“Mira Nair didn’t know it, but for years, she lived just 15 minutes away from the subject of her next film—chess champion Phiona Mutesi, a prodigy from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. It took the attention of one particularly dedicated Disney executive, Tendo Nagenda, to introduce Mutesi and Nair, then shepherd through the studio a film: Queen of Katwe, a movie that looked almost nothing like anything else from the company that brings you Avengers, jedis, and pirates.
“I’ve never had a guardian angel in any film in a studio,” Nair tellsVanity Fair. “[Tendo] is truly one because he made it happen.”
Katwe is a film about a young African girl, with essentially no speaking roles for white characters, directed by an Indian woman. It’s an anomaly even in an industry that prides itself on having an imagination. But it’s also one of many examples of how Disney is diversifying its array of upcoming films, presenting more inclusive visions of everything from classic musicals to a galaxy far, far away.
In the near future, we’ll have a Christmas movie starring Kevin Hart as Santa Claus, an adaptation of The Nutcracker starring Misty Copeland and Morgan Freeman, and a surprising reimagining of The Rocketeer starring a young black girl. Ice Cube is working on a hip-hop version of Oliver Twist. Moana, Disney’s first Polynesian princess movie, is set for a Thanksgiving-week release. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Disney’s latest go-to music man, who also penned songs for Moana) will co-star in a Mary Poppins sequel.
The upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presents an intergalactic rebellion from the likes ofForest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, and Donnie Yen—and all led by a woman, Felicity Jones. Between 2016 and 2018, about 24 percent of the studio’s live-action releases will feature ethnic minority leads, Disney says…”