Disney’s lack of diversity in their content has been a persistent issue since the company’s beginning. From the creation of Walt Disney Productions to now, Walt Disney Animation Studios has released 61 animated films, and only 11 of them contain a protagonist that is also a person of color.

Growing up with the Disney movies and witnessing mainly caucasian princesses was disheartening, to say the least. I did not look like any of the pretty princesses, an observation that negatively impacted my self-image as a young child.

With such lack of inclusivity, the inability to become diverse has faced much criticism throughout the years. Coupled with the use of racial stereotypes, such as making Mulan more rebellious and Pocahantas more savage compared to other, more feminine white princesses, Disney’s non-inclusive productions have been portrayed as unwelcoming towards minorities. 

Another example of Disney’s racial caricature of non-white protagonists is Tiana. In “The Princess and the Frog,” she is the only princess that struggled financially throughout her story, and the only one that turned into an animal.

Taking a look at some recent live-action movies, Disney does attempt to have a wider range of actors. Unfortunately, they miss the mark. 

“The Little Mermaid” is Disney’s newest live-action remake featuring main actress Halle Bailey as Ariel. Quite a few changes were made to the 1989 animated version. These changes to the classic sparked debate across Disney’s global audience.

With such drastic changes to such a popular comfort movie, the most controversy came with the unexpected switch in the race of its main character. In the 1989 film “The Little Mermaid,” Ariel was animated with bright, crimson hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. As an official adaptation to the original story of “The Little Mermaid” by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, this Danish mermaid was a direct interpretation of the fictional story. 

However, in the live-action movie, Ariel was portrayed by Halle Bailey, a black singer and actress. The casting faced heavy backlash, with complaints over the race of the actress and her not-so-crimson natural hair. Bailey and director Rob Marshall have made the creative decision of keeping her locs, which led to some more skepticism from the audience.

Of course, Disney’s attempts at diversifying the brand by adding inclusivity into its characters has been moving on an upwards trend. Though there have been slight improvements throughout the Disney brand, they are not enough. In this particular movie, the change was an overtly performative reaction to the criticisms Disney had received. The live

-action movie also seemed like it was produced carelessly, with its tacky, outdated CGI. 

Rather than changing an old classical character, Disney should have just created a whole new persona. The brand just seems lazy by switching up the casting of one movie in attempts to gain inclusivity points. Yes, having Disney princesses being represented by multiple different cultures is amazing, but does it make sense when one specific character turns into two different races? “The Little Mermaid” was not the right movie to take a shot at “diversity.”

On the other hand, Disney’s 2024 live-action “Lilo & Stitch” is facing some similar discourse. It was clear in the animated movie that its characters were POC and represented the native Hawaiian population. However, when the live-action cast was announced, Disney was accused of whitewashing yet again.

While Disney’s attempt at diversity is seen to be a failure, I was disappointed but not surprised. As Disney barely succumbed to constructive criticism, it is crucial that they make a tangible change in the future. It has already been too long, Disney.