Elena is a thoroughly modern Disney princess. No time for true love. No obsessing over magical kisses.
She’s a sword-wielding, magical-cat-riding 16-year-old, trying to do right by her kingdom and her family.
She’s also Latina.
“While I was immersing myself in the world of Disney princesses,” said Craig Gerber, the show’s creator and executive producer, “I quickly saw the need, desire and demand for a Latina princess.”
Gerber said he got the idea a few years ago, while working on another Disney show, “Sofia the First.”
He and his team brought the idea for Elena to Disney. And the company went for it.
“It’s at a time when the company is looking to be more diverse in their entertainment, and so I think they were willing to give us a chance,” he said.
There’s also some pretty compelling demographic data for Disney to consider.
Latinos currently make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population. They are relatively young. According to Nielsen, their buying power was $1.5 trillion last year, up 50 percent from five years earlier.
“It makes all the sense in the world to have a Latina princess,” said Jessica J. Gonzalez, executive vice president of the national Hispanic Media Coalition, “and better now than never, I guess.”
After all, the first Latina Barbie came out in the 1980s. “Dora the Explorer” has been around since 2000. And Disney theme parks have had quinceanera packages for years.
So, why no Latina Disney princess till now?
Part of the reason is that for years, media companies could take their Latino audiences for granted, said Frances Negron-Muntaner, a professor at Columbia University who researches media and race.
“We know that Latinos consume media over-indexed to their numbers,” she said.
But, today as the media landscape gets more competitive, she said, “it has become important for everyone to be able to tap the maximum level on all audiences.”
A strong Latina princess, created from a mash-up of Latino cultures, could give Disney an edge. On screen. In stores. In its theme parks.
Even if that princess is a little late to the ball.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.