×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Malaysia Orders Cuts to ‘Abominable’ Over Controversial Map Scene

Malaysia has ordered cuts to the U.S.-Chinese animated feature “Abominable,” which includes a scene involving a map that portrays China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The map scene has already caused the film to be banned in Vietnam. The Philippines’ foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, called this week for “Abominable” to be boycotted, but his words fell short of action.

The film is due to be released in Malaysia on Nov. 7. “The animated film titled ‘Abominable’ has been given approval for screening in Malaysia under the condition that the controversial map is removed from the film,” said Mohamad Zamberi Abdul Aziz, chairman of Malaysia’s censorship board, also known as the Lembaga Penapis Filem or LPF.

The map in the animated film depicts the so-called “nine-dash line,” a U-shaped boundary unilaterally declared by Beijing that carves out resource-rich maritime regions for itself. Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia all make contesting and overlapping claims.

The film is a Sino-U.S. co-production between Comcast-owned DreamWorks Animation and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio. Pearl is now a fully Chinese-owned rebrand of the former Oriental DreamWorks joint venture, which was founded with great fanfare in 2012 as a landmark collaboration between Hollywood and China.

In July 2016, an independent arbitration tribunal established under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling that the nine-dash line claims were mostly incompatible with UNCLOS. It explained that building artificial islands in the sea does not give China territorial claims in the area. China’s response was to call the ruling “a waste of paper.”

“Abominable” has performed well in North America but poorly in China. On release in the U.S. since Sept. 27, “Abominable” has grossed $49.7 million. It was released in China on Oct. 1, China’s National Day. But its patriotic Chinese elements have failed to win over Middle Kingdom audiences, which have never ranked the film higher than third in the box office charts. Its China total to date is $14.6 million.

The map controversy comes at a time when China’s economic and political rise is causing increasing friction with parts of Asia and the West, and at a time when the world is watching to see how China handles the increasingly violent civic unrest in Hong Kong.

In recent months, Chinese authorities have forced hotels and airline companies to backpedal on geographic details on their websites and publicity materials. Chinese citizens have been mobilized to boycott the Coach, Givenchy and Versace luxury goods brands for mislabeling Hong Kong as a separate country. Coach and Givenchy also listed Taiwan as a separate nation.

Last week, ESPN also faced criticism for using a map that appeared to endorse China’s claims to both Taiwan and the same disputed South China Sea regions. China has never disavowed the possibility of using force to bring Taiwan to heel, viewing the self-governed and democratic island as a renegade province.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Julia Roberts Harriet Tubman

    Studio Exec Suggested Julia Roberts Play Harriet Tubman, 'Harriet' Screenwriter Says

    Multi-talented multi-hyphenate Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic “Harriet.” But according to “Harriet’s” screenwriter, Gregory Allen Howard, Julia Roberts — yes, white woman Julia Roberts — was once suggested by a studio executive to play the role. In a Q&A for “Harriet” studio Focus Features as well as a piece for the [...]

  • Atlantics

    Variety Names 10 Directors to Watch for 2020

    Before film critics start summing up the present year at the movies with a deluge of Top 10 lists, Variety gazes into the medium’s future by announcing its annual 10 Directors to Watch — a lineup of filmmaking talents who’ve stood out on the recent festival circuit, or whose movies will soon be hitting screens [...]

  • Napa Valley Film Festival Winners: 'Lucky

    'Lucky Grandma' Wins Napa Valley Film Festival Narrative Feature Prize

    “Lucky Grandma,” “The Remix: Hip Hop in Fashion” and “The Nomads” were among the winners of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which ran Nov. 13-17 in various towns in the valley. The winner of the narrative feature was “Lucky Grandma,” presented by ZD Wines, which won a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley. [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    'Ad Astra' to Blast Off in China in December

    The Brad Pitt-starring sci-fi blockbuster “Ad Astra” will land in Chinese theaters on December 6, more than two months after its U.S. debut. Directed, co-written and produced by James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Two Lovers”), the thriller also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Pitt plays an astronaut [...]

  • Fred Wolf to Direct 'Love 40'

    Film News Roundup: Fred Wolf to Direct Tennis Rom-Com 'Love 40'

    In today’s film news roundup, Fred Wolf is directing a romantic comedy in New York; Leah Remini, Chinoye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang receive honors; and the topless bar documentary “Red Dog” finds a home. ‘LOVE 40’ Bluewater Lane Productions has brought on Fred Wolf to co-write and direct the romantic comedy “Love 40,” [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Lupita Nyong'o Follows Hollywood's Tradition of Two Roles in One Film

    Peter Sellers played three roles in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 “Dr. Strangelove.” In December of that year, Variety reported that Columbia was mounting an Oscar campaign for lead actor, but was also considering three supporting-actor campaigns, for each of his characters. (They settled on one campaign, and Sellers’ nomination as lead actor was one of the [...]

  • 'Legion' TV show premiere

    Noah Hawley to Write and Direct Next 'Star Trek' Movie

    “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley has been tapped to write and direct the next installment of the “Star Trek” franchise, sources tell Variety. Though plot details are being kept under wraps, sources tell Variety the next “Star Trek” is expected to see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana returning to man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content