#DisneyBeat: Talking to Elena of Avalor

Aimee Carrero as the voice of Princess Elena
AFTER about 10 minutes of trying to figure out how international conference calls work, I accepted defeat and decided to have a phone operator intervene.

Our landline at home rang, and rang again.

And echoing how Belle sounded when she first entered the Beast's castle, I let out a few hellos, waiting for silence at the other end of the line to be interrupted.

With a bit of a delay, a cheery voice finally greeted back. It was Aimee Carrero, the woman behind the voice of Princess Elena, the lead of Disney's newest animated TV series.

"I think it may giving myself a bit of a compliment, but I think I give her (Elena) a bit of personality," Aimee tells me.

"I think that some of Elena’s silliness comes from my personality and luckily the creators of our show have been very responsive to humor and comedy and try to write it in whenever they can and whenever it’s appropriate," she adds.

The 5-second delay between our responses turned out to be quite an advantage as I processed the same thought during the entire 15-minute interview: Damn, I'm talking to a real Disney princess! On the phone.

The younger me would have loved to be phone pals with Mulan.

We could recite the movie's lines together the entire day, talk about how I loved her saving China, and tell her I've grown to love the story even more as it was the first movie that I watched in my dad's home theatre on my first days back in Manila.

Mulan then was already kick-ass, defying gender stereotypes in a patriarchal era. And taking some cue from China's "flower that blooms in adversity," contemporary Disney princesses are simply superheroes with tiaras.

It's not in their nature to be meek nor cowardly. These female protagonists already know exactly what they want to be and where they want to be.

And Elena of Avalor is no different from her contemporary "predecessors." She's a 16-year-old crown princess who's confident enough to rule. She's also Disney's first Latina princess.

"It’s an incredible experience to be part of this long anticipated character and a long awaited moment in history," Aimee shares.

"It’s been such a wonderful honor working on it for about two years now. So everyday I just have to pinch myself and make sure that it’s actually happening," she says. (Ditto, girl.)

The broadway star, of course, enjoyed performing each of the episode's original tracks--an episodic feat, as she called it--which have inherent and hard-to-miss Latin influences.

She also shared that what she loved most about Elena's character were her bravery and openness to failure. Aimee also said that Princess Elena's greatest strength may also be her greatest flaw.

"She thinks she’s ready to rule," Aimee says.

For the past 41 years, the land of Avalor was lorded over by Shuriki. The evil sorceress attacked the kingdom’s monarchs and forced her hand to the throne, ruling the land with tyranny.

The rest of the royal family—Princess Elena, her sister Isabelle, grandparents Francisco and Luisa—were saved by magic as they remained frozen in time. 

After Princess Elena was freed from the magic amulet that protected her from Shuriki’s curse, the future Avalor ruler defeated the evil sorceress and soon after, hoped to restore kingdom to its former glory.

All this was briefly introduced at the beginning of the series. And to everyone who has seen the short clip, it raises more questions than it provides answers. However, a prequel movie to the series is rumored to be in the works.

The series takes on a huge responsibility of not only opening the world to the colorful cultures of South America, but also opening the eyes of children, and Disney fans of all ages, that race and tradition are not some things that divide us.

"I think there are episodes that feature inherent prejudices that we might have, maybe with the people that don't have the same skill sets that Latinos do, or people who don't look like us, or people who have a different family dynamic or culture," Aimee says.

"I definitely think that there are opportunities for that to be part of the story and we’ve hit some of those, but I think what’s more important is representation," she continues. 

"I think when you have representations, little boys and girls grow up in a world where it’s totally normal to have classmates of different cultures--and for them it’s a no brainer. They won’t even see the difference. That's the dream: To highlight what makes us special but also acknowledge we’re all the same."

You can read more about the show here. New episodes of "Elena of Avalor" show every Sunday at 11 a.m. on Disney Channel. Or if you're *that* impatient, you could watch the entire first season here, that's what I did.

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