Aardman Animations, the studio behind the classics "Wallace and Grommit" and "Shaun the Sheep", has agreed to change a scene in their upcoming film deemed offensive by a UK anti-leprosy charity.
The studio came under fire from The Leprosy Mission England and Wales after a trailer for "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" included a scene on a leper boat featuring a man whose arm falls off.
"The word leper is derogatory, outdated and is associated with someone who has been rejected, ostracised, or regarded as an outcast," said Peter Walker, national director of TLMEW, in an interview.
“They have also ensured that facts do not get in the way of their story by portraying a totally erroneous aspect of leprosy," he added. "The misnomer that body parts fall off those affected comes despite the wealth of educational information coming from TLMEW and other leprosy organisations.”
When I reported on this story last week, Aardman had issued a statement saying that they were taking the criticism seriously and figuring out their next step. Now, they've decided to take action.
“After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy," the studio said in a statement. "The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone and it is clear to us that the right way to proceed is to honor the efforts made by organizations like ILEP to educate the public about this disease."
Classy move, right? Naturally, Leprosy groups were quite pleased.
The Telegraph reported, “It might make you laugh but leprosy stigma not only hurts, it is still forcing people to live a life on the fringes of society,” said Leprosy Relief Association Health in Action president, Sir Chris Bonington. “Not only is the dropping off of body parts a total misnomer, we have to ask ourselves, as we watch it uncomfortably, is it acceptable for us to be laughing at the millions of people who are disabled by leprosy?”
It's not yet clear whether the scene will be eliminated entirely or edited to drop the offending joke. You can view a trailer for the film, which stars the voices of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Martin Freeman, and Jeremy Piven, below.