By Sonya Magett, EnStars | Oct 23, 2012 01:11 PM EDT
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Disney will debut a normal-girl-turned-princess as the main character in an upcoming Disney Channel television series "Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess." But speculation about Sofia's race has drawn controversy.
When Disney released a picture of the character, it received criticism because Sofia has light brown hair, pale skin and blue eyes.
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Two Disney representatives had previously stated that Sofia was the first Latina Disney princess. The character was initially praised, but later met with a mixed reviews after Disney released the character's image. Many members of the Latino community commented that she does not look "Latina enough." Many pointed out that even Sofia's mother, Miranda, has darker brown hair and darker skin.
Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of original programming and general manager for Disney Junior worldwide, issued a statement on the character's Facebook page on Friday, Oct. 18. The statement acknowledges that Sofia is not a Latina princess but a character that "reflect[s] many elements of various cultures."
"Some of you may have seen the recent news stories on whether Sofia is or isn't a 'Latina princess,' " Kanter wrote on Facebook. "What's important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. 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.
The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America."
Kanter added that the fictitious land where Sofia's mother is from, Galdiz, was inspired by Spain. Additionally, stories of Sofia and her family will premiere in which they celebrate a holiday "reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas" and go on a picnic in "an Asian-inspired kingdom."
"Sofia's world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in but it is not OUR world," the statement continued. "Together, this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the right kind of message to all children -- "Look around you, appreciate the differences you see and celebrate what makes us all the same."
NBC Latino was the first to report on Oct. 18 that Disney representatives confirmed Sofia's mother Miranda "is Latina." Two producers admitted that this makes Sofia the first Latina princess to appear in a Disney animation project.
"She is Latina," the show's executive producer Jamie Mitchell told NBC Latino. Another producer confessed that they intentionally did not point it out so that it wouldn't limit their fan base.
"We never actually call it out," Joe D'Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior original programming, told NBC Latino. "When we go into schools [to talk to young students about the show], what I find fascinating is that every girl thinks that they're Sofia."
Sofia will be voiced by "Modern Family" star Ariel Winter. The princess' mother, Miranda, will be voiced by "Grey's Anatomy" star Sara Ramirez, who is Mexican and Irish American. "Let's Make A Deal" host Wayne Brady and "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn will also lend their voices to Disney's latest small screen project.
Disney will debut "Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess" on Sunday, Nov. 18 from 7-8 p.m. ET on the Disney Channel and Thursday, Nov. 22 at 9-10 a.m., ET on Disney Junior.
"Sofia the First" television series will premiere in early 2013.
Watch the preview trailer below for "Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess."
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