Walt Disney is defending its newest princess following a backlash over her Hispanic-influenced ethnicity.
A new character named Sofia will star in the TV movie Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess, which will be broadcast next month on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Hispanic advocacy groups are questioning whether the fair-skinned, blue-eyed young princess is an accurate representation of the Hispanic population and wondering why Disney isn't doing more to promote its first princess with Hispanic-inspired roots.
"They seem to be back-pedalling," says 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."
Craig Gerber, the co-executive producer of Sofia the First, clarified in a Facebook post that Sofia is "a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world".
Sofia is voiced by the Caucasian Modern Family actress Ariel Winter, and her mother is played by the Hispanic Grey's Anatomy actress Sara Ramirez.
Inez Gonzalez, the vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, says the organisation wanted a meeting with Disney to discuss Sofia the First.
"Sofia's world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in, but it is not our world," says Nancy Kanter, senior vice president for Disney Junior. "It is a fairy tale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child's imagination."
"Little girls look to these characters to see themselves represented," says Navarrete.
"If they don't see themselves, it makes a difference. It would be nice to see Disney make a push for a Latina princess, whether in Sofia the First or not."