Disney responds to claims that white actors used ‘Brownface’ on set of ‘Aladdin’

"They're being out of touch with what's going on around them."

Disney has admitted that make-up was applied to white actors in order to make them blend into a number of crowd scenes in the forthcoming live-action adaptation of Aladdin.

In a statement, the film giant confirmed a “handful of instances” where white background performers were used “when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control.”

Actor Kaushal Odedra worked on the Guy Ritchie directed film as an extra, and claims that he personally witnessed “around twenty” white actors who were transformed to appear Arabian.

“Aladdin was the perfect time to show diversity but also be accurate,” he told BBC Newsbeat.

“They’re being out of touch with what’s going on around them.”

Responding to the claims on Twitter, actor Kal Penn accused Disney of using ‘Brownface’ – the term used to refer to a white actor whose skin has been darkened in order to play an ethnic minority role.

“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”, he wrote.

Responding directly to the claims, a Disney spokesperson said that “great care” had been taken in order to ensure the diversity of Aladdin.

“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest, most diverse casts ever seen on screen,” a Disney spokesman said.

“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.”

Aladdin is scheduled for release on May 24 2019 and stars newcomer Mena Massoud in the title role, alongside British actress Naomi Scott in the role of Princess Jasmine.

Scott’s casting was met with a degree of controversy last year after it was revealed she is of a British and India background – and not the Arab heritage that fans had expected.

Scott and Massoud will star in Aladdin alongside Will Smith, who will play The Genie – a role that has become synonymous with Robin Williams after the late actor’s star vocal turn in the beloved 1992 animated version.