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Disney responds to live-action Aladdin 'brown face' claims

12 January 2018

Disney has confirmed that several actors on the set of the live-action "Aladdin" adaptation had their skin darkened as a way to "blend in" better in the background- but only because they were actually part of the crew.

Disney confessed "tanning" white actors for the roles that required "skills" - including stunt men, dancers and camel handlers. He also witnessed a line of approximately 20 "very fair-skinned" actors waiting to have their skin tones darkened, but declined to raise the issue with "the nearly entirely white crew, [which] seemed somewhat intimidating".

"Also, if I'd wanted to discuss it, speaking to the nearly entirely white crew seemed somewhat intimidating", Odedra added.

"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen", a representative from Disney was quoted by Deadline as saying. Speaking with BBC's Newsbeat, the company revealed that white actors were used only in a "handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control".

Aladdin director Guy Ritchie has already been criticised for "whitewashing" the Arabian film when he introduced a new white character into the 1992 Disney hit.

Ritchie avoided commenting on the issue, but Lara Sheppard, a woman from "Casting Collective" -the agency that provided the extras - came out to defend the move. It's deeply offensive. It suggests an understanding of diversity as window dressing and nothing more, and it's especially galling given that Disney had already come under fire regarding the casting for Aladdin, after a Hollywood Reporter article suggested that the search for their male lead was made especially hard "since the studio wants someone of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent".

Brit actress Naomi Scott, who is of Indian heritage, is playing Princess Jasmine while Egyptian-born Canadian Mena Massoud is playing the eponymous thief.

However, while the cast remains largely diverse (for now), the crew and creative team behind Aladdin are still majority-white - which may lend to the carelessness when it comes to some of these controversial casting choices. The iconic role of Genie will be portrayed by Hollywood star Will Smith.

Disney responds to live-action Aladdin 'brown face' claims