There’s something wonderful about seeing yourself reflected in the pop culture you love. I can be easy to dismiss or take for granted when you’ve had that experience your whole life, but there’s a powerful sense of inclusion and joy that comes along with identifying with the heroes in your faves. It’s why it was such a powerful moment for so many people when we finally got a woman wielding a lightsaber in The Force Awakens, it’s why this whole Ghostbusters debacle is about more than preserving the long-passed childhood of its opponents, and it’s why there’s always room for celebration when a major studio or property gets more inclusive.
Enter, Elena of Avalor, the titular young woman at the forefront of Disney Channel’s new original series and Disney’s first Latina Princess. As you may have noticed, the history of Disney’s princesses is largely lily white (or Snow White, if you’re the kind of person who can’t resist an easy joke), until the 90s when we started meeting ladies like Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan, and a bit later, Tiana. And now we meet Elena, the 16-year-old princess who must learn to be a great ruler after defeating the evil sorceress lording over the kingdom of Avalor.
It’s a lovely move for inclusion (and no doubt a sound business strategy considering the wealth of Latinx consumers, both stateside and internationally), and it sounds like the studio is doing their due diligence. In an interview with the NY Times, Disney Exec Nancy Kanter explained the studio’s dedication to keeping the series culturally-minded, explaining that the goal was to infuse each episode with Latin folklore and cultural traditions, from the music to the architecture. What’s more, they had a number of consultants advising them along the way.
However, cultural inclusivity isn’t where the issues with Disney princesses begin and end. But the folks behind Elena are making a concerted effort to avoid the old trappings of the classic foibles of the princess tale, putting the emphasis on her position as a ruler rather than the romantic trappings of fantasy. All in all, it sounds like the strides you’d hope an international juggernaut like Disney would make across the decades, and the kind of show you’d want a young lass to watch.
Get a look in the trailer below:
Elena of Avalor debuts Jully 22nd on the Disney Channel, here’s the official synopsis:
Princess Elena’s journey began long ago when her parents and kingdom were taken from her by the evil sorceress, Shuriki. Elena bravely faced the sorceress to protect her little sister, Princess Isabel, and her grandparents. In the process, her magical amulet pulled her inside its enchanted jewel, saving her life but imprisoning her at the same time. While Elena is the rightful heir to the throne, she is only 16, and must learn to rule Avalor with the help of a Grand Council comprised of her Grandfather Tito, Grandmother Cici and Royal Advisor, Duke Esteban. With some magical friends by her side – Mateo, a wizard-in-training, and Skylar, a magical flying Jaquin – Princess Elena’s adventures will help her understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders.