Posted on 10/23/2012 by with 0 comments


LOS ANGELES (AP) ‚ÄĒ The Walt¬†Disney¬†Co. is defending its newest¬†princess¬†following a backlash over herHispanic-influenced ethnicity.

A new character named Sofia will star in the TV movie “Sofia the First: Once Upon a¬†Princess” airing Nov. 18 on the¬†Disney¬†Channel and¬†Disney¬†Junior.¬†Hispanic¬†advocacy groups have questioned whether the fair-skinned, blue-eyed young¬†princess¬†is an accurate representation of the¬†Hispanic¬†population and wondered why¬†Disney¬†isn’t doing more to promote its first¬†princess¬†with¬†Hispanic-inspired roots.

“They seem to be backpedaling,” said Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza. “They’ve done such a good job in the past when they’ve introduced Native American, African-American and Asian¬†princesses. They made a big deal out of it, and there was a lot of fanfare, but now they’re sort of scrambling. It’s unusual because¬†Disney¬†has been very good about Latino diversity.”

Craig Gerber, co-executive producer of “Sofia the First,” clarified in a Facebook post on Friday that Sofia is “a mixed-heritage¬†princess¬†in a fairytale world.” He said her mother and birth father respectively hail from kingdoms inspired by Spain and Scandinavia, though Sofia was born and raised in Enchancia, a “make-believe ‘melting pot’ kingdom” patterned after the British Isles.

Sofia is voiced by Caucasian “Modern Family” actress Ariel Winter, and her mother is played by¬†Hispanic”Grey’s Anatomy” actress Sara Ramirez.

The film and a subsequent TV series will follow the young princess as she adjusts to royal life after her mother marries the king of Enchancia.

“Sofia considers herself a normal Enchancian girl like any other,” said Gerber. “Her mixed heritage and blended family are a reflection of what many children today experience.”

Inez Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National¬†Hispanic¬†Media Coalition, said Monday that the organization wanted to meet with¬†Disney¬†to discuss “Sofia the First.”

“Sofia’s world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in, but it is not our world,” said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming for¬†Disney¬†Junior. “It is a fairytale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child’s imagination. It’s one where we can have flying horses, schools led by fairies, songs that have a Latin beat and towns with markets like those found in North Africa.”

Kanter added that the “Sofia the First” series set to debut next year would include storylines about a holiday called Wassailia, which is reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas; and the characters would go on a picnic in Wei-Ling, an Asian-inspired kingdom.

Marcela Davison Aviles, president of the Mexican Heritage Corporation, said that calling Sofia a Latinaprincess¬†is “not an accurate use of the term as many in our community understand its meaning.” Davison Aviles has worked with¬†Disney¬†on the TV series “Handy Manny,” which features a bilingual¬†Hispanichandyman character. She added that “Disney¬†leadership embraces the complexity, diversity and beauty” of the¬†Hispanic¬†community.

“I’ll bet folks at the company are using this as a teachable moment to improve on that effort,” said Davison Aviles. “I’m looking forward to meeting Sofia and to¬†Disney’s future efforts to illuminate our diverse melting pot, including the varied colors which thread our tapestry of Latino identity.”

Over the past two decades,¬†Disney¬†has introduced such culturally diverse female protagonists as Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Merida and Tiana, the African-American¬†princess¬†from 2009’s “Princess¬†and the Frog.”Disney’s 2000 animated film “The Emperor’s New Groove” and its subsequent spin-offs were set amid the Incan Empire in South America.

“Little girls look to these characters to see themselves represented,” said Navarrete. “If they don’t see themselves, it makes a difference. It would be nice to see¬†Disney¬†make a full-out push for a Latina¬†princess, whether it’s ‘Sofia the First’ or not.”


The Disney Channel and Disney Junior are owned by The Walt Disney Co.

Janice S. Ellis