Forever Royal: The Last Sofia the First

Back around 2012, a friend of mine sent me a press release about how Disney was making a new princess show about a little girl from a poor village who becomes a princess overnight when her mother marries the king. The endearing image of the little girl on the press release instantly caught my attention with her unique reddish-brown curls, playful expression, and gorgeous lavender dress that was dripping with pearl accents. Something about this description and image got me so excited for the series that I got to work right away on making a grown-up sized cosplay of Sofia's elegant gown. The series premiered on Disney Junior with a TV special called Once Upon a Princess in which Sofia received her legendary Amulet of Avalor and sang about her insecurities for her future life as a princess heroine in the song "Not Ready To Be a Princess." I loved her instantly. Over the next six years, she took me on a four season-long journey filled with Disney Princesses, fairies, mermaids, and unicorns that concluded today with an epic TV movie special called Forever Royal.

Sofia the First lives up to her namesake in many ways. She was the first Disney Princess to be introduced with a television series instead of a theatrical release, the first who doesn't grow up into a teenager during her story, the first to become a princess through the marriage of her mother instead of her own, the first to have a good stepfather (as opposed to an evil stepmother) and brother, and the first to wield her own magic relic instead of seeking help from a fairy or sorceress. In fact, she received her magical training at Royal Prep from Sleeping Beauty's three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Her show also launched the groundwork for Elena of Avalor, the first Latina Disney Princess, whose series is still going strong. In these ways, Sofia the First was revolutionary for its time period, and it delivered everything it promised and more. Sofia is a fantastic role model, teaching lessons about friendship, compassion, forgiveness, and bravery. Despite her initial reservations, she grew to be an exemplary princess by freeing Elena from her amulet, becoming a guardian of the Mystic Isles and even teaching a few lessons to her stepsister, Amber, who thought she knew everything there was to know about being a princess.

Even though the manga Kilala Princess was the first to portray a young girl becoming friends with all of the Disney Princesses, Sofia was the first to do so in an animated format. The Amulet of Avalor gave her the ability to summon various Disney Princesses for advice whenever she found herself in a sticky situation. Most of the princesses were voiced by their original actresses and often sang songs, but their animation style was altered to match the show and the most recent stock art of their character designs. On the subject of songs, this series did a fantastic job of placing a brand new song in every single episode. Of course, having such a large quantity meant that not every tune was a guaranteed hit, but there was a surprising number of great ones for a show made for such a young audience. Some of the ones that stand out to me include "All You Need" from the episode "The Shy Princess," where Sofia met a young musician named Princess Vivian, and "Who I Am" from The Mystic Isles special in which Amber showed a rare moment of insecurity until Sofia gave her the encouragement she needed. Amber showed a significant amount of growth throughout the series leading up to the moment that she learned that she would inherit the throne instead of James.

Today's finale, Forever Royal, was an extremely fitting conclusion for such a strong series. It bought back all of the most memorable characters from previous episodes including Sofia's village friends Ruby and Jade, the shy Princess Vivian and her dragon Crackle, Prince Desmond, Lucinda the witch, Sofia's Aunt Tilly who wielded the Amulet of Avalor before her, and Prisma, Sofia's arch nemesis from the final season's story arc. I was very pleased that the royal sorcerer Cedric also had a much larger role in this special than he has had for the past few seasons. When the series began, he was the main antagonist and plotted on a regular basis to steal the Amulet of Avalor from Sofia so he could use its powers to take over the kingdom because he felt unappreciated by the simple-minded King Roland. Over time, Sofia won Cedric over with her charms, and he changed his mind about stealing from her but became less prominent on the show as a result. He was one of my favorite characters in the series who had the most growth along with Princess Amber, so it disappointed me to see him featured so much less. In Forever Royal, not only does he save Sofia from the amulet and earn Roland's respect in a scene that is very reminiscent of an enchanted jewel circle from Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, another of my favorite shows, but he also graciously returns the amulet to Sofia, proving that he has truly come full circle.

It is very rare for a series to find just the right balance of fantasy, heart, adventure, and fun. Even though it concluded today, Sofia the First will always have a place in my heart as one of my favorite shows of all time. Her amulet's abilities to allow her to talk to animals and transform into a mermaid, fairy, unicorn, and more fulfills every girl's fantasy of being a fairy tale princess and going on magical adventures. Sofia's initial insecurities about being worthy of becoming a princess overnight make her easy to relate to. Her loyalty, faith in people, and ability to soften even the heart of the most disgruntled sorcerer in the kingdom make watching her journey worthwhile. She inspires everyone who knows her with her bravery while still occasionally asking for advice from her elder princesses, proving that it's okay to ask for help. Today, we bid farewell to a revolutionary young princess who made an irreversible impact on the future of girls' entertainment.


Anonymous said…
Sofia the first is definitely worth watching for a great story. However I was hoping that Prisma would get a happy ending by the end of the series. True she is considered a criminal, although it seems like she was treated with contempt and overlooked for her sisters sake. I loved Prisma in this series what would it take for disney to make a show about her, especially if it means her happy ending?

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