Disney is trying to avoid accusations of cultural insensitivity toward Native Americans in its newest remake of “Peter Pan.”
The actress who plays Tiger Lily in “Peter Pan & Wendy,” which is coming directly to the streaming platform Disney+ in April, revealed during an interview that the production hired a “cultural consultant team” to omit any stereotypical depictions of Native Americans in the film.
Alyssa Wapanatâhk, who is of Cree descent, told NativeViewpoint.com that the crew tried to remain culturally sensitive, especially since many fans saw the original animated version as problematic. In the 1953 Disney classic, Tiger Lily’s father, the chief, speaks in broken English. He calls Peter Pan his “pale face brother” and refers to himself as a “red man.”
When asked about Disney addressing the perceived problems in the original film, Wapanatâhk said she’s happy with how the new version turned out.
“My thoughts on Disney’s past is that I hope they leave it where it is … and I think they will,” she told the publication. “I watched all the Peter Pan films. There were some films that did not do us justice for sure.”
“When I first read that script, I could see the change,” Wapanatâhk continued. “Once I was actually working with production, I noticed it even more, and it got better and better.” She went on to describe the “cultural consultant team” on set, which included Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa) and Dr. Kevin Lewis (Minisitkwan Lake Cree Nation), per NativeViewpoint.
“The first time they told me that there was a cultural consultant team, I thought I need to be part of that team you know, all hands on deck,” she said. “Then I was a part of that team and whenever we needed to discuss things, I was there. I really felt like they were trying.”
The actress also noted how the movie’s director, David Lowery, was very supportive of the team throughout filming.
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“I received an email from [Lowery] and he wrote, ‘Hey, I know that you’re Cree. Why don’t you bring your Cree background into this character? I was like, ‘Wow, Yeah, I’m there.’ That was at the point where I thought, ‘Okay this needs to be done perfectly,’” Wapanatâhk said.
“All of these different films and TV shows are coming out now that are done so well,” the actress continued. “I’m seeing all these Native producers and Native directors, Native writers, and Native actors and they are all giving us their best work.”
The new “Peter & Wendy” trailer has received mixed reactions online. While many Disney fans are excited about the latest retelling, others question Jude Law being cast as the villainous pirate Captain Hook. There are also complaints about the movie being sent directly to streaming rather than having a theatrical release.
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