"We regret that the Maui costume has offended some," says Disney

By Hilary Shenfeld
September 22, 2016 03:40 PM
Courtesy Disney

Trick-or-treaters hoping to dress as the character Maui from the upcoming animated movie, Moana, may be out of luck this Halloween after Disney removed the costume from stores following accusations of racism.

The Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson movie, scheduled for release Nov. 23, follows the exploits of plucky teen Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) as she goes on a quest to save her people, along with the help of Maui (voiced by Johnson), a fallen Polynesian demigod.

The Maui costume featured brown-hued padded arms and legs covered with tattoos, a rope necklace laced with faux shark teeth and an island-style, leafy skirt. Disney has now pulled the $44.95-$49.95 costume from its stores and website, along with pajamas, a sweatshirt and T-shirt that had a similar look, a Disney spokeswoman tells PEOPLE.

“The team behind Moana has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some,” Disney said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “We sincerely apologize.”

Maui is a revered figure from Polynesian mythology known for creating the Pacific Islands during a fishing trip.

Some have taken offense at the costume, saying it’s inappropriate for others to dress up as a different race and is akin to blackface. Chelsie Haunani Fairchild, who describes herself in a YouTube video as a native Hawaiian and Polynesian, said she was “livid” about the costume.

“It’s basically putting the skin of another…race onto your children and telling your children that this is okay,” she says. “It’s disgusting.”

Fairchild remained upset even after learning that Disney pulled the costume. “I don’t think they are truly sorry,” she said in a video posted to her Facebook page, saying she believed the company did so only to avoid negative publicity in advance of the movie. “This isn’t a win for us,” she said, because Disney never would have acted “if it wasn’t for people like myself and other people who are voicing their opinion about this costume.”

Marama Fox, a co-leader of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori Party and a member of New Zealand’s parliament, agrees that the costume is an instance of cultural misappropriation, and is an attempt by Disney to profit off of another culture’s intellectual property.

This is not the first time the Maui character has engendered criticism. Some critics are irked with the depiction, saying he is too fat, which perpetuates stereotypes about Polynesians and their weight.