“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 theDisney 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 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…”