“I”ll take charge like the leader I know I can be, and take care of all those who are counting on me!”
The new Disney Channel original animated series Elena of Avalor is premiering this month, and its protagonist is Disney’s first Latina princess.
Actress Aimee Carrero voices the titular character Elena, a princess recently released from an amulet she spent 41 years trapped in, thanks to an evil sorceress. In the body of a 16-year-old, Elena is tasked with taking care of her family, ruling the kingdom and restoring it to greatness.
“What I love most about Elena is she’s her own hero,” Carrero said in an interview with ABC News. “There’s no Prince Charming, so I hope people at home watching will just be inspired her sense of self, her confidence and her leadership.”
Elena of Avalor is technically a spinoff of a storyline from Disney Junior show Sofia the First. Like in Sofia the First, Elena of Avalor features original musical numbers.
Sofia the First faced some controversy when it first aired for billing the fair-skinned, blue-eyed princess as Latina. Elena of Avalor not only features a proud Latina princess, but the setting of the show is inspired by various Hispanic cultures.
“Disney’s been in my family for a very long time and just to see my own images represented – my own culture represented – is really special and I hope it will be for everybody watching,” Carrero, who is Dominican and Puerto Rican, told ABC News.
Elena of Avalor will premiere on July 22 at 7:00 p.m. on Disney Channel.
I’ve added photos of Aimee’s appearances yesterday at the People: Espanol office and Elena of Avalor screening. She looked adorable at both.
Aimee was on Good Morning America this morning discussing Elena of Avalor, Disney’s new Latina Princess. Check out the interview below and be sure to tune in on July 22nd!
“It was finally my time.”
Those words, spoken by the animated Princess Elena in the first episode of “Elena of Avalor,” a new Disney Channel series, are meant to reflect power: The zesty teenager has reclaimed her tropical kingdom from an evil sorceress. But the line has a deliberate double meaning. With Elena, Disney has created — at long last — its first Latina princess.
“It’s not a secret that the Hispanic and Latino communities have been waiting and hoping and looking forward to our introduction of a princess that reflected their culture,” said Nancy Kanter, the Disney executive overseeing the show, which will begin on July 22 with toy and theme park tie-ins. “We wanted to do it right.”
Did the company succeed? Or is Elena, like some of her royal counterparts, about to run afoul of the princess police?
Few matters in entertainment are as fraught as the Disney princesses, a dozen or so characters led by Cinderella and Snow White that mint money for the Walt Disney Company but also are cultural lightning rods. People who love the princesses (they’re pretty and live happily ever after!) and those who despise them (they promote negative female stereotypes and unrealistic body images!) square off endlessly. Academics study their adverse societal impact, even as women dress like them for their weddings.
Add race and ethnicity, as Disney is increasingly doing with its cartoon heroines, and this is a minefield, especially because animation by its nature deals in caricature. In 2009, when Disney introduced its first black princess, Tiana, every corner of her film, “The Princess and the Frog,” was dissected for slights.
Aware of the scrutiny that “Elena of Avalor” will receive, Disney has loaded each 22-minute episode with Latin folklore and cultural traditions. Avalor has Aztec-inspired architecture. Episodes will include original songs that reflect musical styles like mariachi, salsa and Chilean hip-hop. Elena’s black hair, gathered in a luxuriant pony tail, is accented with apricot mallow, a flower native to Southern California and Northern Mexico.
“We brought in a whole lot of consultants to advise on everything,” Ms. Kanter said. “We wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a doll-like appearance, and we really wanted to steer clear of romance. She has male friends, as teenage girls obviously do, but we did not want it tinged with, ‘Ooh, they’re falling in love.’”
The first episode, made available through a Disney Channel app on July 1, has received positive feedback. “We were all very pleasantly surprised at how well the character was conceived,” said Axel Caballero, executive director of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. “This is going to have a great impact.”
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Already, though, “Elena of Avalor” has run into questions of princess parity, starting with the medium: Why is Disney introducing her through a television series aimed at children 2 to 11 and not in a full-fledged family movie, like her counterparts? “It really seems like a shun,” wrote Mandy Velez, a co-founder of Revelist, a publication targeted to millennial women.
For Rebecca C. Hains, author of “The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years,” the newest member of Disney’s royal court wins points for her heroism. In the first episode, Elena, after the deaths of her parents, tries to prove that she is ready to be queen, even though she is only 16.
“She’s not an ornament,” said Ms. Hains, an associate professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University. “This is a princess with real political power, and that’s genuine progress.”
Still, Ms. Hains was cautious. “The mashing together of cultures gives me pause,” she said. Noting that older characters speak with Spanish accents and that Elena (voiced by the Dominican Republic-born Aimee Carrero) does not, Ms. Hains added, “Being modern and cool seems to mean talking like an American.”
