Elena of Avalor is Disney’s newest princess but – contrary to what many people are assuming and various news outlets are reporting – she may not be the company's “first Latina princess.”
The character will make its debut in a special episode of Disney Junior’s TV series Sofia The First in 2016 and will be voiced by Aimee Carrero of ABC Family's Young & Hungry.
Referring to her as a confident and compassionate 16-year-old “inspired” by Latin cultures, Disney not once described Elena as Hispanic or Latina in its official announcement made on Thursday.
“Our creative team has delivered a universal story with themes that authentically reflect the hopes and dreams of our diverse audience,” said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president, original programming and general manager, Disney Junior Worldwide.
“What excites us most 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.”
In 2012, when Disney hinted that Sofia the First could potentially be the very first Latina princess, people complained that the character didn’t look Latin enough. After much debate, Kanter posted a clarification on Princess Sofia Facebook page, saying the princess wasn’t supposed to be a Latina in the first place.
“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. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain [...] this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the right kind of message to all children -- 'Look around you, appreciate the differences you see and celebrate what makes us all the same.' I am eager for you and your children to meet Sofia and experience her world together!”
Judging by Disney’s hesitation to call Elena Latina or Hispanic, it seems, just like Sofia, the newest princess may not really be Latina after all.