Disney Defends New Hispanic-Influenced Princess After Public Backlash
New character to appear in TV movie airing next month
(AP) -- The Walt Disney Co. is defending its newest princess following a backlash over her Hispanic-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 Latina princess 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 Hispanic handyman 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."
I AM SORRY, BUT THIS IS JUST A LITTLE BIT RIDICULOUS!!! WHY IS IT ALL ABOUT RACE? ITS A CHILDS CARTOON. I AM A TOTAL HEINZ 57 BUT ON PAPER I AM "WHITE" OR "CAUCASIAN" (HOWEVER YOU WANT TO PUT IT. MY BACKGROUND SPREADS FROM A GERMAN TO IRISH AND MY DAD WAS ADOPTED SO WE DONT EVEN KNOW WHAT HIS 'BLOOD LINES' ENTAIL.... WHY DOES THE GIRL HAVE TO BE OF MIXED RACE ANYWAY ESPECIALLY DEFINED DOWN TO STEREOTYPE?!? WOULD IT HAVE BEEN RACIST IF SHE WERE JUST AN AMERICAN OR WHITE.... MY DAUGHTER IS FRENCH CAJUN, GERMAN, IRISH, AMERICAN... WELL SHES A PURE MIX OF MANY ETHNICITIES, BUT AGAIN LIKE HER FATHER AND I IS JUST CONSIDERED WHITE..... MAKE A SHOW ABOUT THAT DISNEY! A LITTLE CAUCASIAN BEING ACCEPTED AND NOT PINNED AS A RACIST FOR CELEBRATING HER "WHITE" UPBRINGING!!!!! AND FOR ANYONE WHO THINKS I MAY BE RACIST OR WHATEVER THE WORD IS NOWADAYS YOU CAN EAT YOUR WORDS! MY YOUNGEST BROTHER IS HALF "HISPANIC" AND LOOKS "WHITER THAN MYSELF AND MY KIDS LOL, AND TOMORROW MY NEICE IS HAVING A BABY OF MIXED "AFRICAN AMERICAN" AND "WHITE" RACE AND I LOVE AND WILL WELCOME THE NEW BABY LOVINGLY, NOT BECAUSE I AM TIP TOEING AROUND THE RACE CARDS BUT BECAUSE THEYRE MY FAMILY.... BUT WHAT I AM GETTING AT IS WHY CANT THE FEW OF US LEFT THAT COME FROM A WHITE BACKGROUND CELEBRATE THAT ANYMORE WITOUT BEING LABELED A RACIST..... ALL YOU PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT SOPHIA NOT LOOKING "MEXICAN" ENOUGH, YOU ARE THE RACIST! AND SHOULD BE ASHAMED FOR OBLITERATING A CARTOON.... RIDICULOUS! SHE CAN BE PROUD TO BE OF LATINO MEXED RACE BUT MY CHILDREN CANNOT BE JOYOUS OF THEIR WHITE AMERICAN MIXED RACE WITHOUT BEIG LABELED THEMSELVES! SICK OF THESE HYPOCRITICAL SHENANIGANS!!!!!!! GROW UP PEOPLE!
Oh!!! Merida! Slap me silly! The princess from 'Brave'...can't believe I messed that one up...LOL
Yep..."No Value" comment.
THEY MADE SUCH A BIG DEAL WITH TIANA WITH PRINCESS AND THE FROG .. AND THIS IS ALL THEY DO FOR SOFIA THE FIRST .... THATS WHATS BOTHERING ME NOT HER APPEARANCE BUT THE MARKETING THEY ARE DOING FOR THIS NEW CHARACTER
Damn hispanics- they are always stereotyping! And now they are being racist against us PolyCultural Americans, and saying we have to look a certain way? What is that!!
Ok- my polycultural background reaches from Wales to the Baltics then down to Odessa/Ukraine, but still!! We are bloody Americans!! Tired of this stereotyping BS- its as bad as kids in New MExico getting in trouble for wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo because it "insults the MExican heritage". MEXICO DOESNT EVEN CELEBRATE CINCO DE MAYO!!! ONLY MEXICAN AMERICANS DO!!
It is sad that Hispanic advocy groups are making a big deal out of Disney's effort, whether big or small, to answer our own cries. I am a black Latina with a son who is fair skinned, a black father, a tall cleared eyes grandmother, many friends of all colors and all Latinos and I wouldnt dare complain about this topic. It is time for people like the groups being insulted by this to stop cataloguing Latinos, as that is the beauty of our people, we have a little of everything! Why cant Princess Sofia be faired skinned and blue eyed? Are we so ignorant that we still think that all Latinos look like Dora the Explorer? You know what those same advocacy groups should be concerned about? The education of our people, not what according to your own prejudices we should be portrayed as.