Aladdin: Disney defends 'making up' white actors to 'blend in' during crowd scenes

image copyrightDisney

Disney has admitted "making up" some white actors in order for them to "blend" into Asian crowd scenes for its upcoming Aladdin film.

The company told Newsbeat they filled background performer roles with white people "only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control".

Extra Kaushal Odedra appears in the film and says he saw "around 20" other actors being made up to look Arabian.

He believes Disney are "out of touch".

image copyrightKaushal Odedra/Facebook
image captionKaushal says he finally got a part in Aladdin after he kept getting rejected

The 32-year-old tells us he recognised several white actors on set.

"Aladdin was the perfect time to show diversity but also be accurate," he added. "They're being out of touch with what's going on around them."

Many within the industry have criticised producers for not recruiting people with Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi or Arab heritage.

Actor Kal Penn responded on Twitter saying: "When a PR person says they decided to put 100 people in brownface in 2018 because not enough of us are qualified, that's bs, someone just didn't want to spend the $ to do it right."

"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest, most diverse casts ever seen on screen," a Disney spokesman told Newsbeat.

"Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in."

Kaushal responded: "I can understand it if it comes to stunt people and animal handling but I think they did have a choice."

There were whitewashing claims in July 2017 after a non-Arab actor, Naomi Scott, was cast in Princess Jasmine's role in the film.

Scott, who's of British and Indian heritage, will star alongside Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud as Aladdin.

Filmmakers were also criticised in September 2017 for controversially introducing a white character called Prince Anders, played by Billy Magnussen.

There are no white characters in the original Middle Eastern folk story, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBilly Magnussen will play Prince Anders who didn't appear in the 1992 animated version of Aladdin

It's not the first time a production has been criticised for choosing white cast members to play Asian or black characters.

Sky dropped a series that had Joseph Fiennes starring as Michael Jackson.

British actor Ed Skrein pulled out of a role in the Hellboy reboot last year after a backlash because he was cast as a character of Asian heritage.

The Deadpool star said he didn't know the race of Major Ben Daimio when he accepted the part in the comic book adaptation.

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