Well hallelujah, Disney has finally decided that Hispanics are an important demographic to represent in its universe of characters. Last week, with much fanfare, they announced the very first Latina princess character in the wonderful world of Disney. Princess Elena of Avalor will apparently debut in 2016 in her own series.
It's about time.
What makes this interesting is not just how late Disney is with its decision to create a princess of Hispanic heritage, but also the fact that despite the proclamations that this is the very first Latina princess, Elena is not. She is the first that they decided to actually make identifiable as Latina following a backlash three years ago with a character that was presumed to be Hispanic but that looked white like most other Disney characters.
In 2012 Disney debuted a TV movie, with a planned series to follow, “Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess.” Disney at first embraced the idea that Sofia was presumed to be Hispanic as their spin on her heritage was that her mother was Spanish. But the controversy that caused Disney to backtrack on Sophia being the first official Latina centered on the fact that Sophia had white skin and blue eyes. And while many noted that Hispanics do come in all shades, the argument was that if Disney truly wanted to honor or represent Hispanics, then the first Latina princess should look less like most other Disney princesses and more like most Latinas, with tan skin and dark eyes.
Disney ended up caving in on the controversy and later denied that Sophia was supposed to be Hispanic. One Disney executive, Nancy Kanter, put out this statement:
“What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities, but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.”
Uh huh. And yet here we are three years later, and Disney is making a big splash that lo and behold, we have a character that represents a real world culture.
Last week, Disney said this about Princess Elena of Avalor, who has brown skin, black hair and brown eyes: “Princess Elena is a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.”
Good for you Disney. It took you a while to get it right. But creating this character is the right thing to do, for both Hispanic kids and for themselves. There are a lot of young Hispanic girls who will take to this character, as evidenced by the response so far. The world is made up of diverse cultures and all of us deserve to see characters that look like us and that give young people pride in who they are. It is good to see the wonderful world of Disney is getting more reflective of that. Better late than never I guess.
Photo Credit: Toonzone