Making the Grades
What company executive wouldn’t give his or her kingdom for a formula as successful and enduring as the Disney princess template?
All you need is a beautiful leading character, an evil stepmother or sister, some kind of sorcery and a cluster of cheerful, talking animals to help with the housework. Tweak the details here and there, add the studio’s reputation for retailing, repackaging and recycling its characters and you have a recipe for printing money at the Mouse House.
With that in mind, Disney now has a Disney Junior line of home videos aimed at the youngest of viewers. Among the studio’s recent releases in this format is Sophia the First: Once Upon a Princess. Already out in book form, the movie tells the story of a young commoner named Sophia (voice by Ariel Winter) whose mother (voice by Sara Ramirez) marries King Roland II (voice by Travis Willingham) and is crowned Queen Miranda. (In a twist on the story, Miranda is a shoemaker who slips the perfect pair of foot coverings onto the king’s royal toes.) Following the wedding, the mother and daughter move into the castle. While Queen Miranda is eager to be a good stepmother to the King’s children James and Amber (voices by Zach Callison and Darcy Rose Byrmes), Amber isn’t excited about sharing her dad and digs with a new sister.
With more blended families in society, the sibling tensions in this storyline may speak to many young viewers. However, thanks to some exemplary encouragement from Cinderella (voice by Jennifer Hale) and the trio from Sleeping Beauty, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (voices by Barbara Dirickson, Russi Taylor and Tress MacNeille), this newly forged family finds a way to overcome their differences and bring two households together. But even children who aren’t dealing with a new stepparent or sibling may relate to the other childhood fears of going to a new school, making new friends and performing in public.
Clearly aimed at the under eight crowd, the script for Sophia the First: Once Upon a Princess includes some brief name-calling, a few mean-spirited pranks and an evil sorcerer intent on taking over the kingdom with a magic spell. Luckily the storyline remains fairly light with plenty of positive adult role models—something that is sadly missing from many children’s movies. Complete with a score of happy new tunes (and a sing-a-long section at the end), this film offers some fun viewing for children. And even if Sophia isn’t on the same level as the classic Disney princesses, she’ll likely serve her purpose. While the tales of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Arial all contain some frightful characters and mature themes, Sophia gently lures very young audience members into the magical kingdom of Disney royalty.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Sofia The First: Once Upon a Princess.
The movie Enchated mildly mocks the Disney princess formula with its particularly perky protagonist and a herd of little animals that come through the open window to help with the housework. What animals can you think of in other Disney movies and how do they help the princess? In this movie, what do the animals say they would like in exchange for all of their help?
Sophia says she is too average to be a princess. How can parents help a child build his or her self-esteem and personal talents without the child becoming self-centered?