Controversial changes: Diversity in new Disney live-action movies

The first live-action Disney remake of “101 Dalmatians” featured a picture perfect resemblance of the actors and animated characters. This year though, Disney announced that Halle Bailey, a 19-year-old African American actress will be playing Ariel from, “The Little Mermaid,” who was originally written to be Danish.

Disney is taking great strides into creating a more diverse cinematic universe by casting people with varying ethnic backgrounds in “The Little Mermaid” as well as altering the storyline of “Mulan” to make it more culturally appropriate. Many people are concerned about these changes though, scared that they might not resemble the original film.

“I think if they make it into a good story with the changes, I’ll be fine with it, but if the changes end up making the story worse, then I’m not a fan,” sophomore Kira Leslie said.

Others have not been so kind about the changes though and recently on twitter there’s been a hashtag floating around: #NotMyAriel. In addition to that, people have been outraged after seeing the trailer for the new “Mulan” movie coming out in 2020.

“I can see why it can be surprising to some people when it’s been traditionally a certain look but I think people just have to kind of realize that’s not the most important component. Unless race has a specific component in the production and there’s a reason to need to have someone of a certain particular color or background, you just cast the best person for the production,” drama teacher, Cathy Swain-Abrams said.

According to, the new “Mulan” movie will feature a story similar to the original movie, but it will angle its focus more on her story as a female warrior. The live-action version will also not be a musical and many beloved characters such as Li Shang or Mushu will no longer be in the film.

“It’s become a very popular movement lately in professional theater, and it’s trickled down to educational theater as well to be more mindful of how we are thinking about diversity in our productions. Things have changed and it’s being mindful of the fact that you shouldn’t take away roles from the people they were made for,” Swain-Abrams said.

Many of the people criticizing the new movies are taking for granted what they are supposed to represent; Disney wants to show everyone through these movies.

“There are a lot of people who take for granted, especially a lot of white people, they see themselves reflected in so many places and they don’t really think about what that would be like to not see yourself reflected. In some of these traditional roles, and if they truly get down to the bottom of it, they’re going to realize that in a case like

Illustration by Nick Allen that, it doesn’t matter,” Swain-Abrams said.

Another thing that people aren’t realizing too is that Disney is trying to make these characters more relatable to others. Many people can’t connect with these characters- especially when all the characters match the same stereotypes.

“There’s many different people in the world, so if you cast many different people then everybody will have at least one person that they can relate to, instead of one person that they can kind of relate to,” Leslie said.

Making Disney more diverse is going to be the future of cinematography, and these movies are just a start. The new “Mulan” movie will be coming out March 27, 2020 and “The Little Mermaid” release date hasn’t been determined yet, but production starts in April, 2020.


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