominable will not be shown in Malaysia after its distributor said on Sunday it could not comply with censors’ demands to cut a controversial scene showing Beijing’s disputed claims in the South China Sea.
The decision comes after Vietnam pulled the Universal Pictures movie from theatres days ago and the Philippines’ foreign secretary called for the segment to be excised.
“Universal has decided not to make the censor cut required by the Malaysian censor board and as such will not be able to release the film in Malaysia,” United International Pictures Malaysia said in an email.
The animated film about a Chinese teenager helping a yeti return to his home shows a chart featuring the “nine-dash” line which sets out Beijing’s expansive claims to the flashpoint waters.
By including the U-shaped line, the movie – a joint production by Universal Pictures subsidiary DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio – has stumbled into a festering row that has long been a source of friction between Beijing and Southeast Asia.
Malaysia’s film censorship board chief Mohamad Zamberi Abdul Aziz had said that the movie – due for release on November 7 – could be screened in the country “with the condition that the map, which has become controversial, is removed.”
Beijing has based its claims to almost all the resource-rich South China Sea, which is home to important shipping routes, on historic documents. As well as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are rival claimants.
The movie was released in Vietnam on October 4, but the country’s main cinema franchise CGV said it would no longer show the film after it was notified about the map.
The cartoon also opened in Philippine cinemas earlier this month, with the adverse reaction not surfacing until later. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said that “of course they should cut out the offending scene.”
A 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling said China’s claim was without basis, something Beijing has ignored.