New Latina Disney princess causes controversy

Tuesday October 23, 2012

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 in 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 back-pedalling," 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.

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

Over the past two decades, Disney has introduced such culturally diverse female protagonists as Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Merida and Tiana, the African-American princess from 2009's Princess And The Frog.

Disney's 2000 animated film The Emperor's New Groove and its subsequent spin-offs were set amid the Incan Empire in South America.

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