Working the internet like it was something Uncle Walt had sketched out at his trademark drawing table, Disney Studios unveiled its big live-action Aladdin casting announcement at the company’s biennial D23 Expo this weekend.
Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who has a few TV credits, will play the title character, Disney said July 15 in Anaheim, California. As had been rumored, the more widely known English actress Naomi Scott will portray his love Princess Jasmine. It was already pretty much out that American action star Will Smith will be the Genie, a role voiced brilliantly by the late Robin Williams in the 1992 animated blockbuster.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) July 15, 2017
Still, nothing is simple when it comes to Aladdin. The casting of Scott especially made some fans upset on the racial and ethnic grounds that have featured within a long-simmering debate. A magic lantern to wish away all the resultant noise might come in handy for the studio—if Disney really minded it at all.
apparently disney have actually cast a white non arab jasmine for aladdin? pic.twitter.com/7dM6g4x7Us
— indie (@COCONUTOILBAE) July 15, 2017
Scott’s mother is of Gujarati Indian descent and her father is British. Massoud is of Egyptian descent. Just days before D23, the studio had made it known via The Hollywood Reporter that it was encountering a trouble finding the right cast members for the starring roles. Where oh where could British director Guy Ritchie—said to have embarked on a months-long global search—find performers of Middle Eastern or Indian descent who can sing and act well enough?
— Jenny Yang