She's Disney's first 'Latina' princess: So what happened to the fairytale ending?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Studio embroiled in another diversity row amid claims new character is not Hispanic enough

Los Angeles

Disney is scrambling to defend itself against claims that a new cartoon character, who was billed as its first ever Hispanic princess, doesn't look sufficiently Hispanic.

The Hollywood studio will next month unveil Sofia, an everyday girl who is elevated to the nobility after her mother, Miranda, marries the king of a fictional country called Enchancia.

At press briefings, reporters who asked about Sofia's ethnic background were told by an executive producer: "She is Latina."

So far, so multicultural. But when the first pictures of Sofia were made public this week, minority groups reacted with bemusement. Disney's allegedly groundbreaking "Latina" princess appears to have white skin, rosy cheeks, and blue eyes.

Disney has since issued press statements clarifying that Sofia is a "mixed heritage" princess in a "fairy-tale world." She was never supposed to be explicitly Latina, the company claims, despite the way her name is spelled.

"Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world," wrote Nancy Kanter, the executive in charge of Disney Junior, on the channel's Facebook page. "All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures."

That will come as news to anyone who saw Disney's 2009 film The Princess and the Frog. Its protagonist, Tiana, hailed from New Orleans. And a large part of the studio's publicity campaign for the movie was built around her status as the organisation's first ever black princess.

It will also come as news to anyone who recalls the drum-rolling over Disney's first Native American princess Pocahontas, its first Arabian princess, Jasmine, and its first East Asian princess, Mulan. All of them have been unveiled amid noisy fanfare in recent years, in an apparent effort to tap lucrative global markets.

A Hispanic princess would in theory represent a canny move by the studio, since she would reflect America's fastest-growing demographic. However it has also emerged that the actress who will voice Sofia is to be Ariel Winter, a star of the hit television sitcom Modern Family who comes from a Caucasian background.

Craig Gerber, who is executive producer of Sofia the First, her debut television movie, which airs in November, has attempted to clarify his princess's ethnic identity by describing her as the daughter of a Spanish mother and Scandinavian father who was actually raised in Enchancia, a make-believe "melting pot" kingdom modelled on the British Isles.

"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."

That's not good enough for America's National Hispanic Media Coalition, who told the Associated Press that they now want to meet studio executives to discuss the character. It has also mystified the National Council of La Raza, a US minority rights organisation.

"They seem to be back-pedalling," a spokesman for La Raza told the Associated Press. "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."

Racial backlash: Disney on film

Crow chorus

Voiced by the American singer Cliff Edwards the African-American Hall Johnson choir, the jazz-loving crow chorus in the 1941 Disney hit Dumbo was criticised for reinforcing negative racial stereotypes.

Pocahontas

The film was criticised as inaccurate and offensive by Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Nation, who said Disney glossed over the harsh treatment the real Pocahontas received.

Princess Tiana

The Princess and the Frog, starring the first black Disney princess, was hailed as progressive by some, but it was also criticised. The initial plot, in which the heroine was a chambermaid, was rethought after critics said it was demeaning.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot