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Why Disney Wanted To Censor 1 Controversial James Cameron Movie Scene 34 Years Later


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Summary

  • Disney’s consideration of censoring a scene from “The Abyss” 34 years after its release highlights the intersection between corporate reevaluation and artistic freedom in the film industry.
  • As audience sensibilities evolve, certain movie moments become more questionable, forcing studios to make censorship decisions. Disney’s decision to potentially censor the controversial scene might have been the right call.
  • The cancellation of the UK 4K release of “The Abyss” showcases the complexities of film production and distribution, including the complications that can arise between studios, production companies, and censor boards.


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34 years have passed since a James Cameron movie first premiered, but after all those years, Disney wanted to censor a controversial scene from the film. James Cameron has an impressive track record of delivering cinematic milestones with the massive scale and impressive box office numbers of his films. However, his methods as a director have often raised eyebrows — one movie controversy and the recent censorship drama around it perfectly highlight that.

The fact that it has been over three decades since this movie premiered and Disney still considered censoring one of its scenes highlights an intriguing intersection between the corporate reevaluation of movies and the artistic freedom they were previously made with. At the same time, it also establishes that, as audience perceptions and sensibilities evolve over time, certain movie moments become all the more questionable, which leaves studios with no choice but to force censorship. While it may still be debatable which movie scenes deserve to stay or go after censorship in the ever-evolving world of cinema, Disney might have made the right call with the James Cameron film.

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UK Censors Requested The Abyss’ Rat Scene Be Cut From Its 4K Release

The controversial Rat Scene in The Abyss

In James Cameron’s The Abyss, there is a scene where Monk gives a demonstration of liquid breathing by borrowing Hippy’s white pet rat. He submerges the rat in a container with a liquid and places a steel mesh on it to prevent the rat from coming out. Although the rat initially struggles, it eventually gets accustomed to the oxygen-rich liquid in the container, allowing it to breathe underwater. According to reports (via Film School Rejects), five rats were used during the filming of the scene, and the cuts in the sequence were intentionally placed to avoid showing how the rats were defecating out of anxiety.

The film was initially met with some backlash for its portrayal of animal cruelty in the scene. American Humane, a non-profit organization that ensures animal safety, even commented that it was not “necessary to subject the rat to this experiment for the purpose of filming the scene.Although the movie’s controversial scene was long forgotten, The Abyss garnered some negative traction again in 2023 when UK censors requested the scene’s removal from the movie’s 4K release.

Disney Ultimately Had To Cancel The UK’s 4K Release Of The Movie

Ed Harris as Bud looking shocked in The Abyss Exclusive header

Reports suggest that Disney was initially willing to comply with the request and delete the scene from The Abyss’ UK 4K release. However, James Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, turned the request down. As a result, Disney had to cancel The Abyss‘ UK 4K release altogether. The Abyss‘ cancelation gives a glimpse of the inner workings of film production and distribution, highlighting how even when a film is all set for a release, complications between studios, production companies, and censor boards can arise.

Sources: Film School Rejects, American Humane

The Abyss

The Abyss is James Cameron’s fourth feature film and his second water-themed movie. Starring Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, the 1989 drama that revolves around a team of oil workers and Navy SEALs who face a mysterious alien race at the bottom of the ocean.

Release Date
August 9, 1989

Cast
Michael Biehn , Leo Burmeister , Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio , Ed Harris , Todd Graff

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
140 minutes

Budget
$70 million

Studio(s)
20th Century

Distributor(s)
20th Century

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