By: Alex Lambert & Shaleni McBain
Disney has announced the release of TV movies starring the first Hispanic character in its Disney Princess series — but some observers are saying she doesn’t look like a Latina.
The new character, known as Princess Sofia, will first appear in a TV movie called Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, which debuts on the Disney Channel Nov. 18.
Sofia will also star in her own series, called Sofia the First, slated to begin sometime in 2013 on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior.
Sofia joins other ethnically diverse Disney Princesses including Jasmine (Arabic), Mulan (Chinese), Pocahontas (Aboriginal) and Tiana (African-American).
Check out the trailer for Sofias debut.
According to CNN, when the character was first announced in early 2011, there was no mention of an ethnicity, just that she would be the first girl Disney Princess, as all other princesses in the series are portrayed as adults.
The main criticism of the character Sofia, portrayed as light-skinned, with blue eyes and reddish-brown hair, is that she doesn’t look Hispanic enough.
Joseph Rendeiro, media relations specialist with the National Council of La Raza, said the organization isn’t concerned with Sofia’s appearance.
“The idea that she doesn’t look Latina enough, that’s really not where we think there is a problem or that there should be any controversy because there’s no specific Latina look. We’re a very diverse group of people,” Rendeiro told Humber News.
“From our perspective, Latinas come in all different shapes and sizes.”
The real controversy, according to Rendeiro, is that Disney hasn’t made highlighting Hispanic culture a priority for Sofia’s character.
Last week, while Disney announced that Sofia is in fact Latina, the corporation also said it didn’t want to focus on Sofia’s ethnicity.
“We never actually call it out,” said Joe D’Ambrosia, Disney Junior original programming vice president, told Entertainment Weekly.
Rendeiro said it’s discouraging that Disney doesn’t want to highlight Hispanic culture with Sofia’s character.
“I think the thing that we were a little bit disappointed about is that it kind of seems that initially, they just threw in that she is Latina as an afterthought,” Rendeiro said.
“We thought this was an absolutely fantastic opportunity for little Latina girls to see somebody like them that does celebrate the culture a little bit.”
Timeline of the Disney Princesses
1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White was the first ever full-length animated movie to be released in the United States. In 1939, a unique award was presented for the film at the Academy Awards. The award consisted of one regular sized Academy Award, and seven smaller sized awards.
1950 – Cinderella
The original Cinderella movie was released in 1950. It was nominated for three Academy Awards that year and it won “Special Prize” at the Venice International Film Festival.
1959 – Sleeping Beauty – Princess Aurora
The tale of “The Sleeping Beauty” dates back to a 1528 Arthurian romance.
1989 – The Little Mermaid – Princess Ariel
1991 – Beauty and the Beast – Belle
1992 – Aladdin – Jasmine
Jasmine premiered as the first non-white Disney Princess. The movie won two Academy awards for Best Original Score and Best Original song, A Whole New World.
1995 – Pocahontas
The first aboriginal princess premiered. The movie won two Academy Awards for “Best Original Music” and “Best Original Song,” Colors of the Wind.
1998 – Mulan
Mulan was based on an ancient Chinese legend of a real-life female warrior. In Asia, the story of Mulan is as well known as the story of Cinderella in western Culture.
2009 – The Princess and the Frog – Princess Tiana
The first African-American princess we have seen. A story that takes place in New Orleans takes Disney back to their musical roots. The movie was produced in 2D hand drawn animation.
2010 – Tangled – Rapunzel
2011 – Disney announces they will release a new princess – referring to Sofia the First.
2012 – Brave – Merida
October 2012 – Images of the new Disney Princess surface. The Latina princess has already started controversy over whether she is Latina enough.
November 18 2012 – The Disney Television film “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess” is set to premier with the brand new Latina princess.
Twitter Reactions to Sofia the First
‘Sofia The First’: Is Disney’s First Latina Princess ‘Hispanic Enough?’ (SLIDESHOW) huff.to/WxfQC6
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) October 20, 2012
— Toda Mujer(@YoSoyTodaMujer) October 22, 2012
Retail: Disney’s first Latina princess, in “Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess,” sees backlash as well as supportgoo.gl/2BGQ4
— Reynolds Center (@BizJournalism) October 22, 2012
Is Disney’s ‘Sofia’ latina enough? LOOK at the twitter reaction the news caused huff.to/WxfQC6
— HP LatinoVoices (@LatinoVoices) October 19, 2012
TRAILER: Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess: bit.ly/RPXYwE
— Disney D23 (@DisneyD23) October 17, 2012
— Travis Willingham (@WillingBlam) October 17, 2012