Actress Yara Shahidi is making history as the first Black Tinker Bell in the Disney+ production “Peter Pan & Wendy.”

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — The issue of non-traditional or colorblind casting, whether it is in dramatic, comedic or animated stories, often is a source for lots of discussion and controversy.

That is proving the case with a new production airing on Disney+. 

Yara Shahidi is being both hailed and criticized for her role as Tinker Bell in “Peter Pan & Wendy.”

The production is a live action re-imagining of the 1953 animated version about a girl who doesn’t want to grow up meeting a boy (Peter Pan) who refuses to do so.

Shahidi has called the casting a bold and progressive move in various interviews she gave last week to multiple entertainment websites. She views herself as representative of the new generation of Black performers blazing trails by offering young Black children the chance to see themselves in any and all situations, including fantasy, mythology and science fiction.

But not everyone is happy about the decision. Some longtime Disney followers view it as little more than a clumsy attempt at cultural relevance, while others consider it another lazy move on the part of studios who would rather recast old characters with new Black faces than write fresh parts and create new roles for them to play.

Reviews thus far for this newest incarnation of “Peter Pan” have neen mixed, but Shahidi has mostly gotten praise for her performance. 

She is much better known for playing Zoey Johnson on two ABC sitcoms, “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish “

She has spoken extensively on the importance of both shows, crediting them with providing more opportunities for Black performers and storytellers in Hollywood, and offering a look at Black family life not often shown on network television.

While “Black-ish” finished its run last year after eight seasons, “Grown-ish,” a spinoff that began in 2018, will get a final season airing in two parts.  

The first half returns this summer, while the second half airs in 2024. 

Shahidi will be returning, but adds there will be a revamped cast for the final season.

In the meantime, “Peter Pan & Wendy” is now airing exclusively on Disney+.