By Maria O. Alvarez, Common Sense Media
Not long ago, animated shows only trotted out Latino characters (think Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes and Pedro the Chihuahua from Lady and the Tramp) as cartoonish stereotypes of Hispanic culture. What a difference a few years and a few successful blockbusters make! Now, A-list Latino celebrities are winning major roles in animated movies ― and making a big impact on kids. Actors like John Leguizamo (Sid the Sloth from Ice Age) and Shakira (Gazelle from Zootopia) are changing the false perceptions perpetuated by earlier attempts to represent Spanish-speaking people. And they’re pretty great role models, too.
Salma Hayek, Kitty Softpaws in Puss with Boots and Cutlass Liz in The Pirates: Band of Misfits. Versatile, funny, and smart, Hayek gives voice to memorable characters who are not afraid to go after what they want.
John Leguizamo, Sid the Sloth in Ice Age and Alex the prehistoric bird in Walking with Dinosaurs. Leguizamo’s specialty is creating loyal, intelligent characters whose voices hew closely to the animals’ true natures.
Jennifer Lopez, Shira in Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ice Age: Collision Course. There’s nothing Jennifer Lopez can’t do ― including creating the iconic saber-toothed tiger whose formidable strength is a model for kids.
Genesis Rodriguez, Honey Lemon in Big Hero 6. Rodriguez’s rich voice personifies Honey Lemon, a loyal friend and a creative and smart scientist who becomes a hero.
Zoe Saldana, Maria in The Book of Life. Saldana brings to life a brave, resilient, and independent young woman in this movie about the Day of the Dead celebration.
Shakira, Gazelle in Zootopia. The lovely singer inspires all the animals with her song “Try Everything.” Shakira is also an advocate who fights for animal rights, equality, and peace.
Sofia Vergara, Carmen in Happy Feet 2. Vergara’s upbeat personality is ideal for Carmen, who faces adversity with a smile, nurtures others, and shares her optimism.
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