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Meet Elena of Avalor, Disney’s New Hispanic Princess

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Disney’s hugely popular Princess brand is about to get even more lucrative with the introduction of its first Hispanic princess. Next year Disney will introduce Elena of Avalor on an episode of its Disney Junior preschool series Sofia the First. (The Disney studio has denied that Sofia herself is a Hispanic character, even though the show’s producer has said so publicly.)

Following her guest appearance on Sofia, Elena will spin off into her own series on Disney Junior, also launching in 2016. The series will be targeted at toddlers and children ages 2-7. “What excites us most,” says Disney Junior exec Nancy Kanter, “is the chance to use distinctive animation and visual design to tell wonderful stories influenced by culture and traditions that are familiar to the worldwide population of Hispanic and Latino families and reflect the interests and aspirations of all children as told through a classic fairy tale.”

Disney Television Animation will produce the series with Craig Gerber (Sofia the First) executive producing. The series’ story editor is Silvia Cardenas Olivas (Moesha, The Brothers Garcia) and supervising director is Elliot M. Bour (Kronk’s New Groove, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie).

Elena, voiced by Dominican Republic-born Aimee Carrero (ABC Family’s Young and Hungry), is described as “a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.” For the record, Disney does not officially label her as either “Hispanic” or “Latina” because of the potential controversies surrounding those terms; she is presented only as a “Disney princess inspired by Latin cultures.”

Other characters in the show will include her grandfather Tito, grandmother Cici, adviser Duke Esteban, wizard-in-training Mateo, and Skylar the magical flying creature. She will have the same mission in each episode: inspiring young Hispanic girls to nag their parents into buying them Disney toys and consumer products.

Disney’s official princess line-up also includes Arab (Jasmine from Aladdin), Native American (Pocahontas), African-American (Tiana from The Princess and the Frog), Scottish (Merida from Brave), and Chinese (Mulan) princesses.

  • TSteves

    It is sort of like the pose is half head on and half slightly 3/4 like they made it from the Harmony or Flash scene files… Weird.
    I appreciate them expanding into the Hispanic market with characters that reflect the demographic. I suspect that if this goes over well, there might be larger plans for the character in a lower end feature.

  • Adzl33t

    Put her in her own movie, otherwise I a Hispanic wouldn’t count it

    • jonhanson

      Exactly what I was thinking. If I was Hispanic I’d be offended, every other group got a full theatrical movie! Seems disrespectful to me.

      • mick

        I agree, if imagined I was part of the only group left who haven’t had a full theatrical movie, I’d almost certainly get offended by this unholy slight on the culture I’d appropriated. It’s disrespectful

        While we’re at it, what about the Welsh?

        • April

          I’d love to see a movie about the Welsh.

          • mick

            me too. They’re the largest collection of left handers in europe. Great Heritage tales, close harmony singers, solid people… plus I’m from that direction

          • Ben Fleischman

            I have a developed story based in Welsh folklore that I plan on pitching as a feature in about 5 years after I’ve gone through college and gotten a job… so look out for that lol

        • comentor

          Just play Assassin’s Creed 4 or something. Also, “British” representation is through the roof, even if Welsh isn’t as common.

      • CB

        “If I was Hispanic I’d be offended, every other group got a full theatrical movie!”

        Hispanic here. Not all of us has to be offended. I don’t want forced representation, I just want good representation. All we need is more Hispanic movies in high quality like “The Book of Life”. I don’t give a shit if it’s Disney or Dreamworks that make the next Hispanic movie, as long as it has high artistic integrity. Not all of us are a hivemind.

        • Barrett

          If Disney does do a feature starring Latino/Hispanic characters, I certainly hope the story and characters are a little more three-dimensional than they were in “The Book of Life.” That movie had amazing art design, but the characters and story arcs felt like 90s retreats dressed up in beautiful garb.

    • Dazesty1

      I as a Hispanic stopped waiting for that day to come a long time ago. Besides, do you really want Disney showing it’s idea of what Hispanic culture is?

