Princess Sofia was reported to be Walt Disney's very first Latina princess. Now, after a series of criticisms over whether the character is "Hispanic enough," Disney claims that Sofia was never supposed to be Latina in the first place.
Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, took to the Princess Sofia Facebook page to address the controversy surrounding the new Disney character.
What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain [...] this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the right kind of message to all children -- “Look around you, appreciate the differences you see and celebrate what makes us all the same.” I am eager for you and your children to meet Sofia and experience her world together!
Craig Gerber, a coexecutive producer and writer for "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess," added more detail on Sofia's heritage, describing her as "a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia," according to E! News.
The flurry of attention surrounding Princess Sofia began when executive producer Jamie Mitchell told Entertainment Weekly, "She is Latina," making her the first-ever Hispanic Disney princess. Joe D’Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior original programming, toned down the promotion saying, “We never actually call it out. When we go into schools [to talk to young students about the show], what I find fascinating is that every girl thinks that they’re Sofia.”
However, many took issue with the fact that Sofia has auburn hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. The Latino community questioned if such a character could really resonate. "Wake me up when Disney's first #Latina princess looks like me smh," tweeted one respondent. "This is Disney's first latina princess! She doesn't even look spanish! #mad #wth #beenwaitingforaspanishprincess #white," tweeted another. Disney has attempted to bring diversity into its fantastical world of typically white princesses with Pocahontas and Tiana from "Princess and the Frog." Now, many think, is the time for an actual Latina character.
Criticism over Princess Sofia "has certainly let Disney know that it’s time for a Latina princess, and hopefully when they do get around to creating one her heritage will be a bit more thought-out then 'Well let’s take this Princess and make her mother from a country that’s sort of like Spain, but not really,'" wrote The Mary Sue's Rebecca Pahle.
"Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess" will premiere on the Disney Channel Nov. 18, followed by a 2013 television series on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Sofia is voiced by "Modern Family" star Ariel Winter, a white actress.
Check out the first reactions on Twitter to Princess Sofia below.