Disney+ is already considered a success for exceeding all projected expectations at it’s launch with over 10 million subscribers in the first day. It provides content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic, Fox, and Star Wars. It has over 600 movie and television show titles, with 4,000 hours of viewable content, and still has so many more releases and surprises for subscribers over the next few years. Although, one of those more recent surprises regarding the live-action “Aladdin,” is causing some controversy.
It was recently announced both the live-action “The Lion King” and the live-action “Aladdin” films are going to be released to Disney+ streaming services. It was also announced by The Hollywood Reporter that Disney+ will ALSO be adding a live-action “Aladdin” spin-off series, but it’s not what anyone was expecting.
The series is going to revolve around the scene-stealing character Prince Anders: the well-dressed, bumbling buffoon among Princess Jasmine’s suitors. Played by Billy Magnussen, Prince Anders was only in the film briefly and was unable to win over Princess Jasmine, but that’s not where the controversy in the spin-off lies for fans.
The issue with the series is being brought to light by both the 2019 film’s title star, and fans. Mena Massoud, the 28 year-old actor from Cairo, Egypt who portrayed Aladdin, opened up in a recent interview with the Daily Beast recently to voice his concerns over the industry and what the film has done for him and his career (or more like, what it HASN’T done). He says he hasn’t seen any new career opportunities since starring in the film that has now grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
“I’m kind of tired of staying quiet about it. I want people to know that it’s not always dandelions and roses when you’re doing something like ‘Aladdin.’ ‘He must have made millions. He must be getting all these offers.’ It’s none of those things. I haven’t had a single audition since ‘Aladdin’ came out.”
And it’s not like Massoud is asking for the world. “It’s wild to a lot of people,” Massoud said. “People have these ideas in their head. It’s like, I’m sitting here being like, OK, Aladdin just hit $1 billion. Can I at least get an audition? Like I’m not expecting you to be like, here’s Batman. But can I just get in the room? Like, can you just give me a chance? So it’s not always what you think.”
Massoud will be in the Hulu series, “Reprisal,” and the only other time we will see him soon is in an animated film called “Lamya’s Poem.” He had already been cast in the role on the Hulu series prior to “Aladdin,” so that doesn’t actually count.
People lashed out across social media after the spin-off was announced, and there wasn’t really any nice way to put it with fans butting heads on both sides of the argument. Many posts cited racial tensions and bias at the baseline for the spin-off decision, and it led to some heated debates.
Are people clamoring for a spin-off like this? Really? https://t.co/SJgdAxzzhl
— Josh Spiegel (@mousterpiece) December 6, 2019
As many that were calling Disney out and accusing them of for being racist, some tried to skip the race issue and point out what many critics had said when the film was released:
Did you see it? It was terrible, but it's Disney and Disney sells. That said, he was the best character in the film. Great accent, hilarious and let's face it, good looking. Finally, it's a spinoff meaning peripheral characters will be working and if you sucked….cameo. Meh!
— gil trautman (@gil_trautman) December 7, 2019
On one hand, Disney hand-picked Massoud for the opportunity in playing the role of “Aladdin,” and some have noted that they aren’t exactly responsible for what happens to his career after that. On the other, there is an obvious lack of starring roles for minorities. So is this just an issue where his talents are not up to the rest of the industries expectations, or is it something more? Is the creation of the spin-off for Prince Anders really meant to be a subliminal dig or does Disney know what will sell and what the fans want? Either way, there seems to be a lot going on past what we are see on the surface of the spin-off’s announcement. Controversy leads to conversation, and maybe that’s all part of Disney’s plan as well, because the buzz that has now been generated over the show’s announcement has it going viral at least a full year before it’s ever released and we won’t even see it until late 2020 or early 2021.
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