It was quite the eventful week as Disney admitted to darkening the skin of extras in the live action version of Aladdin. In addition, Disney began charging wealthy guests for extra fast passes, a sharp change in direction from the current free system. Plus there was a new Star Wars comic that could fix most of the problems with The Last Jedi. It’s a lot to tackle so let’s get into it.
Disney Darkens Skin of Extras in Live-Action Aladdin
Of course minorities aren’t just dark-skinned white people. You know that, I know that and Disney knows it. That didn’t stop the company from using makeup and tans to help dozens of white extras look Middle Eastern for crowd scenes in the upcoming live-action Aladdin Movie.
The Sunday Times reports that, “The company says it resorted to darkening white people for roles requiring skills that could not be readily found in the Asian community” near Longcross Film Studios, where shooting is underway, “such as stunt men, dancers and camel handlers.”
The article quotes a one-time stand-in for one of the film’s leads, Kaushal Odedra.
“On one set, two palace guards came in and I recognised one as a Caucasian actor, but he was now a darkly tanned Arab,” Odedra said. “I moved inside the marquee where there were 10 extras and two were Caucasian, but they had been heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern.” 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 almost entirely white crew, [which] seemed somewhat intimidating.”
How Hard is it to Find Extras?
For its part, Disney issued a statement saying “This is the most diverse cast ever assembled for a Disney live action production. More than 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian.”
Right now a lot of people are going crazy about the tanning, but my big shock came when I learned of the shooting location for Aladdin. Located in the English county of Surrey, Longcross is about a 50-minute drive from London. There are more than One million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arab descent in London, but why isn’t Disney shooting this Middle Eastern movie in a Middle Eastern country?
Of course Disney is going to have a tough time finding “ethnically accurate” extras. It’s like trying to shoot a film about New York City in El Paso, Texas. You’re gonna have some inaccuracies. My hunch is that Disney is shooting in England to be close to the best special effects companies in the world. The same people that brought you the eye-dazzling Star Wars: The Last Jedi will soon take you into a whole new world with Aladdin.
That said, it doesn’t really excuse tanning white extras. Diversity isn’t about excluding white people. It’s about celebrating the differences in every race, culture and ethnicity. We can’t have true diversity if whiteness is deemed as unacceptable.
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One day in the future, you will look at your grandkids little eyes and tell them, “I remember when Fast Passes were free at Disney World.” In fact, it will probably be in the not-too-distant future.
Disney’s latest attempt to find revenue has come in the form of a fee for extra fast passes. Starting now, certain guests will be able to purchase three additional fast passes per day for the low, low price of $50/per person per day. I say “certain guests” because the offer is only available to those who are staying at the club level of a deluxe resort for at least three nights.
This is a no risk situation for Disney. More people will want to stay at the club level — one of the most expensive ways to stay at Disney — and those guests will stay for at least three nights. In addition, the extra passes won’t cost Disney a thing, but they are guaranteed to bring in at least $150 more per person. The worst thing that will happen is that fans will say Disney is expensive. Wow, breaking news.
A Fundamental Shift
This is one more canary in the coal mine. As much as I love hard ticketed events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, they have severely limited the amount of time people could have in the parks on a single day ticket. Disney After Hours has encroached on Extra Magic Hours, a previous benefit that was included with staying on property.
Disney likes to make money and soon enough this extra fast pass system will “trickle down” to us commoners. But I wonder how long we will enjoy “free” fast passes at Disney World. This represents a fundamental shift in the way Disney treats its customers. This is the new Disney Parks.
Want to get to the parks in a reasonable amount of time? Deposit $20 for a Minnie van. Want to stay in the parks past6 pmm? Please add $100 per person for this special event. Disney now invests in partial refurbishments instead of new hotels. They opt for new lands instead of new parks. If there is a way to get more revenue, they will exploit it.
All is Not Lost
I have lost faith in the current administration of Disney Parks. The hope of the parks is the people that make Disney so magical to begin with: cast members. I’ve spoken with several cast members who were doing the best to fight against the idiotic policies.
I recently avoided a potentially awful experience with Disney Photopass due to one such cast member. Photopass deleted the digital versions of my purchased photos without warning before I had a chance to download them. When I called to check on this (read: complain), the cast member stopped me before I even got the chance. She told me this happens all the time and she wished that Disney would change its policy. She was able to give me access to my photos within minutes and went the extra mile to stay on the phone to confirm that they were available for download. I can’t imagine how many people don’t even call and just end up with no photos and a big bill.
How to Save The Last Jedi
As of this writing, The Last Jedi has a 49 percent from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve defended certain parts of the movie in our review of The Last Jedi, but I wasn’t a fan. It changed Star Wars in ways that didn’t really make sense and writer/director Rian Johnson didn’t take the time to explain why things played out the way they did. Now, it looks like Lucasfilm is trying to correct Johnson’s mistake.
In a new comic, Darth Vader #10, Lucasfilm writer Charles Soule includes a detail that could change the Star Wars universe as we know it. In the comic, Darth Vader is fighting Jocasta Nu, one of the last Jedi to survive the purge of Jedi in Episode III. Jocasta is a former chief librarian of the Jedi Archives. As Vader and Emperor Palpatine work to “snuff out” the Light side of the Force, Jocasta says that no such thing can be done.
“The Force is eternal,” Jocasta says in the comic. “It cannot be ended, it cannot be stopped, no so long as life exists. It will find its vessels. It always does. It already has — you know this. There are others, waiting out in the galaxy.”
A Better Version of The Last Jedi
Now, imagine a version of The Last Jedi that works to impart that knowledge to the audience. Rey discovers Luke on his island after he has discovered a deeper knowledge about the living Force. He could explain that, due to the failures of the Skywalker clan, the Force had chosen a new generation. That is why the Jedi must die.
But let’s take it a step further. Luke could tell Rey that The Force is about her feeling ALL of the emotions, even failure. Her power could be superior not only because the Force willed it, but also because of how open she is to her feelings. I guarantee that movie would get better than a 49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
What’s more, this latest comic shows Disney is trying to correct its mistake with The Last Jedi. It’s an early indicator that they will likely play it safe with Episode 9.
Fandango reported that Black Panther is now the Marvel record holder for early ticket sales in the first 24 hours. The film beat Captain America: Civil War who held the previous record. Check out the new trailer below and get your tickets.
Also of note, Maleficent 2 is set to start filming in Spring. Angelina Jolie will reprise her role as one of the most infamous villains in Disney lore. I wasn’t a fan of the first one, but I’ll be interested to see if they take the character in a more traditional direction.
For more on these stories and more, listen to the podcast episode below.