      • Barrett

        This isn’t the mid-90s, you’re not going to get the cultural mish-mash of a “Mulan”, where a Chinese story had elements of Japanese and Korean culture thrown in awkwardly. There are more minority artists in features these days, to say nothing of writers and directors. Not to mention that the ever-present threat of the PC Police coming after you for any ham-handed cultural illiteracy drives pretty much all major producers of children’s entertainment to work hard to represent actual cultures and not just white society’s longheld stereotypes of those cultures.

      • MatthewSmurf

        Disney already did that back in the 40s with two films featuring Donald and co. Look it up.

  • starss

    “We don’t have time to make another princess movie to appeal to the Latina culture?? Hell, let’s SKIP the movie, and just introduce her in a TV show!”

    • “The Emperors New Groove” would have been a good opportunity to introduce such a character. Although it’s not that popular of a film, I certainly like it.

      • Tim Tran

        Not popular? Ummmm………I don’t know absolutely anyone that doesn’t have one of the films dialogs memorized.

        • James VanDam

          I can quote Emperor’s new Groove All day.

      • Lulu

        Unfortunately, that would’ve inevitably come with a love story. The absence of a cliched romance is one of the things that makes The Emperor’s New Groove stand out so much!

      • comentor

        That movie is based on the pre-colombian era, meaning Kuzco and everyone else is indigenous. They couldn’t have introduced Hispanics in it because the whole Hispanic ethnic type did not come until after the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Regardless, it’s a good movie!

  • Sarah Jesness

    Is she going to be put into the official Disney Princess line? Her design certainly fits the aesthetic.

  • Mojo

    In other words their moving in on Dora’s turf.

    • Fried

      That’s what I thought, too. A couple of people are asking why not introduce her in a feature film and it’s because I don’t think she’s really a “character” they super care about. It seems more like they want their own Dora because she was so popular, so they’re combining that with their Disney princess merch to make the big bucks.

      I think if they really wanted to make as much moola off of her as they can, they WOULD have given her a feature film then stuck her in Sofia the First like they’ve done with the other princesses. But since they’ve already got a princess film in the works and they seem to be following a formula of doing one every other movie, I guess they want to speed up the process.

      Either way, hope she does well with her audience. Diversity is good even in edutainment.

  • Toonio

    If they were going for a Latino princess, they could have gone for a Mayan/Inca/Aztec princess. You know, their typical girl with riches and power.

    And if they wanted to avoid controversy, why dressing her as the typical country side Telemundo soup opera girl?

    Just saying.

    PS Next stop, Filipino Princess, oh yeah!

  • Justin Dike

    lol, (second to last paragraph), too true Amid!

    • AmidAmidi

      Wow, I’m impressed you read that far :)

      • Justin Dike

        And then I made my wife pause her show, and read it to her. =)

  • farleftside

    Next in line: Eskimo Princess Mukluk and her comic relief, Wally, the penguin-raping fur seal.

    • comentor

      The fact that you’re mocking this is kind of sad. There’s nothing wrong with wanting representation.

    • Barrett

      Maybe 20 years ago. I think we’re done seeing that kind of clumsy stereotyping in animation, unless it is done deliberately as satire of old tropes.

  • mrstupes

    You made a mistake in the article, thats a picture of Jasmine

  • Megan

    Reminds me a bit of Princess Lei-Lani from Sofia the First. Which I personally think is an early concept piece for the next Disney Princess Film, Moana. I think the idea of a new Hispanic Princess is interesting for television but I wish there was more design put in to make the character unique.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Some Disney executive saw “The Book Of Life” and suddenly came up with the original idea for a Latina Princess.

    • jonhanson

      Pixar was working on a day of the dead feature for almost as long as Reel FX, when Disney decided to shake things up they could have re-envisioned it as a “princess movie.”

      I mean it wouldn’t be the most artistic thing to do but it would be no more of a cash-grab than Cars 2 and it wouldn’t look any more pandering than this move.

  • Mister Twister

    I was hoping this line would stop existing.

  • Harrison

    This should be separated into a new toy line. We’ll call it the Disney TV Princess line.

  • doconnor

    Like Sofia, I doubt she will be joining the Princess line. This is probably just misunderstanding by the press. The official Disney story only implies in the title, but not in the text. I’m sure there will be a mountain of Elena merchandise available.

