Elena of Avalor, touted as Disney’s first Latina Princess, finally takes the throne and the screen today, July 22nd. The first episode of the show, already available on the Watch Disney app, hints that the series will be the Latin-influenced, Disney Channel Princess fans have been asking for. One of our writers has already reflected on Elena as a Latina character and as a leader, and our first watch of the first episode solidifies her thoughts on this highly anticipated show.
Animation and Background
Unlike other computer-animated Disney Princess films like Tangled and Frozen, this series’ animation is of notably lower-quality. It’s animation is less like the other Disney Princess films and more like Barbie movies – not quite off-putting, but of course not exactly like what we’re used to seeing in films involving Disney Princesses.
In terms of background, however, Disney excels at making Elena’s heritage explicit: the music and design are clearly influenced by Latin traditions, and, as if to quell any further doubts, Spanish words are sprinkled into the dialogue. Critics of Sophia the First’s doubtful origins will find that Elena is the clearly Latina Princess they’ve been waiting for.
The show celebrates all types of characters – in fact, it makes an effort to emphasize that Elena’s growth as a character is only possible through the help of her colorful friends and family. I admire Elena herself as well – she’s headstrong and determined, but in an interesting twist (at least in the first episode) is also very flawed. Despite her status as a Princess, she still has a lot to learn – and she acknowledges that, which I appreciate very much.
Elena of Avalor departs from traditional, once-upon-a-time fairy tales. Though many stories tell of how villains and obstacles are defeated and overcome, Elena of Avalor tells, instead, of the aftermath: villains become misunderstood residents of the kingdom, and obstacles come not in the form of battles, but in personal, social, and even political challenges Elena must face. The first episode definitely lives up to one of the show’s main taglines: “becoming a leader will be her greatest adventure.”
One main conflicts of the first episode, for example, involves Elena’s readiness to rule as a Queen. She struggles with a law that mandates that, because she is underage, she must have a Grand Council to help her make decisions. A confident Elena must then prove to her grandparents that she is ready to rule without a Grand Council, with surprising results, especially in terms of a Disney film. Elena of Avalor‘s first episode carefully navigates between the emphasis on Elena as a young female leader and the message of what true leadership entails in a way that I believe displays good lessons for both kids and world leaders.
As a Latina Disney Princess
What’s still odd to me is that Disney is advertising Elena as the first Latina princess, yet even if she were to be inducted into the lineup, she’d be the first princess without a film.
This means that either Elena will change the way we perceive Disney Royalty (having a movie won’t be necessary) or that she’ll eventually get her own film. It’s also possible, as a third option, that Elena won’t be inducted as an official Disney Princess. Judging from the public desire for an official Latina Disney Princess, I’d think that Disney wouldn’t be taking this route – but then again, Anna and Elsa themselves haven’t been crowned as official Princesses yet, so perhaps we’ll have to see that happen before Elena gets her turn.
Regardless of her status as an official “Princess,” Elena is definitely a Princess in her own right. Her show is not perfect, but the first episode does introduce a totally different world for kids to explore, as well as important life lessons about leadership. I believe this show will be great for children, and will perhaps receive criticism from adults who are used to the high quality of animation and storytelling of Disney Princess films – yet at the end of the day Elena of Avalor delivers on its promises, giving us a look at what happens to Disney Princesses as they actually rule a kingdom.
Elena of Avalor premieres today, July 22, on Disney Channel, and can also be found on the Watch Disney Channel app online.