Disney's Moana accused of cultural appropriation

Due for a 2016 Boxing Day New Zealand release, Moana is billed as a South Paciifc "mythic adventure" set 2000 years ago.
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Due for a 2016 Boxing Day New Zealand release, Moana is billed as a South Paciifc "mythic adventure" set 2000 years ago.

New Zealanders including more than 340,000 of Pacific descent will have to wait until Boxing Day to see Disney's mythical cartoon epic Moana but the controversy has already started.

Disney has been attacked on social media for selling zip-up kid-sized Maui costumes featuring the "demigod's signature tattoos, rope necklace and island-style skirt. Plus, padded arms and legs for mighty stature!"

After discovering the item for sale on Disney's online store Samoa Planet retweeted, "Is this cultural appropriation at its most offensive worst? OR just a fun celebration of Pasifika?
 

Starting at $61, online shoppers can buy an "authentic Disney costume", a  zip-up Moana suit complete with "allover Maui ...
SUPPLIED

Starting at $61, online shoppers can buy an "authentic Disney costume", a zip-up Moana suit complete with "allover Maui body tattoo screen art".


 

"[Disney's Maui costumes are] no different to putting the image of one of our ancestors on a shower curtain or a beer ...
ROSS GIBLIN / FAIRFAX NZ

"[Disney's Maui costumes are] no different to putting the image of one of our ancestors on a shower curtain or a beer bottle," Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said.

Maori Party co-leader and MP Marama Fox said her personal opinion is Disney is just another company looking to "make a profit off the back of another culture's beliefs and history".

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"[Disney's Maui costumes are] no different to putting the image of one of our ancestors on a shower curtain or a beer bottle."

Moana has already come under fire from Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa.

In June Salesa complained Moana's sidekick in the fictional Pacific cartoon adventure set 2000 years ago, demi-god Maui, was obese and fat-shaming Polynesian kids.

The Moana controversies aren't the first time pop culture giant Disney has run into trouble over its depiction and use of ethnic identities to help generate multi-billion profits.

In July 2016, Guardian opinion writer Melissa Lozada-Oliva hit-out at Disney for its token efforts creating Hispanic characters by merely giving them brown complexions.

Disney character dolls including Esmerelda, Jasmine and Pocahontas were just "brown women . . . a collection of slapdash caricatures created to sell merchandise."

Website Screerant catalogued decades of racial mis-steps by Disney including,

1. Aladdin

American-Arab audiences were so offended by lyrics to the song Arabian Nights Disney was forced to change them.

"Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face. It's barbaric but, hey, it's home!" was changed to, "where it's flat and immense, and the heat is intense" for subsequent home video releases of the 1992 box office smash hit.

2. The Little Mermaid's Blackfish and Fluke.

Apart from impugning Carribean people as being lazy, this 1989 animated movie has two stereotypical black characters.

Fluke, the Duke of Soul and Blackfish the soulful singer. Both characters are the only ones in the song with noticeable African-American voices, and both drip with offensive stereotypes including droopy eyes and large lips.

3. Song of the South not exactly Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah for African Americans.

Even original 1940's audiences found Disney's mixed live action and animation ode to the American South offensive.

The movie depicted happy ex-slaves living on a plantation in post-Civil War Atlanta. 

Its lead African American actor couldn't even attend the movie's premiere in racially segregated 1946 Atlanta.

Disney has yet to make a response.

 - Stuff

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