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Disney Junior will introduce Princess Sofia on November 18, its first Latina animated character, in the upcoming television film ‘Sofia the First.’ And while many have praised Disney’s efforts in creating a royal for Hispanic audiences, her debut has also been shadowed by criticism.
Previously, Entertainment Weekly reported executive producer Jamie Mitchell confirmed the star of the upcoming film “is Latina,” but the milestone has not received the same attention as the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, whose main character Tiana “bears the traits of African American women.” EW also quoted the channel's Vice President of original programming, Joe D’ Ambrosia, stating that Disney team is purposely not placing emphasis on Sofia’s ethnicity because every school girl can identify with Sofia.
“What I find fascinating is that every girl thinks that they’re Sofia,” he said.
While Sofia’s mother, Queen Miranda, is noted for having a darker complexion, Sofia bears lighter features, blue eyes and reddish-brown hair, leading to controversy within social media.
Disney has not provided more details on where Sofia’s Latin roots may come from, but the team could have drawn inspiration from real-life Queen Sofia of Spain, who also has auburn hair and blue eyes. Her granddaughter, Princess Sofia, is blonde with similar light features. Queen Sofia, however, was born in Greece.
There has been speculation that Disney princesses are influenced by real-life women. Reportedly, Ariel from The Little Mermaid was modeled after actress Alyssa Milano, and Irene Bedard inspired the image for Pocahontas.
Mashable is reporting the new Disney character has generated criticism from people on Twitter and Facebook. Many online users have stated Sofia “looks white.”
Meanwhile, others have argued that Hispanics come from various backgrounds and Disney should be praised for not instantly using dark features to showcase a Latina.
Others are making issue with Disney's decision not to emphasize Princess Sofia's Hispanic roots.
“We need more heroes right now that are very identifiable,” said Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “We’re in a time where Latinos are taking the blame for everything that is wrong with America. This is not a time to pussyfoot around. If you’re going to promote this to the public, and Latinos in particular, do us a favor and make it a real Latina."
When asked about Sofia’s ethnicity, a Disney spokesperson said they’re dedicated in promoting diversity for their audience.
“The range of characters in ‘Sofia the First’-and the actors who play them- are a reflection of Disney’s commitment to a diverse, multi-cultural and inclusive storytelling, and the wonderful early reaction to ‘Sofia’ affirms that commitment,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson also said Sofia’s mother, Queen Miranda, was born in the fictitious land of Galdiz, “a place with Latin influences.”
Nogales believes Disney should further address the controversial issue on why they are choosing not to emphasize Sofia’s Latin background.
“The more I think about it, the more bothered I get,” says Nogales. “I really would like to hear what the execs have to say. What are they afraid of?”
When discussing Sofia’s background, the Disney spokesperson said, “(Queen) Miranda met Sofia’s father, Birk Balthazar, who hailed from the kingdom of Freezenberg, and together they moved to Enchancia, where Sofia was born.”
Sofia will be voiced by “Modern Family’s” Ariel Winter and Miranda will be voiced by “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Sara Ramirez.