Elena Is Crowned Queen of Avalor

It's been four years since Disney introduced us to their first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor. Today, her reign on Disney Channel ends as she takes her place on the throne as queen. Elena's show had a rocky start for me, but it hit its peak somewhere around the second season. Today's finale movie, Coronation Day, serves as an excellent reminder of all the things it did right. Elena of Avalor has an enormous revolving cast of diverse characters, which can make the show hard to follow for a casual observer. Everyone in the series showed up to celebrate Elena's coronation, reminding us how much work went into building this enormous extended universe of kingdoms that began with Sofia the First. In addition to its evergrowing familia, the show introduced lots of Aztec mythology that I was not familiar with and some fun new mythological creatures like the jaquins, Avalor's answer to Enchancia's flying horses. This is truly the end of an era as it marks the last animated princess show to conclude this year.

Elena of Avalor Coronation Day Poster

My favorite character in Elena of Avalor was Princess Marisa, the mermaid princess played by Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez, who was introduced in the special, Song of the Sirenas. Marisa was right up my alley because I love anything involving mermaids. Plus, purple is my favorite color. Elena's sister Isabel was another highlight of the show. Her intellect was second to none. I also appreciated that the series introduced Disney's first Jewish princess, Rebeca, though I was not a fan of her design and wish that they had given her more to do in the finale. The best thing that Disney did with Elena for me was making her a face character to meet in their theme parks. When I went to see her at Princess Fairytale Hall in Disney's Magic Kingdom, I noticed that many Latina girls were eagerly waiting in front of me to meet the princess who looked like them. Elena had a place of honor right next to Cinderella, whose iconic castle graces the center of the Magic Kingdom. When I spoke to her, I realized that the show's extensive cast and mythology gave me a lot more to talk about than with the princesses who only have one well-established movie. It was a wonderful experience that I won't soon forget.

Meeting Elena at Disney World

Coronation Day was a fitting finale for our new queen. It began with a song summarizing all of Elena's adventures so far and ended with a surprise appearance from the princess who first freed her from the Amulet of Avalor. The special followed in the footsteps of all the other princess shows that ended this year with an important message about the magic of forgiveness. Elena's conflict with her cousin Esteban was elevated in The Magic Within special and came to a close during the finale's climax. Just like She-Ra (who happens to share the same voice as Elena) and Rapunzel, Elena's final challenge was to forgive a person she was once close with for betraying her. Her story was a bit different from the others since Esteban was a relative and not someone she shared a potential queer relationship. The result of his betrayal was direr than the others since it resulted in Elena losing her parents, who were also given a cameo during the finale. With so many princess shows ending the same way this year, Elena of Avalor had the potential to feel trite, but I don't think it did because Esteban ultimately managed to earn his redemption in a way that was more deserving than Cassandra or Catra.

All of these princess shows ending amidst the current pandemic poses the question of what's next for Disney Princesses and princess animation in general. Have we reached the end of a golden era for princess stories? The only princess show that hasn't concluded yet is Matt Groening's Disenchantment, which seems to be in limbo among all the delays in Hollywood. Establishing Elena as queen may be the first step in ushering in a new age of more mature royal adventures for the many young women who grew up loving princesses and are ready to become queen. It's a shame that such a large and well-established universe can't produce more spinoffs. The new Disney Junior show Mira, Royal Detective, would fit in perfectly with Sofia and Elena's world, but it is not part of the Ever Realm's extended universe. The last we heard from Sofia the First and Elena of Avalor series creator Craig Gerber is that he is now working on a secret project that is not connected to the two hit shows. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Elena and friends at her coronation

Today, the last current animated princess show has come to an end. It's a bittersweet feeling to know that I won't be able to look forward to new episodes of animated princess cartoons fo the foreseeable future. I am grateful for all of the ground-breaking accomplishments that Elena has achieved for princess culture. She shows us that a true leader trusts her peers to help her make decisions and to balance out her shortcomings. Though the series was less action-packed than the commercials and opening animation initially led me to believe, it established a rich world and mythology that had a lot of passion and heart behind it. I was pleased to see a Disney Princess show incorporate the Latina tradition of quinceaneras, something that I would have loved to be a part of. Ending a Disney Princess series with a coronation is a fantastic way to introduce the next generation of princess fans to female empowerment by letting them know that nothing is beyond their reach.


What I think helps makes Esteban's redemption much stronger than Cassandra's redemption (I haven't caught up with She Ra, so I can't comment on Catra) is that, while he often had a hard time owning up to his mistakes, he never resorted to attempted murder and torture that Cassandra did. Even with Zhan Tiri, she acted way too cold and ruthless. Also, when Esteban first has the realization of his mistakes, it's when he becomes king. The moment he sacrifices himself by turning to stone is a way of saying that "This is not worth it if others get hurt as a result of my actions.". He was willing to give up power for the greater good if it meant no one would get hurt anymore. With Cassandra, she only started on her redemption path after she was stripped of power. She stopped pursuing power only after it was taken away from her (I could've accepted this if she died while trying to save Corona or was willing to get some prison time for her actions but she didn't).

