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Disney Introduces Its First Latina Princess — But Only on a Show for Preschoolers

Disney Introduces Its First Latina Princess -- But Only on a Show for Preschoolers

As America’s largest minority group, Latinos make up 16% of the US population and 25% of domestic moviegoers. 

But last year, a study from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism revealed that Hollywood has done little to repay Latinos’ cinephilia. Latinos make up less than 5% of speaking characters in movies, for example, and are more likely to be hypersexualized on screen than any other racial/ethnic group. 

In keeping with industry trends, Disney continues to underserve the Latino population as well. Last week brought headline-grabbing news that The Magic Kingdom was introducing its first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor. But the fine print revealed that Princess Elena is only getting a TV show on Disney Junior that will probably be aimed at preschoolers, rather than receive the big-screen treatment a la MulanPocahantas, and The Princess and the Frog

Set to debut next year, Elena of Avalor‘s titular character will be introduced on Disney Junior’s Sofia the First, a mega-popular animated series aimed at ages 2-7. With the help of her magic amulet, Sofia will free Elena from a curse, which had frozen the latter for decades. Voiced by Aimee Carrerro, 16-year-old Elena will then be the star of her own series, which will include her little sister Isabel, best friend and wizard-in-training Mateo, and flying pet Skylar. 

The spin-off series will be available in 25 languages and 154 countries via the Disney Junior channel. And yet it’s hard not to feel that Latino moviegoers here and abroad deserve better — that they warrant an epic adventure of their own. After all, theatrical releases still tend to have a broader cultural reach, larger budgets, more dedicated craftsmanship, and a greater sense of an “event” than niche children’s programming does. Disney Junior itself is available in less than a third of U.S. homes. 

Elena of Avalor is certainly an important step in increasing the diversity of children’s programming and in normalizing female protagonists of color. But it’s also only a teensy step ahead in an industry where things need to move forward by leaps and bounds. 

[via NY Times]

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