For Disney fans who’ve been hoping to see more diversity in animated characters on both the big and small screens, you’re in luck today: more information has been released about newest Disney princess, Elena of Avalor, and there’s a lot of good news in regards to her show that’s coming to Disney Channel on July 22.
We’ve already talked about Elena a little bit here on Paste, and reported that Elena will be Disney’s first Latina princess. Her story is intended to reflect the rich history and traditions of Hispanic and Latinx communities, and incorporate cultural elements of these communities into many aspects of the show. The setting of her show, Avalor, is described as “an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.”
“It’s not a secret that the Hispanic and Latino communities have been waiting and hoping and looking forward to our introduction of a princess that reflected their culture. We wanted to do it right,” says Nancy Kanter, the Disney executive in charge of Elena of Avalor. But, as with all shows, even shows for children run the risk of offending or misrepresenting the very groups that they’re attempting to portray because of poor research, misguided casting choices and insulting or stereotypical dialogue and plots.
However, Elena of Avalor seems to be taking every measure to prevent any such debacle from occurring, reportedly ”[bringing] in a whole lot of consultants to advise on everything.” Kanter also noted that, “We wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a doll-like appearance, and we really wanted to steer clear of romance.” According to The New York Times, the show will make use of lush, Aztec-inspired architecture in its setting, as well as incorporating genres like salsa and mariachi into its diverse soundtrack. Elena even wears a locally sourced flower in her hair: the apricot mallow, a species native to Mexico and certain parts of the southwestern United States.
Dominican-American actress Aimee Carrero, known for her work on Disney series Level Up and the Freeform comedy Young & Hungry, provides the voice of Elena. “Disney’s been in my family for a very long time and just to see my own images represented, my own culture represented, is really special and I hope it will be for everybody watching,” she commented.
Carrero additionally described the eponymous character as “her own hero”: confident, authoritative, but still compassionate. The story has a fairly standard premise: Elena loses both her parents at a young age, and must come to terms with her life as an orphan while simultaneously preparing to become a queen of Avalor. However, because Elena of Avalor is a television series (slated to be a fairly lengthy one at that—Disney is already prepared for five seasons) and not a movie, the network will be able to more thoroughly explore the profound effect of being orphaned and the immense pressures of a life of royalty on a young, impressionable girl through well-paced, nuanced storytelling.
A big promotional push for the series is in the works, including merchandise, theme park appearances and costumes, which are all in the process of becoming available to the public following the show’s debut. And all the hype is warranted, if only because Elena is being screened in 34 languages to 163 countries, an almost unprecedented circle of reach for a children’s television program.
Elena is ready for the world, and we’re ready for her. Tune in to the Elena of Avalor series debut on July 22 on Disney Channel, and check out the series’ key art below.