Two months before it is due to reach the big screen, Disney’s Polynesian epic Moana has run into another storm of controversy.
This time Disney has pulled a number of children’s costumes depicting characters from the film.
The costumes had been attacked because, it was claimed, they would have made the children look as if they were wearing brown skin.
The film, which was partly written by Maori film-maker Taika Waititi, tells the story of a young girl who enlists the help of the demi-God Maui to help her family.
Moana is set for release in the United States on November 23 and in New Zealand on Boxing Day,
It was once common for Hollywood to depict people of other races by having white actors darken their skin and use makeup and wigs to change their appearance.
This process became known as putting on ‘blackface’ and by the 1970s was regarded as being extremely racist.
Critics of the Maui costumes have claimed they represent ‘brownface.’
The Huffington Post has quoted protestors arguing that Disney is trying to make money by persuading people to wear another culture’s skin.
Radio New Zealand reported this evening that Disney had said it had taken care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and regretted that the Maui costume had offended some people.
“We sincerely apologise and are pulling the costume from our website and stores,” Disney said.
As Kaniva News reported in July, Moana had already caused outrage before it hit the screens.
When the trailer for the film was released, Disney ran into flak over its depiction of the Polynesian demi-God Maui.
A number of people complained because in the film Maui is extremely fat.
Tongan-born MP Jenny Salesa stepped into the controversy, telling her Facebook followers that “this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable.”
This is not the first time Disney has drawn fire for its depiction of non-westerners.
Arab audiences were outraged by Aladdin, which was regarded as deeply insulting to Arab culture and to Islam.
Disney also fell flat on its face in China where Mulan, which took US$300 million worldwide, barely made US$30,000 when it was shown in Mulan’s home town of Hunan.
Many of those who saw it regarded it as showing a complete misunderstanding of Chinese culture and simply being an American film with a few vaguely ‘Asian’ additions.
And when Disney did have a chance to make a point about racism, it backed away. In the film Lilo and Stitch, which is set among the indigenous people of Hawai’i, a scene showing Lilo getting her own back on white, racist, tourists was left out of the film.
The main points
- Two months before it is due to reach the big screen, Disney’s Polynesian epic Moana has run into another storm of controversy.
- This time Disney has pulled a number of children’s costumes depicting characters from the film.
- The costumes had been attacked because, it was claimed, they would have made the children look as if they were wearing brown skin.
- Moana is set for release in the United States on November 23 and in New Zealand on Boxing Day.
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