Disney pulls its controversial Moana costume from the shelves

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

Disney has pulled its Maui costume from the new movie ‘Moana’, after ‘blackface’ accusations from the Polynesian community.

The playsuit, and also a set of boy’s pyjamas and a men’s t-shirt, are now off the shelves.

– Fans slam ‘sexist’ Jumanji costume
– Daniel Radcliffe slams ‘racist’ Hollywood
– Sam Neill updates on Jurassic World

A statement from Disney read: “The team behind Moana has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some.

“We sincerely apologize and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”

The use of tribal tattoos, a sacred art in Polynesian culture, was among the main issues with the costume, which began getting flack earlier this week.

Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson in the film, is a demi-god in Polynesian culture, and one that many Pacific islanders view as a direct ancestor. Among his many feats in legend was that of fishing the North Island of New Zealand from the bottom of the sea.

But when it appeared that Disney was appropriating his character to sell playsuits, and using specific tattoos, there was outcry.

Karaitiana Taiuru, an advocate for Maori people based in Christchurch, said: “We need to take a stand now and say, ‘Look, this is not appropriate,’ to prevent other entrepreneurs trying to do something similar. There are unlimited opportunities for discrimination and exploitation.

“The tattoo is sacred and it’s unique to the wearer. People don’t just go and get some sort of design, in Maori culture you don’t just go and get something that looks Maori. It’s a form of identity, it’s about your family origins and your achievements and your history. So to wear something like that would be I think … not good.

“I’d almost liken it to taking the clothes off a dead person and putting them on, wearing their jewellery or something.”

Many voiced their anger on Twitter too.

When the movie’s first trailer emerged, there was also disquiet over the demigod’s physique.

It was criticised by New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa, who is of Tongan heritage, for depicting Maui as obese, adding that he looked ‘half pig, half hippo’.

“When we look at photos of Polynesian men & women from the last 100-200 years, most of our people were not overweight and this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable – No thanks to Disney,” Salesa said.

The movie finds tribal princess Moana, played by Hawaiian-born actress Auli’i Cravalho, setting sail in search of a fabled island, teaming up with Maui along the way.

It’s due out on December 2.

Image credits: Disney