Move Over Snow White, Disney's Crystal Ball Is Getting A Lot More Colourful

The latest version of Aladdin follows in the footsteps of recent characters Moana and Coco and the announcement of a new African princess.

Disney has received its fair share of criticism over the years for its depictions of non-white characters.

But for stars like Mena Massoud, 27, who plays Aladdin in the upcoming live action film, the roles provide opportunity for minority actors to shine.

The first 90-second teaser for Aladdin was released on Friday, with Massoud the only actor featured as he discovers the lamp in the Cave of Wonders.

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin in the live-action film to be released in early 2019. IMAGE: Getty Images

Massoud, who was born in Egypt and raised in Canada, has previously recounted how "being a visible minority in this industry" affected his career.

"I can't compete for roles that require me to be Caucasian or African American, even if those characters really connect with me and intrigue me," he told Defective Geeks.

"The competition may be less, some people would say, but the amount of work to be had is less as well."

The original 1992 Aladdin animated film, released during the 'Disney Renaissance' era (1989 till 1999) was voiced by actors who were overwhelmingly white.

Linda Larkin and Scott Weinger, the actors who voiced Jasmine and Aladdin in the 1992 animated film.

The period saw Disney enjoy major box office success with cartoon blockbusters like The Lion King, Pocahontas and Mulan, however the actors behind the animations were never quite as diverse as their lead characters.

Disney is committed to producing an increasingly diverse catalog of projects, according to Chairman Alan Horn.

“Across all of our studios, we strive to tell inclusive stories -- both in front of and also behind the camera,” he told Vanity Fair.

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“It’s one of the most important issues facing our industry, and we continue to seek out and work with filmmakers and creatives who understand and share our commitment to making films that reflect the world around us.”

"Inclusivity is not only a priority but an imperative for us, and it's top of mind on every single project," Sean Bailey, who oversees the company's live-action films, told The Hollywood Reporter.

From the success of 2016's Moana, based on Polynesian culture, to the recently announced Sade, centered on a Nigerian princess, Disney has begun to corner the market for whimsical stories portraying "other" cultures.

"It’s essential people see representations of their cultures in the films and media that they watch and there are definitely many positives about the shift towards greater diversity in mainstream Disney and Hollywood films. At the same time, I don’t want to romanticise this or over-state it. There is still the capacity for greater diversity both in front of, and behind the camera," Lena Nahlous, Director of Diversity Arts Australia, told ten daily.

"For example, a movie like Moana has such diverse representation -- all of the characters are Polynesian -- but it has also been criticised by Polynesians for yet again being a film made by non-Polynesians, and that there is a need for stories that come from the rich history of storytelling within those communities."

Aladdin will hit the big screen in Australia in May 2019.

Featured Image: Disney

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au