Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Disney princess starts a race row

Disney's new cartoon princess has been criticised by Hispanic groups (AP)
Disney's new cartoon princess has been criticised by Hispanic groups (AP)

Disney has had to defend its latest cartoon princess after critics said the Hispanic-based character was not an accurate racial portrayal.

The new character, Sofia, is a TV movie being shown in the US next month on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

Hispanic pressure groups have questioned whether the fair-skinned, blue-eyed young princess is an accurate representation of the Hispanic population and wondered why Disney is not doing more to promote its first princess with Hispanic-inspired roots.

"They seem to be backpedalling said Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza. "They've done such a good job in the past when they've introduced Native American, African-American and Asian princesses. They made a big deal out of it, and there was a lot of fanfare, but now they're sort of scrambling. It's unusual because Disney has been very good about Latino diversity."

Craig Gerber, co-executive producer of "Sofia the First," said Sofia is "a mixed-heritage princess in a fairytale world." He said her mother and birth father respectively hail from kingdoms inspired by Spain and Scandinavia, though Sofia was born and raised in Enchancia, a "make-believe 'melting pot' kingdom" patterned after the British Isles.

Sofia is voiced by Caucasian "Modern Family" actress Ariel Winter, and her mother is played by Hispanic "Grey's Anatomy" actress Sara Ramirez.

The film and a subsequent TV series will follow the young princess as she adjusts to royal life after her mother marries the king of Enchancia.

"Sofia considers herself a normal Enchancian girl like any other," said Gerber. "Her mixed heritage and blended family are a reflection of what many children today experience."

Inez Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said that the organisation wanted to meet Disney to discuss "Sofia the First."

"Sofia's world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in, but it is not our world," said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming for Disney Junior. "It is a fairytale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child's imagination. It's one where we can have flying horses, schools led by fairies, songs that have a Latin beat and towns with markets like those found in North Africa."

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