As for Elena, I don't know what else to say. She definitely proved her worth as a leader and queen and fully learning how to forgive and carve a new path for the future.

On another note, I found this interesting interview that Aimee Carrero took part in. She mentioned an interesting thing at the 11 minute mark on how most kids shows focusing on royalty, if it ends with them being king or queen, doesn't follow up on it.

Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Cristina,

Thanks for reading my post. I think the biggest difference between Rapunzel and Cassandra and Elena and Esteban is that Rapunzel refused to give up on Cassandra no matter how bad she got, so it was Rapunzel that saved her. On the other hand, Elena gave up on Esteban (rightfully so after going behind her back when she was going to consider forgiving him), and he ended up being the one to save her after he literally took a bullet for. In Cassandra's case, it was Rapunzel who saved the relationship, and Elena's case, it was Esteban. Thank you for sharing this interview with me. I'll listen to it now. :) Take care!
showstealr said…
Now, if you can indulge me, I want to talk about Adora's scenario with Catra in She-ra. Yes Catra may not have been a blood relative, but she was the closest Adora had to family. After all, they grew up together under the same roof, much like how Elena and Esteban grew up together, so I can't quite imagine how what Catra did to hurt Adora is any less painful than what Esteban did to Elena.
Now, I want to point out what Esteban did vs what Catra did: Esteban helped Shuriki invade Avalor, which led to the murder of Elena's parents, but what Catra did was FAR worse; she caused the loss of Glimmer's mother AND she nearly destroyed reality, all because she felt disrespected and cast aside. Esteban and Catra were both unwilling to take responsibility for what they did for a time. Furthermore, it isn't until Esteban/Catra decide to make a sacrifice that they start to repair their relationship with Elena/Adora.

That being said, how is Esteban's betrayal direr than Catra's? As I explained above, what Catra did led to things going even more south. Second, what makes his more deserving than Catra's? If anything, Catra's redemption was played with more realistically, and it's said to be Kylo Ren's done right. I mean, Elena forgave Esteban faster than Adora's forgiveness of Catra. Catra at least had a fleshed-out redemption arc where Adora didn't forgive Catra right away, but was open to doing so. I'm not saying Esteban's redemption was undeserved, but still. With what I've explained, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this please.
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi ShowStealr,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make some good points. Even though I've never admitted it in any of my blog posts, I don't think it's a good idea to keep any toxic people close in real life if they have a history of hurting you. However, these are fairy tales that are not meant to be taken literally, so we will discuss them from a storytelling standpoint only.

I would say that Esteban's actions were no worse than Catra's, but the results were. Whether or not that was his fault depends on how you interpret the writing. From a character perspective, neither Catra nor Esteban could have predicted exactly what would have happened as a result of their betrayals. However, Esteban's actions resulted in Elena losing her parents and 40 years of her own life. During those 40 years, Esteban continued to serve the woman who took all of those things away from Elena. When her humanity was restored, Elena gave Esteban a chance to redeem himself by accepting his punishment gracefully. Instead, he ran off with the next evil sorceress introduced by the show. In the finale, he teamed up with a new group of wicked spirits for the third time and ultimately earned his redemption by saving Elena from them, something he was unable to do 40 years prior when Shuriki captured her in the Amulet of Avalor.

Catra is more mentally unstable than Esteban, but her actions did not take Adora away from her family nor did they result in her losing years of her life in captivity. Instead, she acted as a catalyst that threatened the entire world. When it comes to storytelling, the audience is more invested in the protagonists than they are in the world as a whole, so her actions had less of an emotional impact on the audience and were pretty basic villain tropes. Cassandra was a similar case, though her betrayal of Rapunzel was also a little more emotional from a storytelling perspective because she was the only friend Rapunzel had after being locked in a tower for 18 years (if you separate romantic interest from friendship, but that did become a gray area by the end of Tangled). Therefore, I think that from a storytelling perspective, Esteban's actions of standing idly by while Elena was trapped for 40 years are more emotionally traumatic than Catra and Cassandra releasing the apocalypse of their respective worlds that got defeated within the same episode.

