Earlier this week, we talked about the newest musical production to open at Disney California Adventure – Frozen: Live at the Hyperion Theater. It’s a huge show with a giant projection screen, an Olaf puppet, huge Sven puppet, plus Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and a large cast. The show is pretty amazing all on it’s own, but if you go back and look at photos of the cast, you’ll notice that Disneyland entertainment color-blind cast the production. That means, a diversity of people will be seen in all roles in the show, not just the supporting ones.
This is a great move from David Duffy, who is the Director of creative entertainment for the Disneyland Resort and the Frozen musical’s director Liesl Tommy. Diversity in entertainment can be a controversial issue, but Disney is known for pushing boundaries and it’s great to see that continue here too.
From photos and videos of the production we know that Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Oaken, and the Duke of Weselton were all cast according to talent and not the color of their skin.
This is not the first color-blind cast for Disney, even at Hyperion theater, when Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular opened with a diverse cast including non-traditional casting. Of course Disney Theatrical has been involved in color-blind casting for years including Toni Braxton as Belle in Beauty and the Beast in 1998. More recently, the Newsies casts have been notable for their diversity as well.
Colorblind casting gives diverse people a chance to see themselves in roles that previously were imagined only for more dominant cultures and peoples. Are you ready to see more color-blind casting throughout the Disney company?
For more on the making of Frozen – Live at the Hyperion check out LaughingPlace.com’s interview with the show’s creators.
There’s two sides to the argument:
1) The best Jasmine in the Aladdin Musical was Latina, the best Genie was black and the best Aladdin was Asian. So why is there a problem with a black Kristoff?
2) The point of seeing a character come to life on stage is to see a character be true to the image we perceive. So for a child to wait 90min in the heat and then have Elsa not look as they imagined is a disappointment that shouldn’t result in accusations of racism.
Personally, I don’t mind casting the best actor for the job. But I do feel that the way they are casting Frozen is not about the quality of actor but the intentional attempt to create an issue where it doesn’t fit. These shows aren’t meant to take a stand against racial injustice, they’re meant to be the characters we love in real life. So if we wouldn’t accept a white Tiana then why should we hold our tongue about a black Elsa?
(Note. I’m for more upset over the change to Kristoff than anything else. Disney characters are designed to be identifiable in silhouette. So giving Kristoff big curly hair makes him unerecognizable So what was the point of messing with him at all?
Well written, it totally reflects my own opinion.
PS: Did you know that many people in Europe don’t like so much the Disney movie ‘Kiss the frog’, because of Tiana? I like the modern adoption but the original Grimm’s fairy tale is not ‘color blind’ and thats the story most people did grow up with.
Actually these shows are meant to be Broadway style shows in DCA, which does not mean that it is supposed to completely recreate the characters as we know them. Yes, they are familiar characters, plots and even songs, but the production is supposed to stand on its own and be something unique as well.
Good for them honestly! I mean ideally this should’ve been done in the movie itself- that tends to be the bigger problem I think- but it’s nice to see that they’re not letting themselves be bound by that. I do remember reading that Okieriete Onaodowan- who musical theater fans know as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison in Hamilton- was part of the recent workshop for the Broadway-bound version (as Kristoff!) so it’s nice to know they’re not holding back there either. Children are smart and probably a lot more open than we give them credit for. Yeah, face characters that they meet and interact with are different, sure, but honestly why not do this with a theater production? It doesn’t hurt anything.
” But I do feel that the way they are casting Frozen is not about the quality of actor but the intentional attempt to create an issue where it doesn’t fit. ” – well said, I could not agree more. Imo, the term “color-blind casting” is a lie in itself – what it means is affirmative action, nothing else. If somebody feels that affirmative action is what is needed today – fine with me, everbody has a right to their opinion. Just don´t give me that bull about “color blindness”.
