Disney executives have come under fire after they’ve been accused of “browning up” dozens of white actors for the upcoming live-action adaptation of Aladdin.
The Sunday Times has reported the film has darkened the skin tone for background characters in the busy crowd scenes.
In response, the mass media company said it was forced to darken Caucasian skin, as the could not find enough South Asian actors for roles requiring skills that “could not be readily found in the Asian community, such as stunt men, dancers and camel handlers.”
“This is the most diverse cast ever assembled for a Disney live action production. More than 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian,” a Disney spokesperson said.
Despite Disney’s statement, the backlash still continues. Kaushal Odedra, the stand-in for Mena Massoud, who plays Aladdin, said he saw about 20 “very fair-skinned” extras in line to have their skin darkened.
“On one set, two palace guards came in and I recognized one as a Caucasian actor, but he was now a darkly tanned Arab,” Odedra said. “I moved inside the marquee where there were 10 extras and two were Caucasian, but they had been heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern.”
Now many celebrities are sharing their disdain towards Disney’s actions.
BAFTA-nominated TV director Riaz Meer told The Independent Disney’s actions are “an insult to the whole industry.”
“The talent exists and is accessible and there’s no way that Asian extras could not have been hired to meet the needs of the film,” Meer said.
“Failing to hire on-screen talent of the right ethnic identity to meet the clear needs of this production is just plain wrong. We expect better from all filmmakers,” he added.
Actor Kal Penn, most known for his role in the Harold and Kumar movie franchise spoke up against the company’s poor decision.
“I love @Disney so much. But when a PR person says they decided to put 100 people in Brownface in 2018 because not enough of us are qualified, that’s bs, someone just didn’t want to spend the $ to do it right. Let’s all expect more & do better this year,” Penn wrote.
I love @Disney so much. But when a PR person says they decided to put 100 people in Brownface in 2018 because not enough of us are qualified, that’s bs, someone just didn’t want to spend the $ to do it right. Let’s all expect more & do better this year.https://t.co/MzZJp6jvPB
— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) January 7, 2018
This isn’t the first time the remake has caused controversy. People were up in arms when Egyptian-born actress Mena Massoud was cast as Princess Jasmine, instead of someone from Arabic descent. The film also includes a new white character played by Billy Magnussen, a part which was not included in the original film.
However, Navid Negahban, who plays the sultan in the live action remake, said the concerns of the film being whitewashed were unfounded.
“It’s not whitewashing,” Negahban told HuffPost. He compared the production to a garden, with the film being a nursery.
“The thing is that the garden should be filled with flowers of different kinds,” he said. “If not, the garden is going to be very boring. So you’re gonna go and see this beautiful garden with colorful flowers, and I just hope that you enjoy the journey,” Negahban said.
“You will definitely love the film,” he added. “It doesn’t matter how old you are – the film has something for you to take away from it.”
Do you think Disney needs to formally apologize for darkening their actors’s skin tones?