America’s largest family-based film empire, Walt Disney Pictures, has been demonstrating a new trend of creating progressive, live-action remakes of its classic animated films that can hopefully push the close-minded boundaries of Hollywood’s casting representation.
The esteemed production company has elicited excitement from Disney fans of all ages since it began transforming magical moments and animated heros into realistic adventures.
Not only are the films highly anticipated due to their technological advancements, but Disney significantly increased diversity in its casting representation.
Traditionally, the go-to protagonist of any film is the classic heterosexual white man. If the main character is a woman, her happily ever after consists of discovering herself or being rescued by a strong, handsome prince-like man. A princess’ validity depends on her finding true love and her ability to make a man fall in love with her.
It’s not only women who have to deal with this archaic trope. People of color are also extremely underrepresented in films.
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Southern California analyzed 21,000 characters in more than 400 films and TV shows and found that only 28.3 percent of characters with dialogue were non-white, even though non-white racial/ethnic groups make up 40 percent of the U.S. population.
Additionally, only 19 percent of programs were racially balanced, and a high percentage of non-white characters were represented stereotypically.
Despite these harrowing numbers, Disney films have made improvements in casting choices to give greater representation.
In recent Disney films, like “Moana,” non-white female protagonists can be the hero of their own stories without requiring a man to save them.
Disney’s upcoming and already released live-action remakes have taken a turn toward fixing the industry’s representation problem. Its newest princess, Elena of Avalor, is a Spanish-speaking princess with a Latin heritage and dark complexion.
The most recent remake of “Beauty and the Beast” featured Disney’s first openly gay character, LeFou, who was met with criticism and praise alike.
The highly anticipated remake of Disney’s 1994 film “The Lion King” has also cast young black actor and musician Donald Glover to voice the king of the Pride Lands, Simba.
Additionally, Disney’s live-action version of the 1998 production “Mulan” will consist of an entirely Chinese cast. Disney has placed a team of employees in China assigned to study the geography and way of life, as well as hired Chinese cultural consultants to ensure the film is culturally accurate and sensitive, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
After a long history of misrepresentation in the film industry, it looks like Disney may finally take a stand and turn things around. The traditional norms of film culture are being challenged and changed as Disney characters of every color, gender and creed find their happily ever after in new and improved ways.