According to the Sunday Times, a number of white actors were darkened with makeup and fake tans to more closely resemble characters of Middle Eastern descent. An extra told the Times that as many as 20 fair-skinned actors were outside the makeup tent "waiting to have their skin darkened."
Despite claiming that diversity was a priority, Disney brought in white actors to fill in background roles, stunt positions, dancers and camel handlers — saying that it "resorted to darkening white people for roles requiring skills that could not be readily found in the Asian community."
The Guy Ritchie-directed, Will Smith-starring flick is currently filming at Longcross Studios in Surrey, UK. As IndieWire notes, Longcross is located approximately a 50-minute drive from London — a metropolitan area that boasts 1.1 million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab descent.
"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen," a Disney spokesperson told the Times. "Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in."
Disney also noted that more than 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian.
In addition to Smith in the role of the Genie, the film also stars British-Indian actress Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Egyptian-Canadian Mena Massoud as Aladdin.
See some of the reactions to Disney's controversial decision below.
I love @Disney so much. But when a PR person says they decided to put 100 people in Brownface in 2018 because not enough of us are qualified, that's bs, someone just didn't want to spend the $ to do it right. Let's all expect more & do better this year.https://t.co/MzZJp6jvPB— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) January 7, 2018
if disney aren't prepared to hire poc from the correct country then they shouldn't be making this fucking movie at all y'all its gonna look like aladdin was set in essex with all the fake tan 💀💀 https://t.co/LqPeFdhwVZ— alicia (@whouffaldi) January 9, 2018
Aladdin is currently slated for a 2019 release.