After watching it last weekend, my wife and I remarked how the cast was not color blind. Almost all of the “extras” looked like the town folks from the movie but the ones they did changed like the main characters (which are only a few), we mostly did not like. My kids did not even know who Kristoff was with his ridiculous hair. The Anna we saw was a good actor and singer but she did not portray the naivete that made Anna so quirky and funny in the movie. If that was the best they could find being “color blind”, then that really surprises me. And unlike Aladdin, I do not see any reason to see it again any time soon. Since it is basically one big song for 65 minutes, there is little room for improvisation that made Aladdin so fun to watch over and over again. Olaf and Sven were amazing and the technology behind the sets were great but they should have spent more time finding the right actors for those top 4 roles. We all enjoyed Elsa even though she did not really look like Elsa because she felt like Elsa (if that makes sense). Anyways, maybe we will go back in 6 months and see if the actors are more comfortable with the show and maybe the characters personalities might shine through.
There is a sense in this article that, had Disney cast two white-female leads to play Anna and Elsa, it would have caused an uproar from the NAACP and other racism-based pundits. This is simply not true. What WOULD raise eyebrows would be casting two black women as the leads.
What Disney did was not create a color-BLIND cast, but a color-MINDED cast. The prevailing sentiment now is that if something doesn’t forcibly include diversity at every level, its being racist. Its getting tiresome. Disney knew exactly what they were doing when they cast the actors for this play.
Imagine for a second this wasn’t Frozen, but The Little Mermaid. Would it cause uproar if they made Ariel or Prince Eric black, all for the sake of diversity? Or would Disney be praised for simply being “color-blind”? It’s getting old.
I agree that the issue is to be politically correct and have people of color in the main roles. What I think is how would Walt Disney himself felt about this? Do you really think he would bow down to all the NAACP and other clowns that demand that they be used? I DON’T THINK SO!
Disney will always be a racist company! Consider, if you will, the fact that there is not a single bio pic about Walt Disney in which Disney was played by a black actor! Is that not proof enough? What´s more, both of Disney´s daughters were white. What else do I need to say? (By the way, it is not the cast that is color blind – if that nonsensical term absolutely has to be used, it should be used for the casting directors…)
It’s too bad they can’t cast it like they do on “The Voice”!! Have those auditioning not be seen by those choosing and cast by what they hear, not what they see! That way, it could be based on talent, not color, or lack of color! That also does away with casting by how they look, so you’re not concerned by how large or small a person is.
Creative casting is silly. They’re playing well-established versions of well-known characters. They should resemble who they’re portraying. This cast isn’t color-blind. And anyway, I don’t want to be color-blind. We SHOULD see people as different, just not treat them differently because of it. This whole thing is just a huge publicity stunt, as if this project needs it, but hey, it’s working.
Standing by for a blonde Jasmine, a Chinese Ariel and a white Tiana (oh wait… that last one would be racist…).
Good for Disney. If the skin color of a person playing a fictional character (in a story that doesn’t center around race) bothers people, that’s not Disney’s fault. Almost all the comments I’ve seen regarding this issue epitomize the term “White Privilege.”
Since 99% of the characters in all Disney movies have been white, there is definitely a need to cast non-white actors in stage roles. If Disney had ample opportunities for non-white actors to play roles that fit their skin color, it might be different, but that is simply not the case. Otherwise, every casting call for Disney’s stage musicals would read “white people only.”
By the way, the term “politically correct” is another way of saying “respectful,” at least among educated people.
So according to you, there is a NEED to recast Ariel as a short, fat, black woman, Mulan as a transgendered Brazilian man, Cinderella as an Asian and Mary Poppins as an Indian woman…? I’m sorry that the notion that Disney might want to cast actors that resemble the characters portrayed in the movies is something you find troublesome.
And “politically correct” only means “respectful” to people who live in constant fear of offending any person for any reason. To everyone else its just a horrible stigma placed on everything done in the public eye that makes it worse.
I see my point was correct.
What point would that be? You made no point other than to applaud Disney for being politically correct and bending over backwards to create an issue of diversity where there wasn’t going to be a problem in the first place. White privilege? Give me a break. The characters were created a certain way by the artists. Its not “privilege” for them to be cast as they appear in movies. White privilege would rather being using white actors to portray Mulan, Tiana, Pochahontas, etc.