Disney’s first on-screen adaptation of the classic came in 1953 with the release of a motion picture starring Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan, Hans Conried as Captain Hook, and Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy.
Peter Pan’s fairy, Tinkerbell, did not speak in this film. Instead, she was presented as an animated character with a minimal presence. However, when Julia Roberts was cast in the role of Tinkerbell in perhaps the most beloved version of Peter Pan called Hook (1991), the on-screen time that she shared with the late Robin Williams was critical to the overall story arch, as she had several lines including the classic scene where she taught the adult version of Peter Pan how to fly again. In April, Disney will present a reimagined version of the epic fairytale with a full-length movie on their streaming service called Peter Pan & Wendy. Although Disney has been upfront about its all-inclusive agenda, supporters of the traditional storyline clashed upon the release of the official trailer when actress Yara Shahidi graced the screen as Tinkerbell. Primarily known for her co-starring role in Black-ish, Yara is of African American, Native American Indian, and Iranian descent. While its impression aligns with Disney’s intuition to rebrand with content featuring women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, the original likeness of the main characters is something that many supporters of the classic tales don’t want to see drastically altered. Therefore, shortly after the trailer for Peter Pan & Wendy went viral, with over 2 million views in 48 hours, fans took to Twitter and battled it out over the casting choice for Tinkerbell, accusing Disney of “Blackwashing” a cherished charter similar to how Halle Bailey was tabbed as the new Ariel in the upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
The casting of Yara Shahidi as Tinkerbell doesn’t represent the only noticeable change in the outward appearances of the main characters that have traditionally been presented as Caucasian since the inception of the franchise. In the upcoming Peter Pan & Wendy film. Peter will be portrayed by an East Indian-British actor, Alexander Molony, and the fan favorite “Lost Boys” will feature female representation with two Black actresses.