Disney's Diversity Push Continues With 'A Wrinkle in Time'

Sitting at Disney's D23 Expo back in the summer of 2017, the cinematic giant was sending a clear [...]

(Photo: Reese Witherspoon and Storm Reid in Disney's A Wrinkle in Time)

Sitting at Disney's D23 Expo back in the summer of 2017, the cinematic giant was sending a clear message: diversity in their films is imminent. With Black Panther leading the charge earlier this year, A Wrinkle in Time plucks talent from all over the globe to inspire as the diversity push from Disney continues.

Prior to introducing the film at its world premiere, director Ava Duvernay gleefully took the stage with her movie's cast to send a message. "This is a happy movie in a dark time, which is particularly important for young kids, especially young regular girls. They need to know that they can be recognized for just being themselves, they don't have to be Jedis or superheroes," Duvernay said.

In fact, such a sentiment is well-realized by everyone involved in the film hoping to achieve a world where everyone feels equal and can identify with characters on a screen in every way possible. Mindy Kaling, for example, spoke on the film's inclusion at a press conference for A Wrinkle in Time. "I loved science fiction and fantasy growing up but it was a genre that largely did not love me back," Kaling said. "I never saw any representation of like a dark-skinned Indian woman, Indian girl, anybody, in anything that I saw. And it's a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that shows you no love back. It's such a pure love, because you're not getting anything from it...To be on a green screen stage in harnesses because you're doing a science fiction fantasy movie, it's so fun because I finally feel welcomed with open arms to something that has ignored me completely."

Perhaps perspectives like these are why Wrinkle producer Jim Whitaker chose to work on the project, in the first place. Speaking to ComicBook.com in an exclusive interview, Whitaker said he tries to find titles which are filled with "hope" will inspire audiences. While A Wrinkle in Time may be a bit sporadic in its narrative from an adult's perspective but it is thoroughly consistent on the messages Whitaker takes aim at. "I think people want to go to the cinema and see themselves," Whitaker said. "It's hard to know exactly why now is the time, but it feels right to allow people to see themselves on the screen."

For Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays the mother of a bi-racial Meg Murray and the adopted Charles Wallace in Wrinkle, diversity in film is a particularly interesting topic given her background. "Being biracial, that's always been my identity and it's always been a part of my life, so it's nothing new in terms of how I see the world," Mbatha-Raw admits. "Certainly I think the shift that I maybe noticed recently with Black Panther, for example, and now A Wrinkle in Time, is the idea that maybe diverse movies are not just the independent art films. They are now becoming the big studio films, and I think money talks."

While films like Black Panther haven't locked in a sequel just yet, the movie's monstrous box office might certainly be an indication of the power of diversity at the box officer. With a black director and predominantly black cast, Black Panther has surged to nearly $1 billion at the worldwide box office since being release on February 12. "I think finally having movies that are making money in the box office and big studio franchise movies, that's really the tipping point," Mbatha-Raw adds. "It's one thing to have Belle and Beyond the Lights or 12 Years a Slave or these movies that sort of shift a moment but in an art house way... The power of Disney, the biggest studio in its global reach, taking this seriously is huge."

Box office success or not, Wrinkle will take aim at kids in communicating its messages of inspiration and hope immediately upon its release. They might just walk out singing messages similar to the perspective of the film's brilliant nine-year-old Charles Wallace actor Derric McCabe.

"I think it's just, they're regular people, that I go to work with these people," McCabe said of his co-stars from around the world, "and I don't really think of it as a job. I think of it as playmates, let's play pretend."

Disney's A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters on March 9, 2018.