While Disney has made some recent efforts to create more movies with diverse characters like Encanto, Coco, and Moana, it is still a long way away when it comes to making sure fans around the world truly see themselves in the iconic and beloved characters. Julia Riew, a 22 year old Harvad student, is doing something about that. Riew, who studies theater, dance, media, and music at Harvard University decided to write a Korean musical for her senior thesis project. On January 8th, 2022, Julia Riew, who had never posted a TikTok before, posted a short clip of one of the songs she wrote. In a matter of 6 days, her song, “Dive” attracted more than 625,000 views. As of January 31, the TikTok has accumulated almost a million views.
In the caption and the video’s subtitles, she wrote, “There was no Korean Disney princess so I decided to make my own:).” In an interview she said that after her grandfather had passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic and her grandmother moved in with her and her family was when she truly realized that she was out of touch with Korean culture. From then she started hunting for Korean folktales to get inspired from. Her musical is called Shimcheong: A Folktale which is loosely based on the Korean story “The Blind Man’s Daughter.” “It was a story about a girl who goes on an adventure, but also a story about a girl who’s looking for home,” she explained, adding that she connected with the tale as a third-generation Korean American. “I think that was something that resonated with me. So, I ended up choosing this folktale and then I’ve been working on it ever since for the last year and a half.”
Since her first post, Julia has posted many more clips of new songs as well as ideas for costumes, scenery, new characters, and more. Having always wanted to write for Disney, I think she is well on her way. If you haven’t checked out her TikTok please do!