It's a movie about the Bible, but family-friendly Disney Co. is moving heaven and earth to make sure the word "God" is stricken from some advertisements promoting an upcoming animated film on Moses and the Ten Commandments.
Radio Disney was to broadcast a radio spot for Promenade Pictures, makers of the film "The Ten Commandments," but the company sent an e-mail earlier this month instructing that the phrase "chosen by God" be stripped from the script.
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"Our BS&P [Broadcast Standards and Procedures] said Both scripts need to include the studio mention and omit the following line: CHOSEN BY GOD.... Please let me know if you have any questions," reads the e-mail, sent Oct. 2 to Promenade media buyer Casey Baker by Radio Disney Network sales associate Jason Atkinson.
Calls to Atkinson and other Disney representatives were not returned.
"In connection with the Ten Commandments, I did find it offensive," said Promenade president and Chief Operating Officer Cindy Bond. "God in our movie is the main character. You rip the whole guts out of the piece."
Bond said that because Disney has just the target audience the film seeks — children and 'tweens — she complied with Disney's request and had the ad redone without mention of God.
"To walk away from a place that has our exact core audience ... I ordered the spot to be recut and re-edited," Bond said. "If you get them into the theater, they'll hear plenty about God."
The voices for the animated characters in "The Ten Commandments" are done by actors Elliott Gould (God), Christian Slater (Moses), Sir Ben Kingsley (narrator) and Alfred Molina (Ramses).
The script for the original 30-second radio spot reads:
Narrator: One of the greatest stories of all time is now an animated movie event for the entire family ... "The Ten Commandments."
God: Moses, give them my message and they will follow you out of Egypt.
Narrator: An ordinary man, an extraordinary calling.
Moses: Let my people go!
Narrator: With Ben Kingsley, Christian Slater, Alfred Molina and Elliott Gould. ... chosen by God.
Moses: On to the promised land!
Narrator: 'The Ten Commandments,' Rated G. Now in theaters. Check your local listings.
The edited version replaces "chosen by God" with "from Promenade Pictures."
Other radio stations and shows — some Christian and some not, including Ryan Seacrest's and Dr. Laura's programs, agreed to air the commercial as is, according to Bond.
Radio Disney has said in other media reports that it made the request because its policies require mention of the studio in its commercials and it decided to replace the "chosen by God" phrase with "from Promenade Pictures" because the original script made it sound as though the actors were chosen by God, not Moses, as was the intended meaning.
Mention of God isn't prohibited in the company's standards and procedures, according to Radio Disney.
Liberty Counsel, a religious issues litigation and Christian advocacy group, has petitioned Radio Disney to reconsider its requirement that "God" be chucked from the spots for the movie.
"It's highly offensive that the family-friendly company Disney portrays itself to be would actually eliminate God from an ad about 'The Ten Commandments,'" said Liberty Counsel's founder and chairman Mathew D. Staver. "How ridiculous can you be? I'm asking Radio Disney to use some common sense and stop censoring this ad."
Promenade Pictures was established by former Paramount Pictures head and legendary Hollywood producer Frank Yablans, who co-founded Buena Vista Pictures with self-proclaimed Baptist Walt Disney in the '50s.
Promenade, as Bond describes it, is a film studio "built on family values" — a sort of "modern-day Buena Vista within a Judeo-Christian point of view."
"If Walt Disney would be aware of something like this happening, he'd be rolling in his grave," she said.
The production company has two other animated movies coming out based on biblical parables: "Noah's Ark: The New Beginning," due out in 2008, and "Gideon's Gift."
Promenade says it wants to expose audiences to the stories and characters in the Christian and Jewish scriptures.
"The goal of the movie and the goal of the whole series is to interest people in the greatest stories ever told and what we feel were the greatest superheroes that ever existed," Bond said.
And though Promenade Pictures doesn't pit itself as an anti-Hollywood movie studio, according to Bond, she does encounter discrimination against Christian themes.
"We're not an organization saying, 'Oh, Hollywood, you're bad,'" she insisted. "But there's definitely a prejudice when you get into the God of the Bible."