Disney has taken a significant step towards promoting inclusion in its films, but is it enough?
Disney has recently been on everyone’s lips due to some of its latest decisions in filmmaking, making efforts to portray better representations of gender and ethnicity, among other essential subjects in current society. While many applaud these decisions and are happy to see themselves represented on the screen along with their favorite characters, others criticize them, labeling the company as a “woke” entity or commenting that these efforts are superficial.
The latest step toward Disney’s commitment to inclusion and representation was recently announced in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Disney announced that films like Bambi, Star Wars: A New Hope, Finding Nemo, and Prey are now available dubbed in Native American Languages on Disney+, the company’s streaming platform.
Native American Heritage Month celebrates the incredible contributions of diverse Native American and Alaska Native communities to U.S. history and culture. And speaking of culture, one way The Walt Disney Company has been expanding its own content is to make more of it available to Native American communities by offering films dubbed in several Native American languages.
Bambi is now available in Arapaho, a language that had approximately 1,000 speakers when it was first dubbed in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, there are now fewer than 60 speakers, making this film a helpful way to preserve the language. Cast Members at Walt Disney Studios Mastering made sure that the physical film was in good working condition, ready to be digitally mastered for streaming use when the dubbed version of the film was recently added to the streaming platform.
Star Wars: A New Hope is available in Navajo on Disney+. This version of Disney Legend George Lucas’ 1977 blockbuster came about in 2013 thanks to Star Wars fan Manuelito Wheeler, who emailed and called Lucasfilm consistently over 16 years to see if they’d be interested in making a Navajo-language dub of the film. His outstanding persistence paid off, as he told StarWars.com in 2021, “This project, it welcomed Native people to be part of the Star Wars universe… Now, our Navajo young people just have this attitude of like, ‘Oh wow, cool.’ They’re excited about it. ‘Yeah! That’s what we do now. We can do it.’ Star Wars has the ability to do something like that.”
Finding Nemo is also available in Navajo on Disney+. The 2003 Disney and Pixar animated hit was Disney’s second film to be dubbed in Navajo in 2016—and, like Star Wars: A New Hope, it exclusively features members of the Navajo Nation who’d never worked as actors before! The cast worked alongside Navajo linguists and Rick Dempsey, senior vice president of Disney Character Voices, to bring their roles to life.
This version of the film also features an original song by Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump—who is not Native American but who sang the song in phonetical Navajo. Find this version as a bonus feature on Disney+.
Disney has also tried to tell more diverse stories, like Turning Red, Encanto, and Coco, and bring new life to classic stories through a more inclusive reimagining in new projects like Snow White, featuring Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot, and The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey.
What do you think of Disney’s efforts toward inclusion? Let us know in the comments below!