Apparently Disney’s upcoming live-action (musical!) Aladdin remake uses brownface: Last Sunday, British newspaper The Sunday Times ran a story with the headline “Genie, brown up some extras for Aladdin” in reference to the film. In the article, 32-year-old actor Kaushal Odedra, who worked as a stand-in for one of the main characters last year, said he saw 20 “very fair-skinned” actors on-set waiting to have their skin darkened. Odedra posited that this was done in order to make the light-skinned actors look more Middle Eastern. Hmm, that’s probably something Disney would care about, given audience fears that it was going to screw up and white-wash the remake.
Disney has confirmed that, while it hired 400 or 500 “Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean or Asian” extras for the movie, it also hired 100 white extras in instances when it absolutely had to—had to! Those “instances” included times Disney absolutely needed white people to work as backup actors, stunt doubles, dancers, and camel-handlers (?!)
And yes, those were the ones whose makeup had to be done up. Here’s Disney’s statement (via Deadline):
“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen,” responded a Disney spokesperson. “Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this fiasco was entirely avoidable. After facing criticism for not hiring Arab actors for the remake’s lead roles, Disney changed their tune and hired brown people: Naomi Scott (who’s British-Indian) plays Jasmine, Mena Massoud (who’s Canadian and Egyptian-born) plays Aladdin, and Navid Negahban (whose Iranian-American) plays the Sultan. They’re a part of one of Disney’s most diverse casts and that rules, but like I said: Disney hired hundreds of brown people to fill background roles, but couldn’t find 100 more who were skilled in special effects, doing stunts, and handling camels? What?
Maybe we should have expected Disney to cut corners somewhere, since they also cast a white guy as Prince Anders, a character which wasn’t even in the original Disney movie. Oh well.