Harvard senior’s Disney-inspired Korean musical successful on TikTok


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Disney has executed the frozen Nordic princess, the Chinese language warrior princess and lots of others in between. However a Korean princess? Not a lot.

Harvard College pupil Julia Riew has got down to repair that. The 22-year-old Korean American senior wrote, “Shimcheong: A Folktale” — a full-length musical impressed by a Korean folktale with a decidedly Disney film vibe — as her senior thesis.

She’s been releasing snippets of it on TikTok since January and has shortly amassed a passionate following with the quick movies that present her remodeling into an animated Disney princess as she belts out her songs.

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Riew has even sparked curiosity from Hollywood and theater producers, whereas supporters have taken to creating visuals and animations to assist convey her story to life.

“It actually nonetheless appears like I’m dreaming,” she stated not too long ago. “It’s been heartwarming to see the response, particularly among the many Korean American neighborhood.”

Riew, who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, earlier than her household moved to New York Metropolis after which Connecticut, hopes the musical follows the identical trajectory of others efficiently workshopped and crowdsourced on TikTok lately.

“Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” debuted in 2020 as a profit live performance that includes Adam Lambert, Wayne Brady and different stars after the thought percolated for months on the social media platform amongst musical theater followers and out-of-work performers.

Final 12 months, the feminine duo often known as Barlow & Bear went viral on TikTok with a tune impressed by the soapy Netflix interval drama “Bridgerton.” That led to “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” a 15-song album now up for a Grammy — a primary for a TikTok collaboration.

Riew’s musical attracts on the Korean folktale “The Blind Man’s Daughter,” a few younger lady who tries to revive her blind father’s sight however results in the faraway Dragon Kingdom.

In Riew’s model, the younger Shimcheong spends years rising up within the magical realm earlier than setting out on an epic journey dwelling. Alongside the way in which, truths are revealed, obstacles are overcome and there’s no scarcity of guffaws and catchy songs.

If that sounds just like the plot for a lot of of Disney’s most beloved works, that’s the purpose, says Riew, who grew up on a gradual food plan of Disney and Broadway soundtracks and commenced writing her personal songs and musicals at a younger age.

“What stood out to me is that it’s a narrative a few younger lady who goes on an journey,” she explains. “There aren’t too many tales in Korean folklore about girls, particularly ones the place they go on adventures.”

Disney has traditionally struggled to mirror the range of its viewers, falling again on tales that includes predominantly white characters and stereotypical depictions of non-white cultures, says Jana Thomas, a media and communications professor at Kansas State College in Manhattan, Kansas, who researches social media and has additionally written about illustration in Disney movies.

However the leisure large has responded to requires extra consultant works and located success, from 2016’s Moana to Coco, Soul, Raya and the Final Dragon, and final 12 months’s hit Encanto, she stated. Turning Crimson, an animated movie Disney’s Pixar studios is about to launch subsequent week, incorporates a teenage Chinese language-Canadian protagonist.

“Julia’s use of TikTok to construct a fanbase and appeal to the eye of Disney was a well-executed transfer,” Thomas provides. “She used a social media platform most well-liked by a person demographic that helps her objective to extend illustration inside media and leisure. I’d like to see Julia’s story be an instance for others who wish to maximize the proactive and constructive energy of social media.”

Spokespeople for Disney didn’t reply to an electronic mail in search of remark this week. However even when the movie studio doesn’t come calling, Riew is optimistic Shimcheong will reside on after she graduates and embarks on a profession as a musical composer and lyricist. She’s already employed an agent to assist navigate among the early discussions.

“It appears at this level the undertaking will likely be transferring ahead,” she stated. “Undecided but if which means as a stage manufacturing, as an indie movie or one thing else, however there positively has been some curiosity.”

Riew says she’s lengthy toyed with the thought of a musical drawing from her Korean heritage however solely severely began engaged on it after the coronavirus pandemic hit and she or he ended up transferring again dwelling as a result of the campus was shuttered.

Riew admits she struggled at instances to jot down the story and questioned if it was acceptable for her, as a third-generation Korean American, to inform it.

“There have been moments the place I attempted to give up after I felt like I used to be a faux Korean,” she stated. “However I spotted over the method that we are able to solely actually symbolize our personal story, and that’s completely okay. There’s no such factor as one option to be Korean.”

Placing the movies up on TikTok hasn’t simply helped generate buzz for the undertaking — it’s additionally helped her refine it.

Riew says she modified the character of Lotus, Shimcheong’s sidekick and the story’s comedian aid, from a dragon to a gumiho — a legendary nine-tail fox in Korean folklore — based mostly on suggestions from supporters.

“It’s been reinvigorating,” she stated of placing out her work to the generally essential eye of social media. “It’s been eye-opening to comprehend how many individuals would like to see this come to fruition.”

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