Earlier this month, reports emerged that Disney is planning a live-action remake of Aladdin, with a new script by John August (Big Fish) and Guy Ritchie slated to direct. In the wake of the news, a new online petition has emerged pleading with the studio not to “whitewash” the film; in other words, to cast authentically with Middle Eastern actors.
Aladdin takes place in the fictional city of Agrabah, Arabia, and according to the narrator in the original 1992 animated film, is located near the Jordan River. “The adaptation of Aladdin is a great opportunity for Disney to show diversity in casting and to honor the original story line and setting of the film by casting characters of Middle Eastern [descent],” reads a statement on Care2’s thepetitionsite.com. It was started by Sarah Rose, Care2’s social media associate and LGBTQ issues advocate, and at the time of publication, had amassed over 2,400 signatures. Care2 is an online network and community that advocates for human rights and positive change.
The authentic casting of actors of color has been a hot topic this year in both the theatre and film industries, with 2016 marred by controversies concerning the lack of diversity on movie screens and major regional stages. Earlier this year, a petition to get Disney to cast an Asian actor to play Mulan in an upcoming live-action remake reached over 100,000 signatures; over 18,000 people signed a Care2 petition demanding that a planned biopic of 13th-century Persian poet Rumi be cast with a Middle Eastern actor rather than Leonardo DiCaprio; and regional stage productions of Evita and The Prince of Egypt came under fire for their failure to cast authentically.
The Broadway production of Aladdin continues at the New Amsterdam Theatre.