Let me start by saying ever since I was a child I have had one of the most serious loves and devotion to Disney animated classics and their stories filled with captivating music. As a Latino who’s been in love with Disney since he was young NOTHING would please me more than seeing my culture be represented by Disney in one of their fantastical animated features correctly with music and adventures and characters that will entertain for decades just like the others have. So knowing this if you had told me there was a Latina or Hispanic Disney Princess on the way I would have been ecstatic and jumping with joy at how amazing the news was. Yet today when I heard about what was happening on Disney Junior I didn’t feel any sort of rapturous joy at the news. Instead I felt a little….shortchanged. To put it bluntly this is not a victory for Latin@’s or Hispanic people and there is a very valid reason for that. To me this is not Disney creating a memorable story and characters for us. This is feels more like a copout.
Before I get tons of angry messages let me explain myself. If Disney had quietly done this and just stated she was an expansion of the Sofia program I wouldn’t take issue not one bit. Sofia was supposed to be part latina but they never really got that ball rolling. So I suppose Elena will serve as that character for this universe and that is great. This is going to be a program tons of kids will enjoy and hopefully will provide some great representation and that in itself is good. But for me the thing I take issue with is when they start running headlines with “First Latina Disney Princess”. This tagline isn’t being used by the latest Disney animated musical, no instead it’s being used for a nice tv show that will sadly fade away much like all other tv shows once it’s off the air. To me this kind of statement and marketing sends a clear message. We don’t think you’re culture or people are at a level of iconography or even profitability to warrant an animated feature film that will play on for decades in both parks, films etc. TV should suffice as your first entry into the famed Disney canon. And now people can say “don’t get upset you have a Latina Princess now, see shes there”. Not in theaters with music and animation that makes the story remembered for generations. But on a TV program that skews for mostly toddlers with that very kind of effort put into it.
Again the issue here is that these kind of TV shows have short lifespans. They don’t carry the same nostalgia and longevity that Disney animated features do. You ask anyone on the street who Cinderella, or Jasmine, or Mulan is and chances are they can tell you. Ask them who Sofia the first is, they wouldn’t know unless they have a child who watches the program. That’s the issue here, It feels like Disney is settling on us here. HERE is what you wanted a Latina princess right? Well there she is right up there with Sofia.
I feel that as a culture we don’t deserve this. Imagine for a moment that instead of Tiana for Princess and the frog we got a Tiana sofia spin off? And Disney hailed that as their first Black Princess? There would be a ton of articles and people rightfully upset and wondering why isn’t this character good enough to warrant a film? We should have a film crafted by animators who know their work, not as Jorge Gutierrez shadley put it a character who more or less looks like a Maria knock off
And again to bring this point home Sofia isn’t even recognized as an official Princess by the Company, so neither would Elena. So even then where is our Princess? Cause all I see is a character for a Disney junior program. Not something that stands the test of time for generations while capturing the imagination and inspiring millions. While this is great for children who need more diverse media at home on the tv for me and many others this decision sucks everywhere else. To watch for the company to move forward in this direction, it just doesn’t sit well with me. The chance for the first real Latina Princess has been downplayed in such a way and instead used to promote a short spanned tv series that now whatever comes next won’t have that same effect. TV is apparently where the company feels we are most situated in. Not in an adventure of our own for the big screen. To see this happen and the marketing all pushing towards this “First Latina Princess” well it’s heartbreaking.
If you are going to use Latin people as a point of inspiration and basis for a character and franchise then we deserve better, we deserve more, we deserve a real film.