TV Shows, Movies, Pop Culture

Why isn’t Disney’s newest royal addition considered a “true” Disney Princess?

The Disney Princess club is proving to be more exclusive than we thought.

When I was little, I used to think that becoming a Disney Princess would be a dream come true. I would live in a castle, marry a prince, and sing about everything I did. Of course, even as a child, I knew only certain types of people could play the part, so I didn’t mind giving up the role to fictional characters. Then I discovered not all fictional characters get to play the part either.

The Disney Princess club is more exclusive than just being a matter of reality versus fiction.

How exclusive? To the point where some princesses will never get to be called a “Disney Princess.” This is the case with Disney’s newest character, Elena of Avalor of whom breaks some new boundaries, but has a few setbacks in the process. Here are three crucial differences that separate Elena from the rest of the Disney Princesses.

1. Elena will not have her own movie.

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Instead, she appears on a TV show. Why does this make a difference? Every other Disney Princess has had her opportunity to shine on the big screen. Television shows don’t receive the same audience reception as movies with a larger marketing campaign. Their legacy will eventually die out with the end of the season. Even her appearance, meant to be less doll-like, has the drawn-on features of a cartoon. 

When I bring up the name Elena of Avalor in conversation, most people won’t know who I am talking about unless they watch Disney Channel. Elena has a target demographic of young girls and teens, but that target demographic is keeping her hidden from the rest of Disney’s fans.

2. Elena is the first Latina princess to be created by Disney.

The news of her arrival was a long-awaited moment for Hispanic and Latino communities to finally rejoice at their share of representation. Her series, inspired by Latin cultures, is another attempt at diversity by Disney, which has a reputation for preferring their best-selling white princesses. To say some were disappointed by her unveiling would be an understatement. The way her character was presented coupled with the absence of a movie left some fans feeling robbed. Rebecca C. Hains, the author of The Princess Problem, points out that Elena has an American accent while the older characters have Spanish accents

Box-office success is one of the biggest determiners for who makes it into the princess line-up. However, Elena has already proven her popularity and success with the company. Her identity stands for a large part of the population so, hopefully, Disney will attempt to make her just as large in the future.

3. This Princess does not have a prince.

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Nor does Elena need one.

Her television series is meant to depict Elena as a good leader, independent from romance. The teenage princess is capable of taking care of herself with the help of magical powers given to her by the scepter of light, a weapon which can reveal what is behind doors or walls, but which also has consequences in using it. Traditionally, each Disney Princess, except Merida, has their princely counterpart, ready to save them from the evil of others. Elena fits in with the characteristics of a newer Disney; one in which the heroines are strong-willed, adventurous, and determined.

Although Elena did not fit into the Disney Princess group, she is making a name for herself through other means. Her release has still generated a lot of excitement around her character; in no way has she become invisible without her own movie. Regardless, her addition to the Disney family is a matter to celebrate more diversity and a new role-model for girls of every race and background.

As a fan of Disney, I do not pay attention to the franchises or the Princess lineup. What matters to me is discovering a character, which I can appreciate for who they are and what they stand for. I never thought including the word Disney would make such a difference to having the princess title, which is already a desirable trait. 

Disney Princess or not, Elena is still a princess in my mind.

  • Meghan Lannoo

    Meghan Lannoo is currently majoring in Creative Writing at Oberlin College. She gets inspiration from books, friends, and the outdoors.