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Disney Junior's "Sofia the First" wants to help preschoolers channel their inner royal

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Disney Junior's "Sofia the First" wants to help preschoolers channel their inner royal

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It's the story that begins where most classic Walt Disney Animation Studios productions end. With the good hearted commoner suddenly becoming a princess.

Mind you, in Sofia's case, she isn't some plucky teen who ascends to the throne because her fairy godmother, some dwarfs, a singing candelabra, a pompous crustacean and/or her pet chameleon helps out. No, she's just a regular little girl who suddenly becomes royalty when her mother Miranda marries King Roland. And now Sofia finds herself living in the castle with her step step-siblings, Amber and James.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

This is a pretty big change for this cute little commoner. So - to help Sofia the First find her way in this new world - Queen Miranda and King Roland decide to enroll her in Royal Prep. Where Sofia will learn how to become a royal by being taken under the wing (literally) of the three Good Fairies from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty," Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.

That's the basic premise of "Sofia the First." Which will premiere on Disney Junior as an animated television movie in the Fall of 2012 and then roll out as a full-blown TV series during the Spring of 2013. But as for Disney Television Animation's goals for this project, they hope that "Sofia" will be a way to communicate positive messages & life lessons to Disney Junior's target audience, which is preschool-aged children.

"(With 'Sofia the First'), we have a 'peer to peer princess,' a relatable girl experiencing the same social issues as our young viewers - learning how to fit in, making new friends, conquering new skills and building sibling relationships."  Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, said. "Although Sofia will have (the) pretty dresses and sparkly shoes (that every Disney Princess has), our stories will show Sofia, and our viewers, that what makes a real princess is what's inside, not what's outside. That the inner character of kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace (is what) make you special, not the dress you wear."

Ariel Winter as Alex Dunphy in ABC's "Modern Family."
Photo by Bob D'Amico. Copyright American Broad-
casting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

And given that "Sofia the First" is the very first time that Mickey has ever built an animated television movie and a TV series around a Disney Princess ... Well, Mouse House executives knew that they had to recruit some extra-special voice talent for  this project. Which is Disney Television Animation reached out to Ariel Winter (who plays Alex Dunphy on that hit ABC series, "Modern Family") to voice Sofia. Tony Award-winner Sara Ramirez (best known for her work as Dr. Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy") was tapped to voice Queen Miranda. Wayne Brady of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" fame will be providing comic relief as Clover, a wise-talking rabbit, while Tim Gunn (Yes, THAT Tim Gunn. Designer mentor from "Project Runway." Not to mention being a key player in ABC's "One Life to Live" replacement, "The Revolution") will be voicing the royal family's loyal steward, Baileywick.

And if that's not enough to make you give "Sofia the First" a try, did I mention that - on extra-special occasions over the course of this animated television movie and TV series - classic Disney Princesses like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty will also be making appearances on this show.

In short, "Sofia the First" will continue the work that the Company has done with such Disney Junior series as "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" and "Minnie's Bow-Toons."  Which is to introduce children 2 - 7 to many of Disney's classic characters. Not to mention using Disney-style storytelling to help educate kids about the benefits of healthy eating & staying active as well as helping young viewers develop their language & social skills.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And speaking of social skills ... That's going to be one of the key messages of "Sofia the First." The main thrust of Sofia's lessons at Royal Prep won't be pomp & circumstances. But - rather - how this new Disney Princess can learn to get along better with her new step-siblings, James and Amber. Which - in this age of blended families - should be a lesson that resonates with a lot of people.

Disney's "Sofia the First" was developed by Craig Gerber. This animated television movie & new TV series are expected to be a key component of Disney Junior's schedule when this Disney Channel programming block becomes a standalone basic cable & satellite channel in the U.S. in mid-2012.

So will you be checking out this new Disney Princess when she makes her debut next Fall? Or will "Sofia the First" be the last thing you want to watch? How do you feel about the Company turning classic Walt Disney Animation Studios characters like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (not to mention Flora, Fauna and Merryweather) into featured players on a preschool TV show?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • I gotta say, I love this idea!  It sounds like a great educational opportunity, and it'll be cool to see some of the Disney princesses interacting on the show.

  • Three years ago I'd point my nose In the air and start talking negatively about Disney and their garbage programming or their creation of franchises made just to push merchandise. But now that I've got two little girls and have been dunked into the world of children's programming then I welcome it with open arms because I feel that the shows aimed for kids suck. I apologize for the honesty, but Endless singing, attempts at teaching my kids Spanish before they master English, boring copycat characters and brightly colored bland shows arent what I want to raise my kids with. But IF I have to embrace the lack of true "education" in todays programming and allow a few hours of mindless TV to brainwash my kids then I prefer Disney because at least the reward can be a trip to Disneyland where we ALL have fun rather than toys that speak Spanish or compilation CD's of annoying pop songs about sex being deemed "child friendly" because now theyve hired kids to sing them.

    So bring on the Mickey cartoons and Princess shows and I'll bring my wallet.

  • I don't approve of using classic characters in this way. Whoever is in charge of Disney Junior is sure trying their darndest to make sure that classic Disney is for babies.

  • *make sure that people think that classic Disney is just for babies* (sorry, typo)

  • My son is not the target gender group, but after seeing the reverence they're paying to the characters on Jake and the Neverland Pirates, I highly doubt anyone should be worrying about this.  It's actually a pretty clever idea.  I know when Peter Pan finally shows up on the show he's going to lose his mind, and the idea that the "real" princesses are going to be on the show is going to be equally exciting.

    I don't think this causes anyone to think classic Disney is for babies.  Jake and Sofia are, sure, but when they get older they can graduate to the "bigger" versions.  

    I'm trying so hard not to describe Disney Junior shows as gateway drugs.

  • I agree with Anonymouse 110%. Most non-Disney pre-school shows are HORRIBLE!! And even some Disney stuff is bad as well *cough*Special Agent Oso*cough. But the shows that feature the main Disney characters are actually pretty good. I wouldn't sit down to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse by myself, but I will sit down and watch it with my kids (and more importantly, I don't want to kill myself while watching it).

    I understand what CH is saying, but I think that is a risk that Disney is willing to take. Let's face it, there aren't too many tweens or  Jr Highers that are into the animated Disney characters anyway, so I'm not sure that is too big a risk. But more importantly, it's keeps these characters fresh and relevant to a new generation.

  • i think this could have made a cute little feature animation film, though putting Sleeping Beauty characters in it lessen my interest in the project a bit. As Disney seems arrogant in pursuing anything 2D anymore, I celebrate every time  I see any traditional animation project.

  • OI fiste read about her on www.mydisneyjourney.com and just found out her debut will be next month. I think it was a great addition to the Disney family a young princess that can be a roll model to a younger audience.

  • I am  male about 40 years older than the target audience of this show, but I say bravo!  I happen to watch - and record - an occasional (a good way of saying nearly every day) kids TV show.  I agree with Anonymouse about the current state of young kids TV shows, but Disney does it a lot better.  I think using the "old familiar" characters is a good idea, as long as they show up occasionally.  Using  Flora, Fauna and Merryweather as teachers is a good idea; they know what it takes to be a princess.  Plus, I haven't seen them since "Sleeping Beauty."  One last point: Today's kids are, generally speaking, smarter than when previous generations.  They'll catch on that these occasional characters have their own movies.

  • i hate it it is stupid

  • I love Disney World.

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