I have nothing against people disagreeing with me, but I hope I helped you understand where I was coming from a little better. I hope you are staying safe during these uncertain times.
The scope of Elena's finale is what I feel helps give everything much more of an impact. "Save the world" stories can be done well, but if there's a more personal attack on the heroes' hometown, then it becomes stronger. The place where they established strong relationships and went through many hardships is in danger. There's a strong enough establishment of Avalor to make you care.
showstealr said…
Ok first off all, yes you can't keep toxic people close in real life, but what if they are willing to change? One of the major messages in both shows was that people can change if you give them the chance, and it's never too late to do the right thing. What I love is how those shows execute that message; you can't change a person, but your role is to be there for them when they're ready to get their life together. Once Esteban and Catra have shown they were willing to change, Elena/Adora was ready to consider letting them back into their lives.

Now, I can understand how Esteban's actions leading to the deaths of Elena's parents and her getting trapped in the amulet are more traumatic, but Catra's betrayal still carried emotional weight to it in its own way. Here's how: If the audience is invested in the protagonist, the narrative in Catra's situation presented itself in a way that it's relatable. That feeling where you have a very close friend/family member whom you are trying to help, and you can't bear watching them go down a bad path, and feel like you are unable to reach them. You mention Cassandra was Rapunzel's only friend after having spent 18 years in a tower, but like I said before, Adora grew up with Catra all her life, which is far longer. Adora wanted Catra to choose redemption. She wanted to still have Catra's company. Adora blamed herself for Catra being in the position she was in. Catra almost committing mass murder was horrible on it's own, BUT the fact that Adora had to witness the deed being done by someone who was like family to her, someone she spent years sticking her neck out for, someone she's been trying to help, THAT's what makes Catra's betrayal emotionally impactful. That's what led Adora to give up on Catra.

You say how Esteban earned his redemption by sacrificing himself for Elena, which is important because he finally decides to make the choice to do one good thing in his life. Did Catra not do the same? She sacrificed herself to save Glimmer, and it came at the cost of being captured by Horde Prime's clones and losing her free will. It was the first unselfish thing Catra ever did in her life, which she stated did it for Adora, and that's a big deal.
Lisa Dawn said…
Yes, I agree with you. Both characters redeemed themselves in the end. Have a lovely day. :)
As part of Disney Princess Week, I've been rewatching episodes of Sofia The First and Elena Of Avalor, which also includes their series finales. I then found this interesting article which talks about how Isabel developed considerably over the course of the show. It's definitely an interesting read.

Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you for sharing! Isabel was my favorite character in the show.


That line involving Mira Royal Detective made me think one thing in regards to Disney shows and royalty. There's nothing confirmed about it, but I think a scenario is being established in how some currently airing or upcoming Disney shows don't star royalty so as to not overshadow what the higher ups at Disney want to do with their princesses, but will still heavily feature them. I mean, we have Tiana and Moana series being made for Disney Plus, but there isn't anything being said about upcoming Disney shows starring royalty that aren't those associated with the Disney Princess lineup.

Mira Royal Detective is a good example since Mira is not royalty, but she has frequently hangs around with and works for people who are royalty. The show itself was created by Becca Topol, who worked on season 1 of Elena Of Avalor, and some people who worked on Sofia The First or Elena Of Avalor are also attached to the series. For example, Kurt Anderson (a Sofia storyboard artist) is a storyboard artist here, and Fred Reyes (Elena storyboard artist) and Francis Glebas (Sofia and Elena storyboard artist) are directors (with Francis having worked on many Disney movies, including Aladdin).

There's also an upcoming show called Alice's Wonderland Bakery, which stars descendants of the characters from the 1951 Alice In Wonderland movie (the Alice here is the granddaughter of the Alice from the original movie). She and her friends run the Wonderland Bakery to make people happy. While the Alice here isn't a princess, she is friends with a girl named Princess Rosa Of Hearts. She's the daughter of the show's version of The Queen Of Hearts (voiced by Eden Espinosa, voice of Orizaba on Elena Of Avalor and Cassandra in Tangled The Series). One could say that Disney could be making this as a spiritual follow up to Sofia The First and Elena Of Avalor, mainly because of the people involved with this series. For example, the music is done by John Kavanaugh, who worked on Sofia The First. The animation is done by Icon Creative Studios, who animated Elena (as well as other Disney Junior shows). One of the writers (Marisa Evans Sandsen) was a production associate on Sofia. The supervising director (Nathan Chew) worked on Elena, as did episodic directors Steve Umbleby and Arielle Yett (who worked as storyboard artists on Elena). Some of the confirmed storyboard artists worked on either Sofia (Chris Otsuki, Eugene Salandra), Elena (Scotland Barnes, James A. Little), or both (Kelly Hobby Bishop).

It's just food for thought, but it is interesting to think about.
Lisa Dawn said…
I've watched one or two episodes of Mira, and I heard about Alice, but I have very little interest in either of these shows. They don't seem to have the same qualities that appeal to all ages as Sofia or Elena. I'm not sure if it's specifically because of the lack of princesses, but both of these shows look like they can only be enjoyed by a much younger audience.

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