Walt Disney recently released a trailer for its new live-action update of the 1953 classic Peter Pan & Wendy. The movie will feature Alyssa Wapanatâhk, who plays Tiger Lily, the tribe chief’s daughter and a warrior princess of the Indigenous tribe of Neverland. In real life, Alyssa is a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation.
Recently Disney has tried to address some of the racial problems in past films.
In a message posted to Disney.com/StoriesMatter, which includes a PSA and information on the impact of diverse storytelling on culture, several entertainment professionals, including Geena Davis, Gil Robertson, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Cristela Alonzo, weigh in.
“What message are we sending to little kids at the most vulnerable age, if characters are one-dimensional, stereotyped, sidelined, hyper-sexualized, or simply, not there at all?” Davis asks in the video. “There is incredible power in seeing someone who’s like you on screen. What children see sets the framework for what they believe is possible in life.”
The production members of Peter Pan & Wendy explained how they put meticulous effort into ensuring the authenticity with which the Indigenous tribe was depicted. They consulted Dr. Kevin Lewis (Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation) and Dawn Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa) during the filmmaking stage and continued through post-production and principal photography.
According to Alyssa, the filmmakers behind the reboot put a lot of hard work into getting the portrayal right for the Native American characters. She spoke about how the new film rectifies the original animated film’s “problematic” depiction of Indigenous culture. In the original movie, Pan goes to a peace pipe smoking event after saving Tiger Lily from the villain Captain Hook.
Tiger Lily’s father also shows the epitome of Native American stereotypes, having a visibly pink face and talking in comically exaggerated English. He calls himself the “pink man” and calls Peter Pan his “pale face brother.” It also shows Tiger Lily dancing to a native drum to entertain the main character, sitting and watching while wearing a Native headdress.
After contacting two Native consultants, the production team invited Alyssa to discuss this new portrayal and ask for her feedback. She responded that the portrayal is respectful and correct and hopes the earlier stereotypes can be left behind.
In an interview, Alyssa said that she received an email from the production house in which they wanted her to incorporate her Cree background into this character. She expressed her delight in receiving this email and vowed to deliver her best performance. She claimed Lowery was the one who came up with the idea for her to bring her real-life experience to the movie.
“All of these different TV shows and films releasing now are done so well,” she told the outlet. “I am seeing all these Native directors and producers, writers and actors, and they are all giving us their best work.” Disney has yet to comment on the current portrayal of Native American storylines.
Peter Pan & Wendy is the most recent reboot movie that features culturally sensitive and informative themes. As per Fox Information Digital, Disney has had a full year of pushing inclusivity/diversity-minded reboot films, contributing to the company’s financial setback in 2022 and 2023.
Two Pixar/Disney movies with LGBTQ themes, “Unusual World” and “Lightyear,” were released in 2022, and the franchise recently released a reboot of the popular 2000s-era “The Proud Household,” which featured the complex themes of Crucial Race Principle. The reboot caused significant backlash from the loyal Disney fandom.
Peter Pan & Wendy will be debuting on the streaming platform Disney+ in later April, so make sure to book your tickets in advance.
Interview with Alyssa Wapanatahk
Images courtesy of Disney and Alyssa Wapanatahk
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Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Paul G
6 Comments on “Alyssa Wapanatahk Brings Authentic Indigenous Character to Disney Movie Peter Pan”
I would suggest replacing the word “indignity.” I think spell check picked the wrong word 🙂 https://www.thefreedictionary.com/indigenity
She’s a beautiful Tiger Lilly.
More woke garbage from Disney. None of my kids will see it. Go woke, loose my business, hope you go broke.
It is so easy now to throw around the “woke” term.
So what would you rather have here? Disney is remaking movies into live-action. So for this movie, how would you suggest they handle the character of Tiger Lilly?
At least they didn’t change it to Tiger Billy. Seriously though, I wouldn’t expose a child to any of Disney’s current nonsense. They haven’t been child friendly for a long time.
Not child friendly? Compared to who? Most movies and tv shows are full of adult themes now.
I know I’m biased, but Disney is still producing content that tells great stories that sometimes includes life lessons.