The Genie couldn’t keep this tucked away in the bottle.
Disney has admitted to “browning up” (i.e., tanning to make them look more Asian) dozens of white extras for crowd scenes in the upcoming live-action Aladdin. While many of the extras are of Asian or Middle Eastern descent, the studio claims that it has cast white extras for roles that could not be readily filled by the Asian community, such as stunt men, dancers, and camel handlers.
Filming is happening in the English village of Longcross, which is home to approximately 1.1 million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arab heritage.
According to Disney, “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.”
Actor Kaushal Odedra, who worked as a stand-in for one of the lead actors, told the Sunday Times that he saw a queue of 20 “very fair-skinned” actors waiting to have their skin tone changed, expounding:
“Disney are sending out a message that your skin colour, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can’t be powdered on and washed off.”
“I asked a Saudi cast member what he made of having these extras being tanned so heavily and he said it’s unfortunate, but this is how the industry works, and there’s no point complaining about it since it isn’t going to change.”
This Aladdin has already caused some whitewashing-related controversy with its casting of Billy Magnussen as a white suitor of Princess Jasmine.
The film, which is directed by Guy Ritchie, is scheduled for a May 24, 2019 release.