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Category: TV & Film

What started as a graduate school capstone project has now expanded into a blog and a professional development workshop series for Washington State community colleges. Join me, Kaytie (Disney scholar, mom, and college academic adviser), as I talk about Disney princesses, representation in media, my relatability to and love for Disney villains, and more.

Disney’s Asian Characters

April 11, 2021

I'm still here. After the recent events against Asian Americans I decided to take a break from podcasting to reflect on everything that has happened and to research for this episode. I wanted to do something to support Asian Americans and to #StopAsianHate but am also aware this is a Disney podcast. So I decided to record this episode looking back on Asian characters and Asian actors in Disney while also highlighting the history of oppression against the Asian American community.


Here's the breakdown:

00:00 - Intro

2:59 - Washington Post and "A History of Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander Characters in Disney Films" by Christian Kim

3:20 - Disney Company beginnings

3:39 - World War II, Japanese Internment camps, and the War Bride Acts of 1945 and 1946

4:58 - Disney's first Asian coded characters in 1955

6:18 - Disney's second Asian character

7:39 - Super racist Siamese cat played by a white man... yeah

10:10 - Vietnamese shrimpers and Vincent Chin

12:02 - Why does everyone count Aladdin as Asian?

14:01 - Did the representation of Aladdin as a Middle Eastern hero help society?

17:31 - L.A. Riots

19:09 - Mini model minority myth lesson / Instagram @zenerations

22:27 - How the director of Mulan chose to cast Eddie Murphy as the Chinese dragon, Mushu ("Asian Representation in Animation" by Veronica Wang)

24:16 - What the movie Mulan did well

28:49 - What the movie Mulan could have done better / Why is sexism such a big story arch centering characters of color?

37:44 - Does anyone remember the TV show Out of the Box?

38:48 - Post-9/11

39:05 - Lilo and Stitch is not an Asian movie, it is a Pacific Islander movie

40:14 - Mulan II. Sidekick turned villain, new songs, and why does it seem like the creators of Mulan II had issues showing Asian couples and PDA?

46:41 - Brenda Song and Vanessa Hudgens DCOM movies

49:50 - Hannah Montana and Camp Rock star Anna Marie Perez de Tagle

51:00 - Pirates of the Caribbean 3

52:20 - Pixar's Up / Who doesn't love Russell?

53:30 - First Marvel movie with an Asian character - Avengers: Age of Ultron / read more about the "expendable" Asian female character in Hollywood here

54:44 - Big Hero 6 and whitewashing ("Asian Representation in Animation" by Veronica Wang)

56:35 - Asians as aliens in the MCU

57:25 - Even though Moana is Pacific Islander and one of the most recent Disney films to be released, the creators create a world of Pacific Islander "sameness" just like they did with Mulan, Aladdin, etc.

58:15 - Doctor Strange whitewashing (and Hollywood's history of whitewashing) 

1:00:48 - Doctor Strange's Wong is the first Asian character to appear on an Avengers movie poster

1:01:33 - DCOM's Descendants series / Disney channel and Disney on Broadway casting whoever can pass as the race and ethnicity instead of intentionally casting someone of the same race and ethnicity as the character (i.e. High School Musical)

1:03:14 - MCU's Spider-Man movies / reverse whitewashing

1:04:03 - Live-action Jungle Book movie

1:04:25 - Star Wars... it only took 40 years to have an Asian character AND to have a woman of color on screen. Why did Kelly Marie Tran face so much racial harassment for making history?

1:05:48 - Live-action Aladdin. Authentic casting, "brown-face"-ing extras on set, and sexism playing a major story arch in a movie about/with a woman of color ("Disney admits to "browning up" white extras for live action Aladdin film" by Ben Kaye)

1:09:48 - Live-action Mulan. Chinese vs Chinese American experiences, the portrayal of Western patriarchy NOT Chinese patriarchy, the original concept of this movie was going to be about a WHITE MAN saving China, the erasure of bisexual icon Captain Li Shang, and more. ("'Mulan' Challenges Asian Americans in Hollywood to Overcome 'Impossible Duality' Between China, U.S." by Rebecca Davis) / ("Disney's Attempts at Asian Representation" by Linda Chong)

1:17:03 - Raya and the Last Dragon - I admit, I haven't seen this movie yet.

1:17:38 - Additional representation in Disney media I may not have already mentioned

1:19:06 - Non-Disney Asian American films and representation

1:19:42 - Asian American actors

1:20:13 - Conclusion. We need more representation of all identities behind the screen, at Disney theme parks, on screen, everywhere. Where are the spaces for characters of color around the Disney theme park? Where are all the toys of characters of color in Disney theme parks? How are children internalizing representation? What conversations should we have with them about representation?

(Try Pod - Eugene Lee Yang talking about seeing a non-Asian Mulan at Epcot @19:09 - 21:41)

1:24:08 - #StopAsianHate: message to my fellow brothers and sisters and message to our allies. #StopAsianHate resources


I have been guest co-hosting the Black and Yellow podcast. We did a deep dive episode into the history of anti-Asian hate and how to combat the anti-Asian hate crimes. You can find the podcast on Apple podcast and Spotify.


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Follow the podcast on Instagram @wwofdisvillains

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You can find the podcast online at www.wonderfulworldofdisneyvillains.com