Disney's First Hispanic Princess to Debut in 2016

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Princess Elena of Avalor

From People Magazine:

There's a new Disney princess in town – and for the first time, she's Latina.

On Thursday, Disney Junior announced that Princess Elena of Avalor will make her debut in 2016 on a special episode of Sofia the First, the network's hit show for preschoolers.

Princess Elena is "a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore," the network said in a statement. After her introduction on Sofia, 16-year-old Elena will star in her own spin-off series, Elena of Avalor, also set to debut on Disney Junior in 2016.

Dominican Republic-born Aimee Carrero of ABC Family's Young & Hungry, 26, will voice Elena, whose backstory is connected to the magical amulet Sofia wears on the show.

The story goes that Elena was imprisoned in the amulet by an evil sorceress, Shuriki, decades ago while Elena was trying to protect her little sister, Princess Isabel. Decades later, Sofia "discovers the truth . . . and sets out to restore Elena to her human form and help her return to the kingdom of Avalor."

In 2012, Disney executives responded to questions about Sofia's heritage after early hints that she had Hispanic roots. "Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world," said Nancy Kanter, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide. "All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities."

Commentary: I will admit, when I started watching Sofia the First with my kids, I actually thought Sofia was supposed to be Hispanic.  The only reason I thought that was because her mother is played by Sara Ramirez.  Clearly I was wrong about that.

I definitely think it's important for Disney to feature princesses from all cultures, real or imaginary.  One of my favorite episodes of Sofia The First was "The Emerald Key" where Sofia and her family meet a Princess from a nation called Hakalo who had vastly different traditions from their own, so at first they aren't even sure she is really a princess.  Sure, at times the lessons in Sofia The First can be a little heavy handed, but I also think they are important and really well done.

Sofia the First is one of my kids' favorite shows.  It's fun, and usually has some great lessons to teach.  It also helps that it has Tim Gunn, who my wife has a huge crush on.  So this is a great place to introduce a new character like Elena.  I also like that Sofia's world has a lot of backstory you want to know more about.  Tying Elena's background to Sofia's Amulet of Avalor is a cool way to introduce her.

It will also be nice to for Disney to have another actual ethnic princess.  Up until now, the only non-white Princess we have had is Tiana (who happens to be one of my oldest daughter's favorite Princesses).  Disney often tries to shoehorn Pocahantas and Mulan into their Princess line, but it is a stretch to call either of them real Princesses...especially Mulan! 

So I am looking forward to seeing what Disney can do with Elena of Avalor.  Hopefully it will be a strong addition to their children's lineup.  There are only so many times my kids can watch Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirate reruns.