Craig Gerber, who created “Elena of Avalor,” said the accents simply reflect a generational gap, a dynamic seen in many Latino families. He called the attention given to the Disney princesses “incredibly daunting,” but something that made the show better. “I really hope that young Latino children are happy to finally feel represented,” he said.
Serious people closely scrutinizing a cartoon character is the blessing and the curse of being Disney. Because its programming commands such attention, especially among children, the company is often held to a higher standard than competitors. Seemingly everyone has an opinion — often delivered as a demand — about what Disney should be doing with its characters, especially when it comes to diversity.
In 2014, tens of thousands of people signed a petition pushing for a Disney princess with Down syndrome. In the spring, the company faced an online campaign to make Elsa from “Frozen” a lesbian. In recent weeks, an online brush fire has broken out around “Moana,” an animated Polynesian adventure to be released in November; an overweight male character has been criticized as offensive to Pacific Islanders.
“Elena of Avalor” comes as Disney tinkers with its princess strategy. The company has started depicting its princesses in more active poses on toy packaging and emphasizing their various personalities. Pocahontas and Mulan, for instance, are now more prominent.
(For the record, Princess Leia doesn’t count as a member of this group, at least in Disney’s eyes. And celebration over the introduction of a Pacific Islander princess in “Moana” has apparently been premature. Because the film barely mentions her lineage, the company will not be calling Moana a princess, according to a Disney spokesman.)
As for Elena, Disney contended that television was better than film. Rather than relying on parents to take their children to a theater, Disney will pipe “Elena of Avalor” directly into hundreds of millions of homes. The series, which already has a five-season “content plan,” will run in 163 countries and be translated into 34 languages. Disney has also tried to make the series look and sound more like a movie than a television cartoon.
“The goal is certainly to give it as cinematic a feel as possible,” said Tony Morales, who scored the series, drawing inspiration from José Pablo Moncayo, a Mexican musician.
Disney is certainly not skimping on Elena’s promotion, including in the toy aisles, where analysts say there is an opportunity to steal market share from Dora the Explorer, the Latina preschool character that Nickelodeon introduced 16 years ago. It typically takes up to 18 months after a show’s debut for related products to arrive in stores, but Elena items — stuffed animals, shoes, children’s bedding, backpacks, clothes — were made widely available on July 1. Books and Halloween costumes are still to come.
In other words, Disney’s expectations for a hit are high.
“We know that the Latino community is extremely vocal and active,” Ms. Kanter said. “As long as we tell a good story and create a character who is compelling and interesting and stands for something, I think the audience will be really pleased.”
I’ve added a few more photos from Young & Sofia to the gallery thanks to Angela. I am so excited to see this!!
Elena of Avalor gets trapped and protected inside her own special amulet in this new sneak peek to the new Disney Channel series.
Set in the enchanted fairy tale land of Avalor, the series tells the story of Elena (Aimee Carrero), a brave and adventurous teenager who has saved her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. Elena’s journey will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders.
The stories incorporate influences from diverse Latin and Hispanic cultures through architecture, traditions, food and customs. Magic, mythology, folklore and music also play an important role, with each episode featuring original songs spanning an array of Latin musical styles including Mariachi, Latin Pop, Salsa, Banda and Chilean Hip Hop.
In the first episode, Elena officially becomes crown princess and rescues her sister, Isabel, from Noblins, elf-like shapeshifting creatures based on a Chilean peuchen myth. The episode also introduces Zuzo, Elena’s spirit guide in the animal world, based on the belief of a Mayan tribe in southern Mexico. In the second episode, titled “Model Sister”, Elena is torn between a promise she made to help Isabel (Jenna Ortega) and fulfilling her royal duties.
The one-hour premiere event will air on Friday, July 22nd @ 7PM ET/PT on Disney Channel, and this fall, a special TV movie titled Elena and the Secret of Avalor will make its premiere, which explains how Elena was imprisoned for decades in her magical amulet and eventually set free by Princess Sofia of Enchancia.
Tyler Posey as Prince Alonso, a charming prince from the Argentine-inspired Kingdom of Cordoba; Lucas Grabeel as Jiku, the leader of the Noblins; Jillian Rose Reed as as Naomi, Princess Elena of Avalor’s closest friend and fellow adventurer; and Marsai Martin as Cat, a budding scientist and adventurer, and many more round out the cast.
I’ve added a bunch of episode stills to upcoming episode entitled Young and Sophia which I believe serves as somewhat of a pilot type episode for the (hopefully) upcoming series. Big thanks to my friend Angela for these. Enjoy!