There is a new Disney princess in town, but this one is a pint-sized girl instead of a lovestruck teenager.
Sofia the First -- not Sophia, as previously reported -- was an ordinary girl until her mother married a king. Now she will have to adjust to her new royal environment. She will be voiced by actress Ariel Winter, who plays Alex Dunphy on the ABC show Modern Family.
In Sofia, we have a 'peer to peer princess,' a relatable girl experiencing the same social issues as our young viewers -- learning how to fit in, making new friends, conquering new skills and building sibling relationships, said Nancy Kanter, the senior vice president of original programming and the general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, according to StitchKingdom.com. Although Sofia will have plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes, our stories will show Sofia, and our viewers, that what makes a real princess is what's inside, not what's outside. That the inner character of kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace make you special, not the dress you wear.
The little princess marks an interesting turn in the Disney Princess franchise, which has enjoyed enormous popularity since its introduction but has also drawn much criticism (author Peggy Orenstein, for example, derided the franchise in The New York Times Magazine in her 2006 piece What's Wrong With Cinderella?). While previous Disney Princesses have appealed to school-age girls, Sofia is specifically aimed at the preschool crowd. She herself does not marry into her princess role, like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Instead, she becomes a princess when her mother marries a king. Now that's a storyline: non-royal woman becomes a Queen and brings her daughter from another relationship in tow. Talk about a modern family.
Sofia does have a little something in common with her predecessors: In Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, the title character dealt with adjusting to her new environment (case in point: she woke up early and made breakfast herself, which was looked down upon by a crusty, old-fashioned governess-type woman named Prudence). Like Cinderella, Sofia will have to adjust to her new surroundings. And like Cinderella, she will have step-siblings, although the odds of them being as nasty as the ugly stepsisters seem slim, especially since she is still a child and probably won't have to compete for any beauty awards.
It will be interesting to see where Disney takes this particular princess. It's also interesting to note that the little girl's spelling of her name -- Sofia with an f instead of ph -- is the more widely used version in areas outside the U.S. It's as if Disney is taking a cue from its success with shows such as Dora the Explorer, also aimed at preschoolers, whose Spanish-speaking title character has appealed to different demographics. Spelling aside, it will be refreshing to see a Disney princess whose focus does not -- presumably -- have a romantic angle.