    Adding Elsa and Anna to the Princess line was probably scuttled by their overwhelming popularity.

    We will see how Moana does.

  • It is interesting that they’re showcasing the first Latina princess in a television show instead of a film. It does speak some volume….would wonder if they would attempt, especially when The Book of Life came out.

    • Charlie

      I think it largely stems from the controversy when Sofia the First was announced. Sofia was basically the first Disney princess to be introduced on TV rather than in film (though, I’m not sure how often she appears in actual line-ups). IIRC when she was announced, a guy at Disney mentioned that Sofia’s mother was Latina (as is her voice actress). But his wording was vague enough that when the media reported it, it sounded like he was referring to Sofia specifically (Sofia’s actually mixed race, as far as I can tell). So there was a small controversy over the fact that her design has pale skin and blue eyes.

      I do wonder if some people at Disney saw that controversy, then saw the success of Sofia the First and figured that they might as well make a spin-off that kind of combined what people wanted with what people liked (plus the educational elements of shows like Dora).

      Personally I wish that Disney had never created the Disney Princess line. Now whenever people talk about what kind of characters they want Disney to make, it always comes back to princesses and princes, because they get the most merchandise and post-movie attention.

  • Ad

    Can the accessories get more detailed please? My eyeballs!

  • El Dango

    Oh, so she’s not gonna be in a new traditionally animated movie. Okay then, that’s fine…

  • Abel Salazar

    As long as they don’t call it Disney Yew-nyur its a positive

  • Dear Disney, this is a good start. But how about an entire movie in a Hispanic setting? Come on, you know it’ll sell.

  • white vader

    I dunno, the design looks as cookie cutter as most of the other generic princesses, the hair and costume are probably the most cultural clues there.

  • Pennyjpie

    Well, she kinda looks like Belle with a tan…but that’s a start I guess. The only way to know is to wait. I’m interested in their idea for the show. I think it’s important to teach kids about culture, so let’s just wait and see how that goes. Maybe it’ll surprise us.

  • whyOwhy

    You know what was cool about Dora the Explorer, she was not Hispanic just to be Hispanic. She was first and foremost a girl who explored. I hate when people forcefully make a character just to meet some demographic. I created a character I’m working on and he happens to be half hispanic. Why? Because I was half hispanic myself and it just organically worked. Is the character running around with Hispanic thing superpowers? NO!
    Does he have an accent? NO! He just happens to be an ordinary kid whose mother makes him tacos in the morning.
    It is almost an insult when they create characters like that. For example why does every hispanic superhero happen to have some Luchadore based superpower. Even El Tigre. I hated that.
    I love how Marvel made Black Panther an awesome character who happened to be be African. It was organic.
    I love how Spawn just happens to be a black man. But it was organic. He is Spawn first and foremost.
    This kind of seems like pandering. Why couldn’t they just happen to make Rapunzel Hispanic or the chics from Frozen? And just slip it in their organically.

  • truteal

    The Mouse House knows that the demographics of America are changing

  • Yuki

    I really don’t think it counts unless she’s in a movie. A TV show just seems cheap.

  • Barrett

    (The Disney studio has denied that Sofia herself is a Hispanic character, even though the show’s producer has said so publicly.)

    Funny, to look at her, I sorta assumed she was Italian, or maybe a small principality thereabouts like Monaco.

  • Sarah Jesness

    Disney Princess line mostly features teenage and young adult characters. Sofia is like, a way to introduce Disney Princess to really little girls.

    • KnickKnackMyWack

      I think Alice is the youngest at 12. Correct me if I’m wrong there.

  • chrisherself

    I would definitely check out The Sweatbox if you can find it. Pretty interesting, if rough, documentary about the making of Emperor’s New Groove.

  • Luciano Johne Blaas Werhli

    This cliché does not represent latin america. It’s a continent with a culture full of life and variations, like all America.

  • Gabriel Ramos

    What about Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6, and Isabella from Phineas and Ferb. They’re not princess, but theyre still not cliches nor they have that whole dark skinned curvy spicy latina look. Heck Honey Lemon isnt even black haired, shes just a bit tanned by gringo standards. I didnt even know she was latina since i watched the spanish version in theatres.