Watch: Harvard student’s Disney-inspired Korean musical a hit online


Disney has accomplished the frozen Nordic princess, the Chinese warrior princess and lots of others in between. But a Korean princess? Not a lot.

Harvard University 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 reworking into an animated Disney princess as she belts out her songs.

Riew has even sparked curiosity from Hollywood and theatre 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 lately. “It’s been heartwarming to see the response, particularly among the many Korean American group.”

Riew, who grew up in St Louis, Missouri, earlier than her household moved to New York City 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 concept percolated for months on the social media platform amongst musical theatre followers and out-of-work performers.

Last yr, the feminine duo generally known as Barlow & Bear went viral on TikTok with a music 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 first for a TikTok collaboration.

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

Obsessed with strong female animated characters, Korean American college student Riew didn't see any who looked like her, so she's designed her own. Photo: AP Obsessed with robust feminine animated characters, Korean American faculty pupil Riew did not see any who seemed like her, so she’s designed her personal. Photo: AP

In Riew’s model, the younger Shimcheong spends years rising up within the magical realm earlier than setting out on an epic journey house. Along 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 regular weight loss 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 story about a younger lady who goes on an journey,” she explains. “There aren’t too many tales in Korean folklore about ladies, particularly ones the place they go on adventures.”

Disney has traditionally struggled to mirror the variety 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 University in Manhattan, Kansas, who researches social media and has additionally written about illustration in Disney movies.

But the leisure big has responded to requires extra consultant works and located success, from 2016’s Moana to Coco, Soul, Raya And The Last Dragon, and final yr’s hit Encanto, she stated. Turning Red, an animated movie Disney’s Pixar studios is about to launch subsequent week, options a teenage Chinese-Canadian protagonist.

Julia Riew, a Harvard senior, wrote a full-length musical as her thesis, played the part of Princess Shimcheong, and has been performing her songs on TikTok, drawing a huge following and sparking interest from filmmakers and theater producers. Photo: AP Julia Riew, a Harvard senior, wrote a full-length musical as her thesis, performed the a part of Princess Shimcheong, and has been performing her songs on TikTok, drawing a large following and sparking curiosity from filmmakers and theater producers. Photo: AP

“Julia’s use of TikTok to construct a fanbase and entice 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 help her purpose to extend illustration inside media and leisure. I’d like to see Julia’s story be an instance for others who need to maximize the proactive and optimistic energy of social media.”

Spokespeople for Disney didn’t reply to an electronic mail in search of remark this week. But 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 venture can be transferring ahead,” she stated. “Not certain but if meaning 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 concept of a musical drawing from her Korean heritage however solely significantly began engaged on it after the coronavirus pandemic hit and she or he ended up transferring again house as a result of campus was shuttered.

Riew admits she struggled at occasions to put in writing the story and questioned if it was applicable for her, as a third era Korean American, to inform it.

“There had been moments the place I attempted to give up, after I felt like I used to be a pretend Korean,” she stated. “But I realised over the method that we will solely actually symbolize our personal story, and that’s completely okay. There’s no such factor as one approach to be Korean.”

Putting the movies up on TikTok hasn’t simply helped generate buzz for the venture – it’s additionally helped her refine it.

Riew says she modified the character of Lotus, Shimcheong’s sidekick and the story’s comedian reduction, 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 important eye of social media. “It’s been eye-opening to comprehend how many individuals would like to see this come to fruition.” – AP

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